Archive for the ‘Praying the Psalms’ Category

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit”. Psalm 51:12

I haven’t been very joyful lately. I have motherly worries that I do my best to change into prayers, with limited success. This has drawn me closer to Mary the Mother of Jesus in a rather unorthodox way as the tune “Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be!” plays gently on my mind.

I am truly, truly, truly terrible at letting anything be. I have this persistent delusion that anything that I perceive as wrong, or even troubling can be fixed…by me…with God’s help of course! This is a particularly distructive delusion.

The above verse is the last line of David’s psalm of repentance after he was called on the carpet for trying to fix his rape of Bathsheba by killing off her husband and then marrying her. His life went down hill from there. Some things can’t ever be made right.

However, a heart broken is the only fertile field for God’s grace. Mother Mary certainly knows about broken hearts and the joy that only God can grow

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Ever-Recreating God, when we cling to old identities, forgive us into new being. When we hang on to old ideas and understandings, forgive us into new thought. When we clutch old practices and traditions, forgive us into new spirit. When we nurse old grudges, forgive us into forgiveness. Re-create us as your new people, who sit so lightly with our lives that we can rise with ease to follow Christ through this world to the next. Amen.

( Rev. Curtis Whitman- First Congregational Church Greene NY)

I was stunned by tenderness and depth of this prayer during worship yesterday, For me, words aren’t just words. They can be icons, means of grace, life-transforming vehicles of Divine loving power. Thank you, Pastor Curtis for being a vessel of grace.

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Word of God the most high, our sole hope,
eternal day of the earth and heavens
as we break the silence of the peaceful night
divine saviour, look down upon us.

Imbue us with the fire of thy great mercy
so that hell itself will flee at the sound of your voice
disperse the sleep which leads our languishing souls
to stray from the path of righteousness.

O Christ show your favour to your faithful people
who have come together to worship you
receive the praises that they offer up to your immortal glory
and may they come back laden with the gift of your grace.

Cantique de Jean Racine

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Centering Prayer can be compared to a cow chewing their cud. Actually, I always found that image rather disgusting visually but the idea of chewing something over and over again to receive all the nourishment it holds is a useful image. In the Western Christian tradition of meditation, Abba Isaac taught the use of these words from the Psalms:

0 God, come to my assistance; 0 Lord, make haste to help me


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At one time, the only songs sung in churches were the Psalms and the liturgy of orthodox chanting. A bit restrictive to our age’s way of thinking and yet, it is scripture set to music that is easiest to remember. In my youth, Psalm 100 was popular. It is a fitting Psalm for this Thanksgiving week here in the United States:

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD,

all ye lands.

Serve the LORD with gladness:

come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the LORD he is God:

it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;

we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,

and into his courts with praise:

be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the LORD is good;

his mercy is everlasting;

and his truth endureth to all generations.


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.In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being …and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father.s only son, full of grace and truth. John 1:1,3a, 14)

.Swisch-dub, swisch-dub, swisch-dub. the beautiful sound of my baby’s heartbeat resounded in the little cubicle as the Doppler instrument broadcast the miracle of love deep within my body. I longed for each of my children. Many women long for a lifetime and never get to hear this sound. It had taken eighteen months to get pregnant and I sang the song of Hannah, sure that I was infertile, begging God to give me a child. Tears were in my eyes as I listened to that beautiful sound. I can still hear it and it.s been over two decades!
Did you know that everything in our bodies makes a sound? Sonograms of various body parts create pictures of these sounds. When an organ is dis-eased, it makes sounds that are not in harmony with the rest of the organ. These sounds help physicians diagnose the presence of disease if not the cause. Actually, everything in the universe emits a sound.

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Lectio Divina is a form of prayer that involves pondering one section of scripture. This morning, as I said my morning prayers, this phrase from the 51st Psalm in a Russian Orthodox prayer book jumped out at me.

“Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and with Thy governing Spirit establish me.”

For some time, in the silence, the phrase “with Thy governing Spirit establish me” kept ruminating in my mind. After a time, things about my life which sorely need to be put into order came to my mind and I prayed over them “with Thy governing Spirit establish me”. With each one, I let them lift from me like the smoke from the candlelight, and soon I was filled with utter peace.

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When someone says “I prayed about…” or “I pray and God never seems to answer,” that person may be speaking of a form of Prayers of Petition. Crying “Help!” to God is perhaps our common prayer, known almost universally in times of fear or despair. Unfortunately, this prayer is often done with an attitude similiar to a child sitting on Santa Claus lap – let’s call this the “Santa Claus” prayer.

On one hand, becoming like a child has merit. A story of Jesus from Matthew 18:2-4 goes like this:

He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.


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The Eastern Orthodox prayer book directs the disciple to pray Psalm 51 (Psalm 50 in the Orthodox Bible) daily. This is the prayer of David asking for forgiveness when he woke up to his sinful and abusing behavior towards Bathsheba and her husband. Rape, murder, arrogance of power – sins most respond to with utter horror and calls for life in prison if not the death penalty. And this from God’s beloved chosen king.

I’ve been praying this psalm daily for about four months now. It never seems to get old to me. Each time I read it, speak it, meditate upon it, it reaches to someplace deeper.

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I’ve been observing a very stately elderly East Indian gentleman in our apartment complex. Whenever I go for a walk, I wave to him. It always seemd to me that he wasn’t sure how to respond. After several months of this, I decided to introduce myself. He was outside his apartment in a long dress coat, and dress hat bouncing a tennis ball against the garage door. I asked if he needed a partner. Fortunately for me, he said no (I can’t play tennis to save my life). However, we ended up talking for almost an hour. It seems he imigrated to this country from Bangledesh about 20 years ago. He has a degree in history from a University in India. Our conversation covered many topics but came in the end to our current political situation. He is convinced that our president is mentally ill and for this he has compassion. He is very worried about our future. He went on at length about the history of leadership and the ability to put one’s followers above oneself as a sign of successful leadership. He spoke of Alexander the Great and Ghandi among others.

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