Sunday, May 7, 2017

Spiritual Spa 101: The Healing Power of Prayer



THE HEALING POWER OF PRAYER
by Bridget Mary Meehan, D.Min.

Program Overview:
The program is presented in twelve sessions. Each session is one month long.

Part One offers a historical overview and explains Jesus' outlook on healing, the Christian Church's teach­ings about healing, the relationship between healing and the presence of the Divine in times of suffering. It also presents a practical rationale for inner healing prayer and suggests ways to find spiritual transformation  
in everyday life.

Part Two presents ten different healing prayer experiences: 
1. Healing of Memories Prayer
2. Forgiveness Prayer
3. Journal Prayer
4. Centering Prayer
5. Scripture Prayer

6. Fantasy Prayer (guided imagery prayer)
7. Relaxation Prayer
8. Healing Affirmations for Daily Living
9. Prayer for Healing Families, Races, Nations, Religions and Earth
10. Prayer of the Sufferer

Course Facilitators:

Dr. Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP
Bridget Mary Meehan, MA, DMin, ARCWP, a Sister for Christian Community, is one of the founding members of the People’s Catholic Seminary. She is a member of the pastoral team at Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, Florida. Bridget Mary presides at liturgies, officiates at weddings and offers sacramental ministry. She is an author of twenty books. Her work in communications media include programs about women priests on Google and YouTube. Bridget Mary was ordained a priest in the first USA ordination in Pittsburgh on July 31, 2006 and was ordained a bishop in Santa Barbara, California on April 19, 2009.


Dr. Mary Theresa Streck ARCWP
Mary Theresa Streck, Ed.D., DMin, is one of the founding members of the People’s Catholic Seminary. She is a member of the pastoral team at the Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community in Albany, NY. She presides at liturgies, officiates at weddings and offers sacramental ministry and is a member of the ARCWP Program of Preparation team. She earned a Doctorate in Education Leadership from the Sage Colleges and a Doctorate in Ministry from Global Ministries University. She was ordained a priest on September 15, 2013.

Course Date: TBA

Cost: $120 (financial aid available)
Register at peoplescatholicseminary@gmail.com

Mail check or money order to:
People's Catholic Seminary
PO Box 421
Watervliet, NY 12189

(paypal coming soon!)


AN OPEN LETTER TO THOSE SEEKING HEALING

We all have prayed for healing for ourselves or others. Stories of healing in the Scriptures, in saints' lives, and in contemporary times give us comfort.  Whether it's the gospel story of Jesus healing a woman with a hemorrhage or the modern-day healing of a troubled heart, healing is a faith-filled event that transforms lives and works wonders. Healing prayer is an effective way to deal with the challenges of life by accessing the spiritual energy of God within us. 

This program offers you the opportunity to experience holistic healing in a variety of settings. You may want to read the prayer experiences on your own and use the reflection questions for private meditation. You might also consider discussing your ideas in small groups, with your spouse, or with a good friend. Regardless of the method you select, this program is intended to help you develop: 

• a greater awareness of the variety of approaches that can be used in meditation to tap into the God within you and to access your spiritual energy for healing and transformation.

• a clearer understanding of the value of imagination and prayer in the process of inner healing 

• a deeper appreciation of inner healing prayer as a powerful tool in dealing with the problems of anxiety, anger, rejection, stress, guilt and loneliness.

• a greater realization of the effectiveness and richness of inner healing meditation as a means to nourish your oneness with all creation in the Heart of God. 

• an increased ability to rely on various approaches to prayer as effective sacred practices for health and vitality.


If we are to appreciate the many different approaches to healing prayer, however, we must understand the historical and biblical framework of healing in the church. Part One offers a historical overview and explains Jesus' outlook on healing, the Christian Church's teach­ings about healing, the relationship between healing and the presence of the Divine in times of suffering. It also presents a practical rationale for inner healing prayer and suggests ways to find spiritual transformation  in everyday life. 

Part Two presents ten different healing prayer experiences: 

1. Healing of Memories Prayer: inviting the Holy One into a painful memory to break through the past with the power of grace in the present.

2. Forgiveness Prayer: asking Jesus to accompany you on a journey to give and receive forgiveness and healing in a painful relationship(s)

3. Journal Prayer: using the intuitive powers of the mind to reveal the presence of the Infinite within you

4. Centering Prayer: passing beyond thoughts, images, and feelings to rest in Divine Love.

5. Scripture Prayer: moving into the details and emotions of a biblical passage to listen to the Holy One speaking personally from within the text 



6. Fantasy Prayer (guided imagery prayer): using the imagination to set the stage for a prayerful encounter with an inclusive God who is beyond all names (Creator, Holy Wisdom/Sacred Mystery/Abba/Amma/Christ) and present  in every faith tradition and  beyond all religions.

7. Relaxation Prayer: releasing stressful situations/relationships to God/ your Higher Power and discovering the Holy One's abiding indwelling, tender presence everywhere

8. Healing Affirmations for Daily Living: affirming messages from the Spirit within you

9. Prayer for Healing Families, Races, Nations, Religions and Earth: expanding consciousness to fully know that all are one

10. Prayer of the Sufferer: encountering Divine Compassion in the midst of pain, unanswered questions, and puzzling mysteries 

This program does not advocate a theoretical approach that merely teaches about inner healing prayer and meditation. Rather, it attempts to integrate a contemporary theological perspective with a creative experiential approach. It is designed with the conviction that we learn to pray by praying, not by reading or talking about prayer. 


