We took our starting point this time from the Psalter, the book of Psalms in the middle of the Old Testament. But through exploring its relevance to Christians we learned a method we can use today for praying using Scripture in general.
The Psalms are often seen as poems written by David, and while this may be true there are no texts that explicitly claim his authorship, though some state that they are ‘of David’ which could mean many other things. And while we may be more accustomed to reading the Psalms as poems they are of course songs, Hymns -often in praise of God- which would probably have been sung in the Temple. In view of this, after reading a psalm we also listened to the Chaplain sing it.
Our reflections on the singing of Scripture were that:
- The addition of rhythm highlights its literary beauty.
- The slower pace makes it easier to take in the words and therefore more contemplative.
- It is more emotionally engaging, it draws us to be more involved in it.
- It puts off questioning the text and consequentially aids devotional usage.
- And brings the focus back to its original expression (how its first hearers would have heard it).
Relatively early on in the Christian Church monastic communities decided to carry on using the psalms for holy music. Gregorian Chant (named after Pope St. Gregory the Great) was notably the first music to have stave notation. The Benedictine Order in particular made the chanting of psalms central to their way of life, sometimes getting through all 150 in one day. Another spiritual practise that developed in the monasteries of medieval Europe is Lectio Divina (divine reading) and it is this which we then tried out.
What you may need:
- A quiet place (to be in)
- A text (to pray through)
- a candle and/or an icon (to create atmosphere)
- Pen and paper (for noting distractions and thoughts)
- Preparation (being still)
- Lectio (reading)
- Meditatio (chewing over the words)
- Oratio (prayfully responding to the words)
- Contemplatio (being still)
- Conclusion (journalling and actions)
- Beforehand find a passage of scripture (go through a Bible book, take the Gospel reading for the day, use some selected texts).
- Find a quiet place and sit comfortably.
- Put pen and paper by you to write down intrusive thoughts.
- Take a few deep breaths (in through the nose, out though the mouth).
- Take a little while to notice your body (start at your feet and work up…).
- When ready, invite God to speak and to help you to listen.
- Very slowly (5 mins+) read the text several times (a Bible with simple footnotes may help to explain the context or unusual words)
- Start ‘chewing over’ the text (again slowly, as a cow chews!).
- Weigh up each word, turn it over in your mind, then put the word down and try another.
- Don’t worry if you get distracted, just come back to the text (and note distractions for later).
- ‘Taste’ the phrases – is there one word/phrase that stands out?
- Begin to reflect on what the phrase/word might mean for you.
- Notice any feelings/thoughts in yourself the word/phrase brings out in you.
- Let the words move from your head to your heart.
- Respond to the words; speak to God
- Offer up any feelings and thoughts.
- Ask for what you need.
- Invite God to respond and open yourself to God’s response.
- Finally move into stillness.
- Allow yourself simply to sit in God’s presence.
- Allow God to ‘work’ in you.
- When ready, finish by offering a simple prayer of thanks.
- Note down any words, thoughts or emotions in a journal for later reflection.
- Consider any changes you want to make in your life or your actions.
- Share your thoughts with a spiritual director, guide, priest, friend.
A New Heart
A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you. Ezekiel 36:26-27a
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
Do Not Fear
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you. …
You are precious in my sight,
and honored, and I love you. Isaiah 43:1-2, 4
Newness of Life
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him … so that, as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” Romans 6:3-4
Clothe Yourselves with Love
Above all clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Colossians 3:14-16a
View the Next Part of Bible for Bluffers.
Reading With God, David Foster (Continuum, 2005)
How to Pray, A Practical Handbook, John Pritchard (SPCK, 2002)
(Among others borrowable from the Chaplaincy library…)