Week 2 Day 6: Offer an Intention

Week 2: My Relationship with God
Workbook Exercise: My Garden Plot

Watch: Week 2 Day 6: Offer an Intention
What spiritual practice might help you grow?
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Transcript of Video:

It helps to set aside specific times when we’re aware, I’m doing a spiritual practice with a specific intention of cultivating that connection with God. Often unless we set aside a specific time just for that purpose we can forget that our whole life is, in fact, spiritual practice.

I think a great help in that is cultivating the offering of an intention at the beginning of a session of spiritual practice. So whatever the practice is, whether it is one of the literally hundreds of practices that the huge treasury of the church tradition offers us, or something that just makes us feel alive, feel connected with life, we can use that as a spiritual practice by offering an intention before we begin a specific period of doing that as prayer. So we might just say a prayer to God, something like, “As I sit down to do this practice of gardening or writing or yoga or scripture reading, or whatever it happens to be,” we can say, “God, I offer my whole person, my heart, my mind, my whole being to you in this practice and I intend to come to know you and to love you more deeply and to make myself more available to your love through this particular practice.”

– Br. Keith Nelson


  1. David Damon on September 17, 2021 at 08:57

    I appreciate Brother Keith’s recommendation of offering a prayer of intention before starting a spiritual practice. That is such a good idea – it should help me focus and be present as I engage in my daily scripture reading and prayer time (and hopefully keep my mind from wandering). Fasting and attending a retreat are some other practices I’ve been considering as a result of the messages from the Brothers in this course. I’ve only fasted on rare occasions (Good Friday and sometimes Ash Wednesday) but maybe this should be something I do more regularly? Maybe I should consider going on a retreat to deepen my relationship with God? Perhaps a retreat to Emery House whenever it reopens?

  2. Debbie Golwas on September 8, 2018 at 11:49

    The Spiritual practice that helps me grow is my early morning, 0340, daily meditation. This starts my day in that I spend this time with God, focusing on just being with Him. Yes, sometimes thoughts wander through my mind but I try quickly to push them away as if I were sending them downstream in a river. Even my dogs have learned to leave me alone during this time. I feel as if this meditation time is my soil, preparing me for the day ahead.

  3. Richard A Dixon on August 26, 2017 at 03:10

    In answer to the question – I am going to look into Lectio Divina. I’ve flirted with fasting, I must take this much more seriously.

    • Chioma Nwaogu on January 16, 2021 at 13:22

      In my new found joy of wanting to be more open and useful to the lord, I have come to know, that taking on healthy spiritual exercises help a lot, and the ones that that enhance me more are reflection on good and virtuous things, adoration of the blessed sacrament and seriously looking for more humble service to God and humanity, I will try to build these up and take up, other ones as time goes on.

  4. Stan Lewis on February 20, 2017 at 09:01

    What a blessing it is to know that almost any daily activity can become a a spiritual practice–given that we are mindful of intention. We dedicate our activity to God’s glory and to draw closer to Him–to that part of us that is Him. This is the way Jesus lived. He saw God in everything and everyone–and in everything He did.

  5. Jaan Sass on September 19, 2016 at 13:13

    Praying the hours ( morning, noon, evening, comp line) as always captivated my mind. I need to be more faithful with it. When do pray the hours it helps me relax and become somewhat centered its not perfect but it does help. The other practice is praying the rosary. My biggest issues with my spiritual practices is that sometimes I make them so complex that I stop doing them.

  6. Linda on May 24, 2016 at 12:04

    I learned a practice from a book years ago but would forget to do it all the time.mso I added it to my rule some won’t forget to do it at all times.it is called “practicing the presence of God by Brother Lawrence”. So yesterday while practicing, while walking a walking trail, I met a young man walking with a new baby. I talked to him and he had many troubles. So I gave him this website, a forward movement devotional with daily BCP readings and handbills on prayers and lectio divina. I told him wake up with peace. Go to bed with peace. Have peace all day. He said he was really down and had come to the park for escape and glad he found me. I am trying to be mindful of Christ in all my activities for his glory. And when He sends you something you are ready for it, delightful or bad. At same time my relative had a very dangerous surgery and I maintained my peace in time of trouble.blessings to you guys.

