Lenten Exercise


You are invited to a Lenten journey this year by engaging in a prayer practice over 400 years old. Ignatius of Loyola, a 16th century Spanish priest, theologian, and founder of the Jesuits, composed a set of Christian meditations, contemplations, and prayers around 1522 to be used to help Christians answer a simple yet difficult question. How do I discern God’s will in my life and distinguish between the movement of God’s Spirit and my own ego and the broken spirits of the world? Originally designed to be done over a spiritual retreat of 30 days, these exercises have been adapted for modern schedules and busy lives.

Using one of those modern adaptations, Heartland is offering this shortened version for your own spiritual practice this Lent. (You are certainly encouraged and invited to purchase the book The Ignatian Adventure by Kevin O’Brian which offers many insights and more exercises for you) It is our hope it will sharpen your own ability to discern God in your life and in the world.

You are encouraged to find at least 20 to 30 minutes in your day for the prayer exercise. While this may seem daunting considering our busy schedules, it is an important time to connect to God and our deeper selves. And what is thirty minutes out of your day? It is often helpful to set this time consistently such as the morning, noon hour, or evening.

Set aside a space in your home for this prayer time. Maybe light a candle or find somewhere quiet in your home away from the hustle and bustle of family life.

Pray slowly over the verses. What words or images move you? What speaks to you in this moment in your life?

You are encouraged to journal through these prayer exercises. Journaling is a helpful tool to reflect on insights and movements of the Spirit in us. Journaling also captures some of the themes that will arise as we pray the exercises.

It is important to understand that prayer is about grace and not law. In other words, do not berate yourself if you miss a day or two. Just simply pray the particular day in the guide.

Do not be discouraged if there are some days that seem dry and unhelpful (There will be!) but persevere. If there is one particular scripture or prayer reflection that speaks to you, do not feel you have to move on to the next exercise if you desire more time in one of the prayers. This is a guide and not the Word of God!
There are a number of days where you are asked to repeat one of the prayers. Choose one you think might be fruitful or felt incomplete.

Prayer of Examen

The first days of the spiritual exercise you are invited to engage in a prayer created by Ignatius called the Prayer of Examen. It is a very simple prayer. First you simply quiet yourself and remember your day (or the day before) using your imagination to visualize as much detail as possible. When you got up; what you did through each moment of the day; who you encountered; what was your interactions; what events occurred?

You are then to ask yourself two questions:

  1. What gifts (grace) did I receive? Where did I see God? When did I recognize or not recognize the Spirit?
  2. What blocks did I put up to God’s grace? Where did my sin, my ego, my stuckness prevent me from seeing God?

If you do this prayer long enough and pay attention enough you may be surprised to find certain patterns emerge across the days of your life.

Finally, if you find yourself in need of encouragement or even struggling deeply with emerging feelings and thoughts, you are encouraged to attend our Anam Cara class on Wednesday nights at 6 PM starting March 4 where we will be doing group spiritual direction together. If you are unable to attend, feel free to connect with Pastor Alex.

Preparation Exercises

Thursday, February 27
Practice the Prayer of Examen

Friday, February 28
Practice the Prayer of Examen

Saturday, February 29
Practice the Prayer of Examen

Sunday, March 1
Read Matthew 25:31-46

Week 1 – God’s Unconditional Love for Me

Monday, March 2
Read Isaiah 43:1-7
Who is God for me? How does God see me?

Tuesday, March 3
Read Luke 22:22-34
What worries or fears do I want to let go of as I begin my Lenten journey.

Wednesday, March 4
Read Psalm 23
What words or images move me?

Thursday, March 5
Read Psalm 131
What words or images spring from my heart or imagination?

Friday, March 6
Read Psalm 139:1-18
How does God gaze upon me? How open am I to receive this intimacy?

Saturday, March 7
Read through Isaiah 43:1-7 or Psalm 139:1-18
Note in your journal the gifts and talents God had given you. Note, too, your very human limitations or weaknesses. Remember that God loves us just as we are.

Sunday, March 8
Read Matthew 25:31-46
When are the times I was a stranger, and someone welcomed me?

Week 2 – God’s Ongoing Creation

Monday, March 9
Read Psalm 8
Marvel at the dignity of the human person. Give thanks to God for particular people who reveal God’s loving presence to you. Who has helped me get to this point in my faith journey?

Tuesday, March 10
Read Psalm 104
God is revealed in the natural world and all is a gift to us. Where do I see the awesome glory revealed in Creation and in my life?

Wednesday, March 11
Read Genesis 1:26-2:9
How does it feel to me for God to declare Creation “very good?” Is it possible for me to see myself as God’s Creation in a particular time, family, and place and truly believe God sees me as good even amidst the complexities of life?

Thursday, March 12
Read Romans 8:18-25
What are the particular highlights or milestones of my life, both the highs and lows, the times of great hope and of challenge or “groaning”?

Friday, March 13
Read Psalm 33.
What am I waiting for? How is my heart filed with gladness?

Saturday, March 14
Read Jeremiah 18:1-6
How do I find myself being shaped and molded by God now? How am I pliable or resistant?

Sunday, March 15
Read Matthew 25:31-46
When are the times I was naked, and someone clothed me?

Week 3 – Intimacy of Prayer

Monday, March 16
Read Luke 11:1-13
What do I want most from God right now?

Tuesday, March 17
Read Isaiah 55:1-13
Am I able to sit still and listen to God and the deepest desires of my heart?

Wednesday, March 18
Read Psalm 63:1-8
What do I thirst for? How do I experience God’s steadfast love?

Thursday, March 19
Read Psalm 103
Where do I speak a similar blessing in my life?

Friday, March 20
Read Romans 8:26-27
Where do I feel weak in my life right now?

Saturday, March 21
Read Ephesians 3:14-21
Where do I find the awesome Presence at work in my life? Where do I need such a dynamic and divine Presence?

Sunday, March 22
Read Matthew 25:31-46
When are the times I was sick and someone visited me?

Week 4 – God’s Call to Me

Monday, March 23
Read Mark 10:46-52
What is my answer to the question Jesus asks the blind man?

Tuesday, March 24
Read Jeremiah 1:4-10
How do I react to God’s call in my life?

Wednesday, March 25
Read Jeremiah 29:11-14
Do I really trust that God has plans for me?

Thursday, March 26
Repetition of any day

Friday, March 27
Read Luke 5:1-11
Where do I experience God calling me in the midst of my life?

Saturday, March 28
Read John 1:35-39
What are you looking for?

Sunday, March 29
Read Matthew 25:31-46
When are the times I was in prison and someone came to me?

Week 5 – Road to Calvary

(Throughout the next two weeks, the goal is simply to imagine yourself in the scene portrayed in the Bible story. This is not time for specific reflective questions but a desire to be present to Jesus in silence as a witness to his last days of life)

Monday, March 30
Read Matthew 21:1-11

Tuesday, March 31
Read Matthew 26:17-30

Wednesday, April 1

Thursday, April 2
Read John 13:1-17

Friday, April 3
Read Matthew 26:36-46 or Luke 22:39-46

Saturday, April 4

Sunday, April 5
Read Matthew 25:31-46
What does it mean that Jesus identifies always with the suffering and the lost?

Week 6 – Suffering and Death of Jesus

Monday, April 6
Matthew 26:47-56

Tuesday, April 7
John 18:12-27

Wednesday, April 8
Matthew 27: 26-31

Thursday, April 9
Luke 23:26-32

Friday, April 10
Luke 23:33-49

Saturday, April 11
Luke 23:50-56

Sunday, April 12
Matthew 28:1-10