Meditative Prayer for Week 4 in Lent
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
The church reformer Martin Luther said meditation is an important form of prayer. He describes doing it not just in the heart, but also by repeating the Scriptures out loud. Sing, speak, and hear them over and over. Luther no doubt learned this from his own experience as a monk, singing the psalms every morning.
This would not have to be a long passage of scripture. In fact, it could be quite short, a brief phrase that is repeated again and again for focus. It may be as simple as the phrase, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” Some monastics would suggest perhaps using just a word, like, “Jesus,” or “Peace.” Some call this a mantra. Father Thomas Keating suggests this kind of meditation as a form of centering prayer, preparing us for contemplative prayer.
Speak your word or phrase a few times, then be silent. When the mind wanders, return to your prayer. Speak your word or phrase again, several times, then be silent. Your word or phrase becomes a focal point, calling you back to prayer. It is simply a tool to center yourself, still your mind and make you receptive to the Holy Spirit. Few of us have the ability to sit down and simply shut off our minds, opening our hearts. We are simply too distracted. A mantra can help you get there.
Try this out. Sit Comfortably in your spot or go for a walk. Pick a word, phrase or a scripture passage. Here are some possibilities:
Lord Jesus Christ, you are the light of the world. Give me peace in my mind and joy in my heart.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Find a phrase or verse that puts your focus where it needs to be, then repeat it over and over with periods of silence in between. Allow yourself 15 to 20 minutes of this kind of meditation. If you’re doing the study in a group, take some time to share what this experience is like with others, hearing their experiences as well.
Try this kind of prayer for a week, and see what kind of fruit it bears in your life.
Text taken from: Rinehart, Michael (2015-01-21). Learning to Pray Again: Peace and Joy Through an Ancient Practice (Kindle Locations 316-343). Teleos. Kindle Edition.
Other examples of “breath prayers:”
The Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:13)
“O Lord, baptize me with love.”
“Teach me gentleness, Father.”
“Jesus, let me receive your grace.”
“Gracious Master, remove my fear.”
“Reveal my sin, O Holy Spirit.”
“Lord Jesus, help me feel loved.”
Meditative prayer can also be done by reading scripture. Meditative prayer is different from the study of scripture. It is not analysis or interpretation, but is meant to internalize and personalize the scripture that you read. The written word becomes a living Word addressed to us.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “Just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart, as Mary did. That is all. That is meditation.”
Lent Week 4:
In thanks for Hope Episcopal Church and Pastor Jim McGill, joining with us last Sunday in a distribution of Holy Communion, followed by a food pantry distribution in a beautiful line of cars with families from both churches, we offer this reflection by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of The Episcopal Church for our Lenten Devotional today:
“But we proclaim Christ crucified”
1 CORINTHIANS 1:18-25
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
Some things just don’t make much sense. Water doesn’t become wine, bread and fish do not suddenly multiply, the lame do not jump up and walk. And most certainly, dead people stay dead, especially those who experience the horrific death of crucifixion!
And yet, where Jesus is involved, all kinds of things that don’t make much sense…happen.
In those earliest years of the Jesus Movement, his followers didn’t wear crosses around their necks or hang them in the homes in which they worshipped. They had other symbols, certainly, but not crosses. Crucifixion was not a historical curiosity, but a still- present reality, and an agonizing and shameful one at that. To be crucified was to be executed as a common criminal. Worse, according to the Hebrew Scriptures, cursed was one who hung on a tree, on the wood of a cross.
So to speak of “Christ crucified” didn’t make sense to many. It was a stumbling block, something foolish or offensive. But Paul said otherwise. Yes, Jesus could have avoided the cross, found some other way around it. But instead he faced the worst the world could throw at him, and then broke through death itself, and left an empty cross behind as witness to his astonishing victory.
Some things don’t make much sense. The cross is one of them. But it stands now and forever as our rallying cry that God—not injustice, not suffering, not even death—has the final, victorious word.
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace. Show your compassion for our family and all of our friends who are in turmoil and burdened with illness and with fear. As the coronavirus spreads globally, heal those who are sick, and support and protect their families and friends from being infected. Help us to come together as one people, working to control and eliminate the coronavirus. Heal our world, heal our bodies, strengthen our hearts and our minds, and give us hope and peace. Amen.