It is also written from the conviction that healing prayer is an attainable life-changing power. As we experience the abundant love of Divine Presence dwelling within us and energizing us, we can rejoice in our identity as beloved images of God. We can celebrate a new freedom that liberates us from bonds that limit our spiritual potential, learn to forgive and ask forgiveness with greater courage, become more aware of our own growing edges, and develop greater compassion for others. 

We hope you will reap rich rewards from this exploration into inner healing prayer and from your experience of the power of grace illuminating your path to the "peace that surpasses understanding."(Philippians 4:7)



Introduction


I will never forget how frightened I was when I was diagnosed with nodules on my vocal cords and faced surgery if they did not heal after six weeks of silence. The good news was that I’d have more time for prayer, the bad news was that   I’d miss teaching my wonderful six- graders. A member of my prayer group gave me a copy of Agnes Sanford’s classic book The Healing Light.  I followed her advice and tapped into the creative energy of divine love within me. During my meditation time, I sat outside in the sunshine, relaxed my body, breathed in and out slowly and deeply, and imagined every cell being filled with healing energy. It worked!  When I saw the doctor six weeks later my vocal cords were healthy, and I was ready to return to the classroom with my lively middle schoolers.

Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, demonstrates in her research that "micro-moments of positivity", like brief  greetings and loving affirmations, can influence positive emotions and generate well-being  that act as a shield against depression and stress. The brain is "plastic" which means it can grow new cells and therefore, people can reap health benefits and longer life by such practises as meditation and healing prayer. 

 Dr. Fredrickson's team discovered that six weeks of healing prayer with a meditation that "focused on compassion and kindness resulted in an increase in positive emotions and social connectedness and improved function of one of the main nerves that helps to control heart rate. The result is a more variable heart rate, she said, that is associated with objective health benefits like better control of blood glucose, less inflammation and faster recovery from a heart attack."(Jane Brody, "Putting on a happy face can take practice," Sarasota Herald Tribune, April 11, 2017, 33-34)

Stress has been linked to many illnesses today. Healing prayer helps us to let go of past problems that keep us from living life fully in the present. When we are faced with difficult relationships and traumatic events, like divorce , we can  become anxious and bitter. However, we do have a choice to forgive. When we forgive, we release ourselves and  others from bondage. We give up the desire to get even. Researches report that people who forgive heal more quickly from serious illness and trauma. 

In her book, Defy Gravity: Healing Beyond the Bounds of Reason, popular inspirational speaker Caroline Myss writes: "The fairness of the Divine is in the equality of chaos and in our capacity to do evil to each other, as well as our capacity to release each other from hell. Forgiveness is an act so powerful that a resurrection of the inner self does indeed occur, because you are retrieving your spirit from the dead zone of past traumas and unfinished business." (Caroline Myss, Defy Gravity, New York, Hay House p.186)

In the heart of divine love each of us is unique, blessed and loved infinitely.  Here we can let go of memories that hold us hostage and drain us of energy. Here we can transform the "dark stuff" of our lives. Here the Divine Presence embraces us in our wounded selves and fills us with new life. We become wounded healers who can identify with the pain of others and accompany them on the journey to wholeness.  

The stress response, which is generated in our minds, is linked to negative habits like overeating, smoking and over consumption of alcohol. The realization that more and more people hurt mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually has heightened the need for healing, forgiveness, and peace. Sickness and disease, violence and warfare, tension and stress, alcohol abuse and drugs, jobs and finances, families and friends: all cause pain and suffering that cry out for healing. 

Healing prayer can cultivate our spiritual life by filling us with joy in the presence of the Infinite, where we are one with all people and with creation. Scientist Ilchi Lee believes that brain wave vibration training provides a way to let go of the rational mind and experience the rhythm of a happy, healthy, balanced life. He proposes that simple exercises like nodding one's head up and down or from side to side for several minutes can help us relax and experience our deep oneness with the Divine which he refers to as "the circulation of heaven and earth energy" within us. According to Ilchi "to connect to this energy is to connect to the ultimate energy pulsing though all of existence-what some call the Source and others call God."  (Ilchi Lee, Brain Wave Vibration, Sedona Arizona, Best Life Media, 2009, pp. 139-140)

Just as there are all types of people and a multitude of pains that need healing, there are many ways to pray and find healing through prayer and meditation. Each individual is unique and has his or her own way of praying. As you become familiar with the innovative and exciting approaches to inner healing prayer as explained here, you can eventually select the method that seems best suited to you. The key to discovering healing through sacred practices is to be flexible and avoid "canonizing" one particular method. If a certain style fits your spiritual needs for experiencing the Holy One's healing more deeply than another, rely on it; if it doesn't fit or feel comfortable, choose another approach. 

A spiritual exercise we can use to nourish our higher selves and grow in the depths of divine love is Centering Prayer.  The first step is to let go of all thoughts and distractions, and simply breathe in love, and breathe out love, conscious that divine peace comes though our oneness in the Source of all Being. Here, like our sister mystic, Julian of Norwich, we know that "all shall be well"  no matter what happens.

Recent years have seen a tremendous interest in mindfulness meditation and inner healing prayer.  Prayer groups, fortune five hundred companies, schools, hospitals, nursing homes  and diverse secular organizations have all played a part in this phenomenon. 

In response to this need many faith communities have developed programs and ministries designed to help people find spiritual healing. These efforts have revived traditional truths about healing and generated exercises  to aid people seeking physical, emotional and spiritual transformation today.