Over the next few days, I may share some of Foster's insights on "three classic ways of proactive prayer whose principle aim is our transformation. Foster defines the active side of the formation prayer as our pursuing God, seeking after him, journeying with him, and working out our own salvation (Philippians 2:12).
The first way to proactive prayer comes from The Spiritual Exercises by Ignatius of Loyola. His regime of spiritual exercises include four basic sections or weeks. These are 1) focus on our sin in light of God's love, 2) center on the life of Christ, 3) the passion of the Christ, and 4) the resurrection of Christ. These exercises require meditation, scripture reading, and my favorite, imagination. I know these exercises are strange to many of us, but frankly, that's pretty sad. Do you know what insight and new understanding the Holy Spirit will give you after you spend a week intentionally focusing on the life of Christ or God's love? We don't know because we have not put forth the effort. There are some things that will never be formed in you unless you make a decision to wait on the Lord.
Foster says "We all need a deeper musing upon our perennial knack for disobedience and God's unbounded habit of forgiving. We all need a richer contemplation upon that life, which shows us the way so we may follow 'in His steps'."
I want to encourage you to at least try one of these exercises. Set aside a week with a specific time for this. I would at least fast from entertainment and as little outside influence on your life as possible. Find a time when you can have some solitude and quiet. Pray first asking the Holy Spirit to help you be open to receive his guidance. Take time to look up passages (not just Bible verses) about your subject of meditation. Read through them again meditating on them. Write down commonalities and key points you notice. Incorporate some Bible study methods if you can. They let your imagination be guided by the Holy Spirit. Let him take you through these stories and narratives. One example I'll give is when I saw the Passion of the Christ. I felt like I desperately would have wanted to stop the crowd from jeering and throwing stones at Jesus carrying his cross down the Via Dolorosa. Later as I processed this in prayer, I felt the Holy Spirit tell me that was a nice sentiment, but in reality, I was one of the sinners heaping my own sins on Jesus. In my imagination, I got a vivid picture of this and felt overwhelmed by the enormity of my sin and the lavish grace of Jesus Christ who took them on himself for me. Don't miss these opportunities in prayer.