  7. Vicki on March 5, 2016 at 07:21

    I wasn’t to pray but I think I am defining that too narrowly. I like the idea that I could intentionally invite God to go along with me while I walk my dog prayerfully while I do yoga while I color with my child … that any of those things in and of themselves can be spiritual activities. Sometimes I think that we define spiritual as meditating or praying or reading the Bible those kinds of things without looking at spirituality as if it can be more and less. Just being with God in your day-to-day life can be a spiritual prayerful activity.

  8. Alan Rollins on February 24, 2016 at 22:06

    One practice that I’ve neglected (among many) is the practice of study; i.e. reading, and listening to, the works of knowledgeable people that offer opinion, guidance and education in our contemporary times. The continued reading and familiarity with Scripture helps to give thought and understanding of what we hear from our clergy, and from fellow parishioners, and can ignite interest and discussion of the basis of our faith.

  9. Carol Ward on February 22, 2016 at 19:30

    I’m having such a hard time with the inexorable pressure to develop a daily routine of some sort. If I am having a good ‘relationship’ with God now, why should I change what I am doing? Is it in the hope that maybe it could be even better if I did something every day? My fear & this is well documented in my life & many of my friends, that many daily routines become either unmanageable or unpracticed. I’ve disappointed myself enough with big fancy plans that I’ve decided I have to do what I know I can do – not what others find useful or think I should do. And, any changes I make will not be done whimsically or without careful thought. I want to build success into my practices & making a commitment in the midst of one of these classes without giving it good thought will only lead to my failing. Now, eventually I may come to the conclusion that I should try something daily but I sure don’t want to pick something ‘on the run.’

    • Michelle Bull on February 23, 2016 at 04:59

      Hi, Carol. Of course, if you’re perfectly happy with your relationship with God, there is no need to do much else. But if you are starting to feel a desire for a bit more, one thing I’ve done, with similar concerns to yours in the past, is to commit to myself to try something for a limited time period, like 2 weeks or the rest of lent or something like that. That gives me a chance to get a little taste of something and see if I might find it good, but limits the chances of feeling like I’ve failed. I can usually manage to do something for a short term like that and if I like it, I can add another week or whatever, or decide to do it once a week or twice a week. Anyway, I’ve found this helpful in the past. I do this approach often with exercise. All the best, Michelle

  10. NA on February 21, 2016 at 18:57

    How simple and yet profound to offer the things you do and love with specific intention! Writing is a big one for me, for a number of reasons. I have been working on a book lately, and the idea of offering it with intent is perfect.

    The other is throwing pottery on the wheel. I did that for several years and adored it. It made me feel centered, present in the moment, and filled me with focus and excitement. I even loved the smell of the clay. I found many metaphors for growth, and sources of spiritual connection in the process of creation.

    When I moved, pottery fell aside because there was no easily accessible workshop. I did not realize how much I missed it until the other day when a friend announced her wonderful news that she had bought a lovely old house and was setting up the bottom of it as her pottery studio.

    While happy for her, the hollow ache that formed in my gut at her news showed me that my need for the pottery is not over and that, rather, it may well be exactly what I need!

  11. Tom on February 21, 2016 at 18:49

    My friend and I have a practice similar to centering prayer that we join in together twice a day.
    Practicing mindfulness or presence is another ongoing practice that increases my “vision of the presence of God.”

  12. Donald Sutton III on February 21, 2016 at 14:06

    For me I feel that having a spiritual guide would help me grow in my spirituality. The reason I bring this up is because I feel like I need someone that can help my grow spiritually and to help me discern where God is calling me.

  13. Dee Dee on February 20, 2016 at 23:30

    Whenever I am disciplined enough to incorporate at least one daily office into my daily routine, I tend to be more at peace and feel more centered in my life. I need to make that a priority again.

  14. Stan on February 20, 2016 at 17:32

    I “communicate” with God regularly throughout the day. I thank God for the beauty and wonder of things which I behold, and I will ask God for help (or forgiveness) when I feel I need it. But the idea of setting aside something specific; actually being intentional? That has never occurred to me, other than saying “grace” before meals. What a great idea! I think maybe book-ending each day with short “Good Morning Lord” and “Good Night Holy Father” prayers could really strengthen my relationship with My Holy Spirit Within.

  15. susan zimmerman on February 20, 2016 at 14:46

    …love alive

  16. Julia on February 20, 2016 at 12:18

    I’m going to try the wonderful suggestion of stating my intention before meditative prayer. I will try it tonight! I feel very hopeful that this will help.

