Embracing Our Identity in Christ: The Prayer of Recollection
As people begin a new year they often look to incorporate new practices into their spiritual lives. If you are so inclined, I would strongly suggest you make the prayer of recollection a part of your daily spiritual rhythm. It is not too involved and when made a consistent part of one’s life it can be powerfully transforming and freedom producing. This prayer practice provides a helpful way to help a person name and embrace their unshakable identity in Christ. When consistently practiced this style of prayer enables a person to internalize their identity in Christ, that in turn shapes and forms their decisions, the way they view and relate to others and their circumstances and frees them to more fully be who they most truly are. If you are interested please continue to read about this remarkable prayer practice.
The Prayer of Recollection
This prayer of recollection as presented below is a direct byproduct of the combined wisdom of St John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton and John Coe. Each of these writers, scholars and people of faith have impacted my life as they have commented on this particular prayer practice and to each I am indebted. I do not presume to improve on their collected wisdom - I merely present here my framework for a prayer of recollection.
Definition: The prayer of recollection is a prayer that helps us to separate from our own strength and cling to God – to ultimately find our identity ‘in Christ.’
This prayer opens up our very being to God and prepares us to live more fully into and out of the reality that; God lives within us, that we live, move and have our being in God and that we are in Christ – who has transformed us into a new creation, a-one-of-kind-masterpiece of God.
This prayer is divided into three parts. The first part of the prayer helps us to name and own our limitations as a finite person, while also affirming that this is not the end of the story. In part two we recall to our mind, heart and soul who we are in Christ – the truth of who we most truly are. Finally, in step three we sit within the truth of God’s love and who we are in Christ.
Although what follows is a long explanation of the prayer practice, the practice itself is rather simple involving only three steps. An abbreviated form of the prayer of recollection is found at the bottom of this musing and can easily be transferred to phone or tablet for easy referencing. The following explanation will provide you with fodder to help you reflect on who you are in Christ that is always time well spent.
Take some time to ponder the verses below paying attention to what thoughts and feelings surface within you as you sit wiith these glorious truths concerning the grace and mercy God has showered upon you.
1. Affirm and Embrace my limitations as a finite person
This step invites you to connect with God in honesty, openness and vulnerability – to return to the "garden" naked and unashamed before God.
Step 1 involves owning your limitations, struggles, weaknesses, finiteness, all the while keeping in mind that God’s grace is perfected in your weakness (2 Cor 12:9) and that nothing, NO THING can separate you from the love of God (Rom. 8:38-39).
This is not about self-depreciation or belittling but an honest reckoning regarding your own weaknesses, mind, body, soul and spirit in the present moment of the now of your existence.
e.g. My mind is weary, I am overcome by grief, I am physically sick, emotionally spent, my body is aging, my spirit is not willing and my flesh lusts for pleasure…
This honest sharing with God of your weakness is part and parcel of being a human being – finite, limited – yet always remembering who you are at the core of your being which brings us to # 2. This reckoning of who we are today will change even as some things remain the same. Today I am weighed down with grief and tomorrow I may feel discouraged or physically weak and the next day....
2 Cor. 12:9-10 ‘And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.’
Conclude step one by affirming that apart from Christ you can do nothing (John 15:5) BUT with God all things are possible (Luke 1:37, Phil 4:13). This step is not about self-deprecation, but the freedom-producing truth, that lifts your eyes off you and begins to focus on who God is. This leads to Step 2 that will now allow you to see yourself in a new light.
2. Affirm, embrace and celebrate your soul’s TRUE identity.
Step 2 involves owning who you are ‘in Christ’ as that new creation, a-one-of-kind-masterpiece of God created anew and afresh in Christ.
I am Forgiven by God
Forgiveness frees us from having our lives defined by what has been done to us or what we have done. Our forgiveness in Christ is the first step in freeing us to be who God has created us to be.
Psalm 103:11-12 “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
Isaiah 43:25 "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.
Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace.”
I am Adopted by God
You were once a child of wrath, outside the family of God; but God, who is rich in mercy, adopted you (chose you), when you were a sinner, an enemy of God. You are now a child of God, joint heirs with Christ. The Lord God Almighty is your father, your mother and you are God’s precious child uniquely loved, valued and cherished.
Galatians 4:4-7 “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.”
Romans 8:15-17a “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.”
Ephesians 1:5 “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
I am Belonging to God/Chosen by God
Belonging to God
As a Christian, you are not our own. In actuality, youy are God’s very own possession, God's people, formed by God for God’s own self. Also bound up in your identity as one belonging to God, living for God is your need to be yielded to God, dependent on God, seeking to live as Jesus lived – seeing the doing of God’s will as our food, be willing to ultimately say “not my will but God’s will be done.”
Romans 14:7-8 “For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”
Isaiah 43:1, 4, 7-21 “…listen to the Lord who created you…the one who formed you says…’I have called you by name; you are mine… you are precious to me… for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.’ ‘From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done….the people I have formed for myself.’”
1 Peter 2:9 “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”
Chosen by God
John 15:16-17 You did not choose me, but I chose you….
Eph 1:4… He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…
Col 3:12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved (dearly loved)
I am the residence of God
This is a mystery which we often do not take time to consider – God lives in you, you are a container of God, a home for God. This is every bit as mind-boggling as Mary carrying Jesus within her womb and then giving birth to the creator and Lord of the universe. Ponder the reality that God lives in you – that even as we live, move and have our being in God, God lives, moves and has His being in you, in me. Spend some time sitting or walking with that thought in your mind. If you truly believed that God has taken up residence in you how would that change how you lived life?
1 Corinthians 3:16 “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
Galatians 2: 20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Romans 8:11 “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
I am Beloved of God (God likes me)
It is your identity as God’s chosen one and being the beloved of God that can really free you to live a life that in most true to who God has created us to be.
Col 3:12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved (dearly loved)
Eph 3:17-19 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Jn 4:16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
3. Be still and soak in the truths from Step 2.
Take a few moments to soak in the truth of God's love for you and who you are in Christ.
The prayer of recollection helps you to live out who you are in Christ and frees you to be the one-of-a-kind-masterpiece you are in Christ. The prayer of recollection enables you to be the glory of God that Saint Irenaeus, in the 2nd Century, defined this way: “The Glory of God is a person fully alive.” That is what the prayer of recollection is about, bringing Glory to God by helping you to become more fully alive. For then, God is not only fully glorified, but you will be free to bring your greatest gift to the world, which is you.
The three steps of Prayer and Recollection
1. Affirm and embrace my limitations as a finite person - apart from Christ I can do nothing and God grace is manifested in my weakness.
2. Affirm, embrace and celebrate my soul’s TRUE identity as one forgiven, adopted, chosen by God, belonging to God, containing God, and the beloved of God (all of which does not change) – you may need to add to this step the prayer from the gospels that Jesus heard and answered, “I believe, help me in my unbelief.”
3. Be still and soak in the truths that God loves me, is with me, is within me and I am God’s new creation, a-one-of-kind-masterpiece of God created anew and afresh in Christ.
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