October 7, 2015, Adrian, Michigan – In more than 10 towns in southern Michigan, 15 groups gather monthly for an hour of shared contemplation and the opportunity to deepen their relationships with God and each other. They are participating in Circles of Prayer, informal gatherings of six to 10 people committed to deepening their prayer life.
Sister Marilyn Barnett, OP, devised the idea of Circles of Prayer in response to the hunger for a “meaningful relationship with God” that she has found in so many people with whom she has ministered. “When I speak to them of the need for quiet and silence and prayer, the inevitable response is, ‘Oh, how I wish that could be part of my life!’” Sister Marilyn said. “For many, finding time for quiet seems an impossible reality. But don’t we all owe ourselves the quiet to listen to our God knocking on the door of our heart?”
Sister Marilyn was part of a group of Sisters and lay who were called together people to discuss this call in light of that spiritual hunger, and in response to a call by Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Congregation, to open the doors of the Motherhouse campus to people seeking a place for prayer. “We thought that this might be a wonderful idea to offer anyone who wishes the opportunity to form a Circle of Prayer,” Sister Marilyn said.
The structure of these Circles of Prayer is simple: a group of six to 10 people gather every month to pray together for an hour. The hour can begin with silence, music to quiet the group, and a simple setting – such as a table with a cloth and a candle – to enhance the prayerful atmosphere. Scripture, a poem, other inspirational writing, or art can be used for reflection, which would be followed by a lengthy period of silence. Participants then have the opportunity to share their reflections if they desire. This is followed by a second time of silence to allow participants to hold what they have heard in reverence.
“The purpose is simply to develop [participants’] personal relationship with God through deep, contemplative consciousness and to strengthen this relationship with those with whom they are praying,” Sister Marilyn explained. She added that the Circles of Prayer are not designed to be Bible studies, catechetical instructions, or social times. The normal setting is in private homes, where food is not served.
Circles of Prayer are currently being formed in the Michigan cities of Adrian, Ann Arbor, Brighton, Davisburg, Davison, Fenton, Grand Blanc, Jackson, Owosso, Pinckney, Swartz Creek, and Ypsilanti and in Eagle River, Wisconsin.
For information on joining a Circle of Prayer or forming your own, contact Sister Marilyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.