  17. Julia on February 20, 2016 at 12:08

    I love the suggestion of stating our intention before spiritual practice. I worry about experiencing God fully in my meditation – perhaps intentionality will help. I’ll try it tonight!

  18. Julia on February 20, 2016 at 12:02

    I love the suggestion of stating our intention prior to spiritual practice. I meditate at night before sleep and I spend a little too much time worrying that I’m not experiencing God enough in my sessions. I will try to state my intention tonight before I meditate tonight and see how it goes.

  19. Catherine on February 20, 2016 at 12:01

    What spiritual practices am I already doing? I worship at church on Sundays, I pray the morning prayer through Mission St. Clare almost every weekday with coffee before getting up my daughter for school, I’m starting to run again, which could be a spiritual practice, I’m thinking about starting yoga again, I’m doing this Rule of Life every day in Lent and hopefully we’ll start a group at church soon. I’d like my morning prayer to be more intentional, more of a centering prayer. I’d like to pray before each of these activities to make them more intentional.

  20. Eugene Wright on February 19, 2016 at 21:18

    Praying and meditating more at night before going to bed.

  21. gwedhen nicholas on February 19, 2016 at 19:56

    I have meditated more on this subject, and realize that I am always in Gods’ presence and am aware of it. Doing everything I do as an act of prayer and is spiritual practice. I don’t need to sit silently to communicate with God, I just need to be in His Presence in whatever I happen to be doing. I feel that a Spiritual practice I need in order to grow is to practice intercessory prayer. I can practice that during the day as God puts prayers into my head. I think praying is holistic. You can not separate prayer and life…they are one. Setting aside a specific prayer time isn’t necessary, it isn’t holy. Constant prayer is necessary and holy, and gives us wisdom.

  22. Paul on February 19, 2016 at 18:44

    There are SO many practices that I want to do all I learn about and of course I am overwhelmed. A spiritual director would really help but I don’t know where to begin. I’d like to ask one of the brothers (since I live in Boston) but I know from friends that they are all very busy. I find that whatever I don’t do during the first hour after arising gets squeezed in during the day, and it doesn’t feel satisfying. I’ll pray over all of this.

    • Kelley on February 20, 2016 at 12:03

      The ladies who run SACRED ORDINARY DAYS TRIBE on facebook are spiritual directors – maybe they can help you or give you names of a SD in your area. (thru this group is how I found out about this Lent series.)

  23. gwedhen nicholas on February 19, 2016 at 17:05

    Practicing the organ for Sunday morning certainly feels like a spiritual practice.It feels like I am worshiping God as I play His music for Him. I like what the Brother said about making it intentional with a prayer before hand. I feel, however, that I need something more. Maybe just being with God. I think that would increase and develop our relationship if I did it daily. I also liked what Br. Geoffrey said in his sermon yesterday, about having a specific time and place to pray each day. I guess this could also be called ‘making it intentional.’ Another aspect is actually keeping the practice every day;not missing it because something else has come up. Please help me to do this Father. Amen

  24. Debbie on February 19, 2016 at 16:40

    I had this in the first three words. I take spiritual journeys. They have been for me going to talks that our Diocese puts on. It give me time to rest, reflect, think. I take in the whole trip. From stopping to get coffee on the way to the people I see and who I talk to before and after the talk. I don’t do enough of them.

  25. Margaret on February 19, 2016 at 14:21

    Thank you for the suggestion of offering various practices to God. I already have words I meditate on in yoga but this will make the practice seem more intentional. When I paint the beauty of Gods world, I will offer this practice to God so that I might be more intentional and inspired.

  26. Dorothy P. on February 19, 2016 at 13:15

    I think the key for me is setting aside a specific time. I have a co-worker who has a calendar item near the end of each day entitled simply, “Do something fun.” For me, whose schedule is more and more governed by calendars, I can schedule a few minutes of spiritual practice. It doesn’t even have to be the same thing each time (I think this can lead to some level of “burnout,” just like anything else one does repetitively). My “seeds” already provide a short list of practices with which to fill the spaces I create:

    – Journaling/”warrior writing”
    – stretching/self-massage (to honor my body)
    – gazing in wonder
    – meditation

  27. Jennifer on February 19, 2016 at 11:58

    I also like being reminded that everything we do is a way of being connected, spiritual, praying, celebrating our devotion to Go, and to each other as human beings in this realm for the time being. It also makes recognizing each moment more important, less disposable.

