A Lenten Reflection from Dr. Sheryl Stewart, Central Seminary Director of Language Development and Curriculum Implementation
How shall we pray? For ourselves. Why? As we pray for ourselves, we become more able to pray for others. “Make me an instrument of thy peace,” the famous prayer of St. Francis, asks that God use us, use our light, use the divinity of Christ within for God’s work in the world.
We pray for our own spiritual development. Examining ourselves, a major theme of the Lenten season—doing our work—helps to bring about transformation. I have seen a relationship between the woundedness symbolized by my enneagram number and the necessity of praying for myself. (I highly recommend study of the enneagram, an old and fruitful personality tool that describes nine approaches to the world.)
As a Nine, I have difficulty with decisions and have been known for procrastinating. Focusing upon oneness with God helps me trust myself in terms of deciding what actions to take. I ask God to nudge me into the flow of God’s work in the world.
Ones need to be perfect and for things to be done correctly. Meditation and prayer upon the idea of our growth in God can lead a One to realize that we are all perfect in our stage of growth. My puppy doesn’t understand a lot of things I’d like her to understand, but she is a perfect five-month-old puppy.
Twos need to help people in order to feel that they are worthy of love. Meditating about our oneness with God can help to peel away the sense of having to earn love and allow the Two to abide in God’s love.
Threes need to be the successful winners. To meditate and pray about the immensity of God’s love and God’s influence in the universe can be an antidote to competition. We all win.
Fours are those folks who, in dipping deeply into the joy and tragedy of life, can become trapped by strong feelings. Fours can experience true originality and joy in union with God, praying for their lives to be a journey, a tapestry, of extraordinary moments.
Fives are the ones who always need more information before they feel comfortable acting. The security of meditating upon God’s wisdom within them can become the security that is not found in a book. Like the nines, they can begin to trust the knowledge they have.
Sixes would like to get through life securely by following the authorities and rules. The fear of stepping out of line can trap the six, while meditating and praying on the power of God’s love can transform, with the understanding that nothing can separate us from God.
Sevens are those people we like to be around because they are not dwelling on the negative. However, facing the painful is part of the transformation of the seven. Meditation and prayer around the difficult work of co-creation with God is the work of the seven.
Eights are those folks who demand justice and know it is needed NOW. Meditation and prayer on oneness with compassionate and merciful God can bring transformation and trust that justice will prevail.
May our prayers this season bring us fully into the sacred and usable present for the healing of the world.