3/8/11

Daily prayer in Lent: Ash Wednesday


This Lent I invite you to pray the psalms.

On most days* this Lent, I'll post a psalm here and invite you to pray it in the spirit of St. Bernard's words above.  St. Bernard invites us to keep God's word in our hearts... to let it enter our very being... to feed on its goodness...

How to do that? Here's a simple way.

Below, you'll find Psalm 51, the classic penitential psalm and a perfect scripture for Ash Wednesday.

• Find some quiet time and relax... be aware of God's presence... ask the Holy Spirit to help you to pray...

• Pray through the psalm slowly...   (Some words, phrases or verses may be unfamiliar or difficult to understand.  Don't worry about those now- this is a time for prayer, not for bible study)

Reflect on the psalm you've just prayed...  how does it speak to what's in your heart today?

• Now, go back and pray through the psalm again...  Keep an eye out for a verse that catches your attention...  a verse that particularly challenges or comforts you...  a verse you might want to keep in your heart for the day...  a verse you'd invite to enter your very being...  a verse whose goodness would be food to nourish you all day long...

• Now, close your eyes and just spend some time slowly repeating that verse, perhaps out loud, perhaps in a whisper, perhaps in silence...  let that verse become a part of you...  hide that verse in your heart... take delight in this verse as the word that God has spoken and given to you for your prayer this day...

• Yes, hide the word, the verse, in your heart  --  but you might also write it out on a piece of paper (or in a small notebook, on an index card, or on a Post-it) and put it in your pocket or a place where you'll easily find it...

• Let this word God has spoken and given to you be your prayer, your mantra, for the day...  Ask the Lord to help you remember the verse you've hidden in your heart and to bring it back to you during the day... Repeat it several times whenever it comes to mind...  Refer to your written copy as a reminder...   Let the verse come back to you through the day as people, places and events remind you of it...  If you keep the word of God in this way, it will also keep you...

By way of example: I prayed Psalm 51 this past Friday and the verse I tucked in my heart and pocket was this:  Creator, reshape my heart; God, steady my spirit.  There were plenty of times in the day (and over the weekend and today, too!) when those words surfaced in my mind and heart, in my prayer, and kept me through the day.

I encourage you to give this method of prayer at least a few days.  I know that it's a way of praying that's been very helpful in my spiritual life and I trust it will benefit you, too.  After a few days, you'll become more accustomed to finding the words the Lord is speaking to you, hiding them in your heart,
and finding them again as the day goes on...  You might want to keep a little log of the verses that stay with you: that can be helpful in recalling them or looking, later, for a verse to keep in your heart, that it might keep you in the Lord's embrace...

Psalm 51

Have mercy, tender God,
forget that I defied you.
Wash away my sin,
cleanse me from my guilt.

I know my evil well,
it stares me in the face,
evil done to you alone
before your very eyes.

How right your condemnation!
Your verdict clearly just.
You see me for what I am,
a sinner before my birth.

You love those centered in truth,
teach me your hidden wisdom.
Wash me with fresh water,
wash me bright as snow.

Fill me with happy songs,
let the bones you have bruised now dance.
Shut your eyes to my sin,
make my guild disappear.

Creator, reshape my heart,
God, steady my spirit.
Do not cast me aside
stripped of your holy spirit.

Save me, bring back my joy,
support me, strengthen my will.
Then I will teach your way
and sinners will turn to you.

Help me, stop my tears,
and I will sing your goodness.
Lord, give me words
and I will shout your praise.

When I offer a holocaust**
the gift does not please you.
So I offer my shattered spirit;
a changed heart you welcome.


*On Mondays I'll post a Monday Morning Offering as usual and on Saturdays I'll post the Litany of Mary of Nazareth.


**a sacrificial animal, a burnt offering

 
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1 comment:

Alex said...

First, thank you for your response to my comment a few posts ago- I did not expect one, but it was helpful in ways I do not completely understand right now, but I will pray to be able to trust that that understanding will come in time-

This post is helpful to me also, and I am going to visit here often during Lent- I believe and need to trust it will be a very big help to me-

Thank you, Concord Pastor.