  28. Denise on February 19, 2016 at 10:00

    Being intentional! It seems so simple and yet is so profound. Yes, I can take each of the many activities that fill my life: walking, drawing, Lenten devotions, cooking, gardening, loving my family… and make them an offering, a thanksgiving to my God, the Creator of all that I love.

  29. Jim Deppe on February 19, 2016 at 09:51

    I like the intentionality of beginning the practice with a prayer. I’ll be adding that to my practice.

  30. Anne on February 19, 2016 at 09:49

    I just to be good at praying while I was running each morning. I’d like to rediscover that.

  31. Kristi on February 19, 2016 at 09:22

    This video posting makes me feel so reassured in my faith practice. I’m from the “old school” religious style where going to church and bowing before God was how you showed your devotion to the Lord. I now know that I can offer my whole self to him in a variety of settings and activities. It doesn’t have to be strict prayer only. That’s a huge relief to me having been brought up in a strict and traditional fashion. This frees me to express my devotion to him in so many ways.

    • Michelle Bull on February 20, 2016 at 07:42

      That’s wonderful Kristi. The old school practice is good, of course, but it’s even better when our faith pervades our whole life and our relationship with God does, too, like we’re sponges soaking up God’s presence. I’m happy for you.

  32. Jan on February 19, 2016 at 09:21

    This question resonates with me very deeply. I am currently training to earn 200 hour registered yoga teacher certification and as you learn the more philosophical side it is encouraged to set an intention before each practice. I am going to take this practice and try to apply this to all aspects of my life. I know that this will definitely bring my relationship with God to a new level.

  33. Martha Hunter on February 19, 2016 at 09:10

    Digging deeper in the Word

  34. Caroline homer on February 19, 2016 at 08:46

    I like this idea too. In my journal I could draw a special symbol of offering.

  35. Robert on February 19, 2016 at 08:31

    There are many good suggestions. I pray daily.

  36. CH on February 19, 2016 at 08:16

    – Morning Prayer of the Daily Office. This has been on/off for me for many years. The beauty of the Daily Office for me is that it covers a lot of areas : adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication, oblation, and it covers the range of scriptures OT, NT, and Gospels. Through this “growing” period now, I need to slow down, ponder, consider, as I do this to let speak God, to me through this, instead of doing it in a rushed way.

    – Gratitude/ Thanksgiving: I want to grow a thankful heart to God for what he has done, and continues to do… and to do this with intentionality and reflection.

    – A Journal: This is new to me, and the questions of this “growing” program have been worthy of thinking through and writing my thoughts and responses.

  37. Marthan on February 19, 2016 at 08:00

    Arising early, at 6:00 and beginning gentle yoga and centering prayer which takes 30-45 minutes, then sitting and reading The Forward Day by Day, with a cup of coffee, has been my spiritual practice for many years. And last year at Lent, I was introduced to the morning spiritual readings of the SSJE. “Icing on the cake!”

  38. Robert Corey on February 19, 2016 at 07:54

    I’m still afraid of false starts. I’m persuaded as well that a forager mentality serves me better than a farmer mentality, and does not dis-serve God. And neither de-serve God — we are all undeserving.

    My time with used books can be tedium or delight. My avoidance of the tedium has caused a build up of clutter. I was talking “love of books” with a friend the other day, and admitting that I spend my time with some pretty unlovable books. I feel compelled to love unlovable people. I’ve got to be more brutal with the books. Will that make things less tedious? Less cluttered? More profitable? I need to remember that profit is not a dirty word for a Christian. What profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul? It’s not about the counting, but what is counted.

  39. William Spies on February 19, 2016 at 07:50

    I wake up every morning now to listening to the SSJE prayer session which gives me the awareness of what I need to stop all else I am doing and listen to it and then I find myself looking at nature and in turn God in everything thru my morning Jog in the forest that surrounds where I live.

  40. Suzanne on February 19, 2016 at 07:46

    I’ve enjoyed a morning cup of coffee with God since making my Cursillo weekend in 1997. Sometimes we have a short visit; other times a visit lasting an hour or more. Regardless, the time is cherished and I come away ready for whatever the day presents. I wrote yesterday that I would like to find time for me. Especially in the area of exercise. I am prayerfully considering substituting a walk for the cup of coffee. Thank you, Brother Keith for your prayer.

