Daily Prayer in Lent: Fourth 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 Psalm 91 (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 91

All you sheltered by the Most High,
who live in Almighty God's shadow,
say to the Lord, "My refuge, my fortress,
my God in whom I trust."

God will free you from the hunter's snares,
will save you from the deadly plague,
will cover you like a nesting bird.
God's wings will shelter you.

No nighttime terror shall you fear,
no arrows shot by day,
no plague that prowls the dark,
no wasting scourge at noon.

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand.
But you shall live unharmed:
God is sturdy armor.

You have only to open your eyes
to see how the wicked are repaid.
You have the Lord as refuge,
have made the Most High your stronghold.

No evil shall ever touch you,
no harm come near your home.
God instructs angels
to guard you wherever you go.

With their hands they support you,
so your foot will not strike a stone.
You will tread on lion and viper,
trample tawny lion and dragon.

"I deliver all who cling to me,
raise the ones who know my name,
answer those who call me,
stand with those in trouble.
These I rescue and honor,
satisfy with long life,
and show my power to save."

Psalm 91 is the source of Michael Joncas' well known song, On Eagles' Wings.

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