Both Scriptures and Christian tradition have emphasized the close relationship between theological reflections and personal spirituality. As the 4th century monastic theologian, Evagrius Ponticus, puts it, “theology is prayer and prayer is theology.” That is, proper theological reflection should give rise to a greater love for God which, in turn, informs our knowledge of God.
More than that, this transformative knowledge of God should also deepen our self-knowledge – the double knowledge underscored by Augustine and John Calvin. Unfortunately, the transition from theological learning to self-knowledge and personal is not always straight forward. Some students don’t do so and end up having a ‘head full of knowledge but nothing much in the heart.’
For this reason, CS102 is introduced at BGST as a Spiritual Formation Practicum (SFP) to help each student renew and deepen his/her love for God, improve his/her own self-knowledge (his/her strengths and weaknesses), and also help discern his/her role in Christ’s mission for the world.
Recent graduates of the CS102 course share their experiences:
“I went from being a skeptic to truly learning to find God in all things. It has drastically improved my prayer life and helped me break free from the mindset of seeing prayer as a fixed practice but real communion with Jesus.
My advice to students who have reservations about CS102 is this: Come with an open heart … (I have formed) a closer, more authentic relationship with God.”
Elijah, aged 31 (Tutor)
“It began as a required module but turned out to be a journey that drew me closer to God. I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to go on this journey. …
Even though the module has ended, I continued to practise imaginative prayer. This was a different way of praying than what I was previously familiar with, and it took a bit of nudging before I was ready to try it. I ended up enjoying it and am now practising it in my regular devotion time. I’m thankful to have grown in my prayer life as a result.
I find that there are many good things that we can learn and benefit from Ignatian spirituality (e.g., the Principle and Foundation, Lectio Divina, etc.). I was able to adapt it to my own beliefs and practices.
I’m deeply appreciative that BGST has made CS102 a required course, and that the Spiritual Director journeyed it with me. This course … guides us to actually practise our spirituality, and not just learn about it. It really helps to begin the journey with an open mind and a humble spirit, ready not just to learn more about yourself, but to draw closer to God. I highly recommend it.”
LDW, aged 48 (Full-time Church Staff)
“I started CS102 in partial fulfilment of my MCS course requirement, but some of the exercises have since become habitual and this is a blessing.
I found the combination of practising the Spiritual Exercises with the Spiritual Conversations most helpful. The experience of learning to hear the voice of God through meditation and contemplation, through the questions of my spiritual mentor and by hearing my own responses to his questions, was new and very enriching to me.
From the ten weeks of the Ignatian Adventure Practicum, I was reassured above all else that God loves me unconditionally. All the prayer exercises covered during this practicum were founded on and aligned to this fundamental truth.”
Lee Kok Wah, aged 65 (Pastor, The Bible Church Singapore)
Some have even gone beyond CS102 to continue the journey of the Spiritual Exercises with ongoing mentoring. The following is a prayer submitted at the end of the course by one of the students:
“Father God, I thank you for the ways in which these meditations on Scripture have intersected with my ordinary daily life. Thank you for helping me to persevere with journaling: addressing my journal entries to you has helped me to focus and to process as I look to you. Thank you for my mentor’s servant-hearted encouragement and for our conversations, which have provided an opportunity to reflect and to process further.
As I look forward, I discern that it would be helpful for me to continue with the upcoming weeks of the Exercises, at least for the time being. Thank you for the opportunity to do so in this season.
Looking further ahead, please help me to find a rhythm in each season. May I continue the practice of praying through Scripture, using the tool of journaling where appropriate, mindful of intersections with my own daily life, trusting that you will guide my steps as your Holy Spirit transforms me towards Christlikeness. Amen.”
Benjamin G., aged 35 (Homemaker / Climate Scientist on a career break)
“CS102 continues to be a blessed journey of continual discovery of God and self.
What I found most useful was that I was becoming more open to God’s prompting at any part of the day, and encouraged to have a sustained period of daily reflection. It enabled a deeper and more intentional reflection of my inner self. It also helped me to see how easily I could be influenced by my old ways, culture, and media.
Even though the module has ended, I think it is important to keep the momentum going, and be reminded constantly that as I learn from the insights gained, I am becoming a newer self… I continued beyond the required ten weeks to push me to maintain the discipline of prayer and reflection. There were moments in the journey where I felt drained by other things in life, but the exercises helped me to draw strength and love from God. I feel thankful for these exercises that led me to renewal.”
Paul Yeo, aged 46 (Zion Bishan BP Church, Ministry Staff, Hokkien Service)
“Choosing to embark on the (full 30-week) Spiritual Exercises has been one of the most fulfilling and life-changing experiences for me. It was a journey of drawing closer to God and re-discovering who God is in my life. The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises is not only a rich compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices, it is also a way of deepening one’s relationship with the Divine in daily life and discernment of life choices.
As David Fleming, SJ puts it, “We can understand a great number of things, but this may not affect the way we live our lives. The goal is a response of the heart, which truly changes the whole person”. In summary, the 30-week journey for me has been a journey from the head to the heart, as the heart response is not only a cornerstone of the Spiritual Exercises but it is the language that reveals God’s intentions, inspiring me to a more generous response to Christ’s invitation to follow Him.
Lin Ho, aged 58 (Life Coach)