SPREAD THE LOVE PRAYER PRACTICE:
Begin by taking slow deep breaths. With each breath, inhale GOD saying “I love you.” With each exhale send back to God, “I love You.” Do this for 3-5 breathes.
Next, with each inhale, breathe in GOD’S “I love you” and with each exhale, send GOD’S LOVE out to others; starting with your spouse, family, friends, and neighbors, one by one as they come to mind. Don’t worry about covering everyone each time. Focus only on those that come to your mind. Remember to keep inhaling GOD’S LOVE for you with each breath. Once you feel that your heart is able to freely send God’s love to all those in you know and care about you can move to the next phase.
The third phase of this prayer practice is to inhale GOD’S LOVE and send it to those you have trouble loving; the difficult people, the unloving people, the ‘least of these,” the forgotten, the poor, the sick, the persecuted, the marginalized, rejected, the criminals, even terrorist. Start with the difficult people you know personally. When your heart able to freely love these difficult people in your life, then you can expand it to people you don’t know but that you see as bad or unworthy of love. The list could go on and on. Of course, you can’t cover these in one practice but each time you practice you can send God’s love to different people or groups of people.
You can then expand the practice to include ethnic groups, cultures, countries, and religious groups, politicians and political groups. As you watch the news notice where there is a need created by a lack of love or suffering of any kind and send GOD’S LOVE to the hurting people around the world.
I am taking up this challenge myself to practice this daily through Easter and I invite you to join me (by then you will never want to stop). I believe GOD’S LOVE WILL transforms us from the inside out. Our hearts will expand more and more and get so full that we won’t be able to contain it! We will not be able to NOT LOVE EVERYONE!
Suggestion: You may want to set your alarm on your phone to remind you several times a day to take a one minute LOVE break. Or set aside 3 minutes in the morning, at noon and in evening. Don’t worry if you get busy or forget. When you remember start again. For the first few days or week, you may want to focus on just receiving and returning love to God and then begin to make the circle of love larger as the weeks progress. Notice how your heart feels when you send LOVE out to others, especially those that are difficult to love. You might notice your heart open and expand as your body relaxes. Or you might notice resistance in your thoughts and feel anxious. In this case ask God to show you what is in the way and to help you let go of whatever it is.
It could be fear, hurt, guilt, judgment, prejudice, etc. No need to analyze it, just become aware of what it is and say to the Lord, “I’m sorry. Please release me from ______________,” Then let it go ___________ with your next breath.
This practice can be done anywhere at anytime of day or night. In the grocery line, at a stop light, waiting to see the doctor, in the shower, on a walk, lying in bed at night or before rising in the morning. Most of us have known in our heads that God loves us for most of our life. However, our unconscious beliefs based on memories of past experiences, conditioning from family and culture as well developed strategies for survival and happiness prevent us from experiencing God’s love and living it out. Only Holy Spirit can free us from these unconscious memories and impulses. So be patient with the process and with your self. It is God who is working in us both to will and do., in His time not ours. Often there is much to be revealed before it can be released. Our part is to remain in His love, make ourselves available to His DIVINE THERAPY. Let go of any expectations of results or out comes.
Only over time will you begin to notice the subtle and sometimes not so subtle changes that are happening within you. For me, they first begin to show up as a letting go of my worldly attachments and unhealthy identity of my ego. This often felt like I was dying or being emptied out, which is what God is doing. He is making room for more LOVE and GRACE. As time has gone on, I noticed others changing around me (or was it how I was seeing and experiencing them?). I found myself without thought or effort responding differently to people and situations.
Yes, I still have off days, but they are becoming less frequent and shorter. I’ve come to see this as a necessary part of the transformation process. My failures and struggles, remind me that this is GOD’s work and I can’t achieve this through my good intentions or will power. Also, as I confess my failure and need, I receive a fresh infilling of GRACE reminding me that all is GIFT, which then strengthens my desire to live spiritually free to LOVE others as GOD LOVES ME.