Sunday, 18 March 2012

Listening Prayer - (Part 2- Hearing God’s voice through scripture)

Opening the conversation 
This blog series on listening prayer is being posted with the sole purpose of learning to hear from God that is already speaking us. We learned last week that one of the primary methods that God is speaking to us is through scripture. I mentioned last post about the practice of devotional reading of scripture called Lectio Divina. The practice was introduced to the church through the Eastern Father John Cassian early in the fifth century and has been a monastic exercise ever since. I would like to walk through this exercise with an emphasis on hearing the Lord speak to us. So lets begin using Psalm 23 as our templet. 

Take a moment to prepare yourself. This is not just an exercise in gathering information. I find it helps to remove as many distractions as possible before attempting a devotional read of scripture. To some people this looks like shutting themselves away in a room. To others music is useful to achieve a the place of silence and rest.The silence emphasized in this exercise is primarily a silencing of our hearts and minds to the many distractions of the day. 
When your ready continue on...
Lectio –(Reading/receiving). 

It is helpful to apply a slow, deliberate and prayer approach to reading. Read the text again and again until it is in your short term memory. Try making your first reading audible, as this will make your words slower and more deliberate. If possible I encourage you to read the same passage using multiple translations. For this exercise I will use NIV, The Message and NASB. 
Psalm 23 (NIV)
A psalm of David.
 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
 3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
   for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
   through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
   for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.
 5 You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
Psalm 23 (The Message) 
A David Psalm
 1-3 God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing. 
   You have bedded me down in lush meadows, 
      you find me quiet pools to drink from. 
   True to your word, 
      you let me catch my breath 
      and send me in the right direction. 
 4 Even when the way goes through 
      Death Valley, 
   I'm not afraid 
      when you walk at my side. 
   Your trusty shepherd's crook 
      makes me feel secure. 
 5 You serve me a six-course dinner 
      right in front of my enemies. 
   You revive my drooping head; 
      my cup brims with blessing. 
 6 Your beauty and love chase after me 
      every day of my life. 
   I'm back home in the house of God 
      for the rest of my life.
Psalm 23 (NASB)
The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.
    A Psalm of David.
 1 The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the [c]paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
 4 Even though I walk through the [d]valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Meditatio – (Processing, nurture your thinking) 

Take time to seek the meaning of the text. Ask questions of the text. Personalize the words of text, step into the imagery of the text. Meditation should address the mind, the emotions, and the will. Processing on scripture stimulates our thinking and understanding and it also elevates the affections of our heart. In this process our intellect, imagination and volition should not be divorced from one another. 
Here are some questions I asked of the text:
What does it mean for the Lord to be my shepherd? In what ways was God a shepherd to David? 
Why at times do I experience ‘being in want’? How can I learn to trust the Lord’s provision and leading?
Is fear the result of feeling distance from the Good Shepherd? Why does God choose to walk with us in the darkest valley? Why is our ultimate source of comfort knowing the Father has never left rather than avoiding the hard times? 
How is it possible to find comfort in the discipline of the ‘rod and staff’... Is it the knowledge that the Lord is the only Good Shepherd? 
Oratio – (Prayer) 
Take time to respond to God. (Sing, shout, whisper, speak..) 
Try asking the Father a question about something that speaks to you from the text. Wait for a reply. (ex. God why do I have a hard time feeling your with me in the darkest valleys of my life?)
What did God say? 
When you read Psalm 23 where do you find yourself in the imagery? 
Are you in the green pastures, the still waters, the valley of the shadow of death, or at the table set out for you?
What do you feel ? 
Do you see the Good shepherd with you? What is He saying to you? 
Contemplatio – (Inward reflection, resting, receiving)
Contemplative prayer involves the development of a deeper and more intuitive form of receptivity toward God. Take time to present yourself before God in silence and yieldedness. Take time to inwardly reflect about the application of the scripture in your life. Reflect on what God has said to you. 
Take time to discern the voice of God. Weigh what has been said. (1 Cor 14:29) Does the Holy Spirit testify to your own heart that this is truth? Does it line up with The Word (the character and teaching of Jesus)? Seek out discernment in community. 

Did you feel God’s voice prompt you about an area that needs change in your life? Does this line up with scripture? Take time to think about the implications. Take time for confession and continued dialog with God. Be sure to seek out community. 
Rest, abide, wait...
Incarnatio – Living out the text
I would argue that this is the most important part of the exercise! To spend time in scripture and the presence of God is pointless if it ultimately has no relevance or application to our lives. Seek ways to grow into the person God desires you to be.Remember that as a Christian (christ - follower), we are called to put on display his character, love and essence of Jesus! We are God’s show and tell to the world. 
MORE TO COME - My next blog will continue with practical exercises on listening prayer.

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