  41. Jim V on February 19, 2016 at 07:46

    I have always thought that some sort of contemplative prayer or mediator action would help grow my relationship with God. I have always had a tough time getting that off the ground and being consistent. Maybe that means I have been unable to make it a priority, maybe it means that it is not the right one for me. Lately my body has been failing me and I am in need of some daily excersise regime. When I saw yoga on the list of intentional activities I wondered whether my bodywork could be what I need to grow with God. I have always wondered whether that is a selfish act or would be a combination of convienence. I suppose it is where one’s intent lies.

  42. Neil Ellis Orts on February 19, 2016 at 07:38

    There are any number of things I do regularly that might be thought of as a practice. Daily reading from the Desert Fathers and Mothers. Writing. A personal photo project.

    This notion of intention is elusive to me, though. Today’s video does bring up my default setting of “multi-tasking.” I even listen to these videos while making breakfast.

    There always seems to be so much to be done in a day, so I combine activities often. I read the Abbas and Ammas while waiting for my bus. I write why riding the bus. I do this morning exercise while making breakfast. I don’t do any one thing by itself.

    I need to take one thing, do it with intention, in the name of God. Thank you for this reminder.

    • Michelle Bull on February 19, 2016 at 08:46

      I think using bus time is good. I regularly do intercessory prayer on buses. Otherwise you’re just sitting. I wouldn’t count that as multitasking really.

      • Susan on February 19, 2016 at 09:38

        I came across the idea of praying at red lights once. Much better than sitting with a sense of impatience.

        • Dorothy P. on February 19, 2016 at 13:08

          I LIKE that idea! It will definitely help when driving by myself — with son in the back we are usually talking, although often on the subject of how he doesn’t like waiting at red lights. Hm, maybe I can suggest a short prayer during those times. Thanks!

        • Kathleen Sheehy on February 19, 2016 at 16:12

          Thanks, that’s a helpful suggestion!

        • Stan on February 20, 2016 at 17:14

          HA! Not that’s the best chuckle I’ve had so far in this whole study exercise. A very clever and insightful answer to one of a city dweller’s greatest annoyances.

  43. Linda on February 19, 2016 at 07:13

    I would like to nurture a centering prayer practice that takes place on a regular basis. I also greatly enjoy these videos and the questions and will probably continue to visit the SSJE site and work with materials from here. But mostly, the meditative time – with centering prayer. I love the statement – “God, I offer myself to thee.” to be fully present in the prayer. That I would like to do.

  44. Betty Donahue on February 19, 2016 at 06:24

    Spending time first thing each morning, (after I make my coffee and get the paper in the house) is what will help me grow. I have been doing this for quite a while and find that it always helps to ground me.. Also what will help me grow is to to different practices at this time.. what is best is to sit and quiet my mind so I can truly hear what God is saying and where he needs me to go. Practices like Growing a Rule truly help me grow because they make me pause to consider new ways of connecting to God and the world.

  45. Michelle Bull on February 19, 2016 at 06:06

    I am actually looking for a new spiritual practice. What I’ve been doing is not bad, but it’s not feeding me as much as it used to and I’m wondering if there are other things I might do that would be of more value to me. Only I”m not sure what. Do you have suggestions. Brother Keith said there are hundreds of practices out there. I think I’m looking for something more specifically Anglican or Christian and more specifically religious. I already do yoga every day before my practice and find it very grounding, but I’d like something specifically of the prayer and meditation type category. Any suggestions?

    • Bobbi on February 19, 2016 at 07:43

      A month ago I began the spiritual practice of Centering Prayer. I am in awe of how it has deepened my relationship with God and changed my attitude toward life and towards my faith. The writings of Thomas Keating have been helpful but really the message is simple. I just show up twice a day for twenty minutes with the intention to be in God’s presence.

  46. Mrs t on February 19, 2016 at 02:44

    I like the idea that the things that make you feel alive can also be offered as a spiritual practice to God. I like gardening and walking and Pilates , will start offering these things.

  47. Jane on February 18, 2016 at 17:57

    I’ve recently started taking a yoga class and love the suggestion to state my intention before I begin my practice each day. I’ll start doing this tomorrow morning!! And I’ll do the same each day before I do my spiritual reading, as well. Thank you so much for this idea!

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