As I was working in my garden tonight, I was delighted to see five caterpillars (I think they’re monarchs) on my dill plant! What a treat to get such a close-up view of them doing what they do best–eating. I love observing the small, often unseen creatures in nature. As you may or may not know, the tag line to Only By Prayer says “where the sacred and everyday meet.” When I take time to stop and intently look at the little things in life, that is one way I am ushering the sacred into the everyday.
I ran into the house to get my camera to capture these fascinating critters. Take a look below. I was able to capture it in mid-bite!
The life cycle of the caterpillar and its metamorphosis into a butterfly (or moth) is a wonderful analogy to our lives with Christ. When we give Him control of our lives, He is able to transform our lives into a thing of beauty — to a degree that we would never be able to attain on our own. It does take some work on our part, though. Just like the caterpillars are muching away gluttonously to fuel their transformation, we also need to be taking in God’s word and participating in spiritual disciplines to grow. God has put the food in front of us, but if we don’t eat it, we’ll never realize the potential that He has given to each one of us.
Let’s munch away today!
The summertime is one of my favorite times of the year, especially fresh, sunny mornings on the deck with my Bible. For me, prayer seems easier when I’m surrounded by flowers, singing birds and a warm breeze. I love to start the day this way–before I’m consumed by the distractions of my to-do list and job.
My morning time gets me grounded and ready for whatever the day may bring. However, I’ve noticed how easy it is to “lose” God in the busyness of the day. It’s not that He goes anywhere–He’s still there; it’s just me who has moved away. Lately, I’ve decided to be more purposeful about bringing God into all of my day–not just the mornings. As I was thinking about how to do this, I came across the Jesus Prayer in a book I was reading on spiritual disciplines. The Jesus Prayer is not a new idea; rather, it’s been around as a practice since the 5th century and has its origins in the Bible.
The Jesus Prayer is a simple, short prayer that says, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” or “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It probably sounds familiar to you if you’re read the gospel of Luke lately where the tax collector is praying in chapter 18, verse 13 “God be merciful to me a sinner!” Or perhaps you’ve read the story of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar who called out to Jesus in Mark 10, “ Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd tried to shush Bartimaeus (I wonder; have I ever discouraged anyone from following Jesus? I hope not!), but he just yelled all the louder. Jesus blessed his faith by healing him and giving him his sight!
The Jesus Prayer is explained in an ancient book called the Philokalia, which had hundreds of pages of ideas on how to practice this prayer–rather surprising when you consider the brevity of the prayer! An anonymous Russian pilgrim in the middle 1800s also wrote a book about his experiences with the prayer and how it changed his life. This book is called The Way of a Pilgrim. Both books are still on the market, so if you want to read more about the Jesus Prayer, these would be some in-depth reading for you.
But, if you’re ready to jump in and start practicing this discipline, it’s very simple. To help you focus, start practicing this prayer in a quiet place. Breathe in and pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,” and then breathe out and pray “have mercy on me, a sinner.” Try to tune out any distractions, thinking about the words and praying them from your heart. The whole idea is to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Reminding ourselves that we are sinners is not meant to put ourselves down, but rather to help us not take for granted what Jesus has done for us and continues to do for us. Some people like to use prayer ropes to keep track of how many times they pray the prayer each day. To me that seems to become almost legalistic, but do what feels comfortable to you. As you become accustomed to praying the prayer, you can pray it wherever you are throughout your day to ground you and draw you closer to God.
That’s what I like about this short prayer. I think that praying the Jesus Prayer will help me not “lose” God as I go about my day, but rather help me to focus on Him–wherever I am.
What do you think? Do you think the Jesus Prayer is a practice you’ll try? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved reading. I read for all sorts of different reasons. I read to get information. Sometimes I read to learn new material. And I also like to read to be entertained. I’ve learned that I can also let my love of reading draw me closer to God.
Today, let’s look at the spiritual discipline of sacred reading or as it is also called, Lectio Divina.
The type of reading that sacred reading emphasizes is not to entertain or even to learn.
It’s for an entirely different purpose, one that is explained in this quote by Thomas `a Kempis. “Do not read to satisfy curiosity or to pass the time, but study such things as move your heart to devotion.”
Now I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the other types of reading; they all have their place, but the purpose of sacred reading is to draw our hearts to our Lord. The idea is to come to this reading of a passage of scripture with no other agenda but than to hear what God wants to say to you. This is known as a meditative or devotional reading of the Bible that St. Benedict popularized as part of the Benedictine monks daily routine. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is living and powerful, so we can assume that through His word God can shape us, mold us and change our lives. That’s what we hope to see through Lectio Divina.
Choosing a Scripture
When undertaking this type of devotional reading, you’ll want to choose a fairly short ( 4 to 8 verses) portion of scripture. The Psalms are a wonderful place to start, as are any of the Gospels and Ecclesiastes. To begin, you’ll want your Bible and a notebook to record your thoughts in. You’ll need to find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Start by quieting yourself and praying that God will bless this time with Him, and that you’ll hear what He wants to say to you.
Four Steps of Lectio Divina
1. Read (lectio). Read your portion of scripture listening for the word or phrase that seems to jump out to you. You can write this in your journal if you’d like.
2. Reflect (meditatio). Read the same portion of scripture again and reflect on why you are touched by this word or phrase. Ask yourself, “What is going on in my life that caused those words to jump out to me?” or “Where do I see myself in this passage?” You may also record this in your journal if you’d like to.
3. Respond (oratio). Read the passage a third time. Ask yourself “How does God want me to respond to this?” You may pray something back to God. You may be convicted of a sin. You may be called to do something. Again you can journal your response if you’d like to.
4. Rest (contemplate). Read the passage the final time and then just rest in what you have learned and enjoy being in God’s presence. Resolve to carry this word with you throughout your day.
This is a simple but powerful way for God to change us and mold us into the people He wants us to be. One thing I’ve started doing lately is writing on a sticky note what it is that God has shown me that day, as well as writing it in my journal. You see, I resolved to carry it through my day, but I found that all to soon I forgot what it was God had shown me! By writing it on a sticky note, I can take it with me through my day and look at it repeatedly.
Feel free to share in the comments below if you’ve ever tried this spiritual discipline or if you plan on trying it. You can also share something God has shown you in your time of Lectio Divina if you’d like.
Join Jane VanOsdol and guest Ron Stohler, pastor of Growth and Groups at Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana as they discuss the spiritual discipline of silence and solitude. You won’t want to miss this interesting and exciting podcast as you prepare for Easter! [Read more…]