Sunday, April 10, 2011

Daily Prayer in Lent: Fifth Sunday



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.

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

• You might want to begin with this simple prayer...

• Pray through these verses from Psalm 119 (below) 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...

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...

And here's some further reflection on praying this way.

From Psalm 119 

Wonderful are your decrees,
I guard them with my life.
Unfold your word,
enlighten the simple.

Longing for you,
I thirst for your teaching.
Turn and favor me,
because I love your name.

Let your word lead my steps,
and evil not master me.
Save me from the oppressor,
so I may keep your commands.

Smile upon me
and teach me your ways.
I shed endless tears
over those who break your law...

My heart begs you, Lord:
hear me, so I can keep faith.
I beg you, make me free,
so I can live your laws.

I face you in the cold night
praying, waiting for your word.
I keep watch through the night,
repeating what you promise.

Hear me, loving God,
let your justice make me live.
The wicked close in on me,
to them your law is foreign.

But you, Lord, are closer still,
your law is my whole truth,
learned when I was young,
fixed for all time.

See how I suffer!  Free me!
I have not forgotten you.
Take my side, defend me,
give the life you promised.

No safety for the wicked:
they spurn what you demand.
Lord of great mercy,
let your word be my life.

Enemies hunt me down,
yet I will not waver.
Traitors disgust me,
because they break your word.

But I love your precepts, Lord,
let me live in your love.
Truth is the heart of your word,
every judgment stands for ever.




 
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