Wednesday posts will be focused on the habits and practices that help build faith. You might call them “Strength-building Exercises for Faith.” These posts will range from a simple response you can use to calm yourself in a crisis to a lengthy guide for studying a whole book of the Bible. These posts will often include material for the brain to process, such as historical eras or language resources, but the focus of the posts will always be to lead you, the reader, to spiritual maturity. The posts will speak from my spiritual experience, but the intent is for you to be inspired to habits and practices that will result in growth of your faith and your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. You can profess faith sincerely without growing, but you will never know the beauty and delight of your faith if you never mature in faith.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a true martyr for his faith, wrote a small book called Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible. In this book he says, “The Psalms are given to us to this end, that we may learn to pray them in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible, ©Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, p. 15) He elaborates on the evidence that Christ prayed the Psalms, and then he says that when we pray the Psalms we are praying as Christ prayed and praying the prayers Christ himself, eternally slain before the throne of God, inspired in David. It is a powerful image, and I am still absorbing it.
Today’s meditation is my experience of praying Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
I confess, O Lord, that even when I complain about things I do not have, I see that you have provided everything I need. You provide even more than I need, and I always have enough to share, as long as I can remember that you will not stop providing. I intend to be generous, but my fear that I won’t have enough later often impedes my willingness to give to others. You, O Christ, fed five thousand with almost nothing. Why is it so hard for me to say, I have enough, enough to share? I will not be in want, because You O Lord provide what I need.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
The world is so noisy, Lord. Thank you for giving me rest and peace in the midst of it. Thank you for being my refuge. A moment’s relaxation, a cool drink on a hot day, just a moment of quiet while things seethe around me.
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
I take a deep breath. I breathe in your presence, your guidance, your wisdom. I breathe out fear and doubt. Lord Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, may I know that you are with me. The hardest part is when I doubt your presence. Show me the next place I should set my foot. Let me see just that much and know that you step there with me.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
Things really went in the wrong direction today. Will I still have a job tomorrow? What comes next? I am still going forward with you, Lord. With you, knowing you are here, I can face my fears. Satan’s minions assault me, but you keep them at bay. You surround me and sustain me and give me courage. Deep blue sea may mount up in frightful waves. Money woes may seem impossible. Friends may seem to draw away from me. But you, O God, go with me and suffer with me through all the danger and despair.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
As Satan’s dogs yap and snarl, you provide for me, anyway, O God, my Savior. I feast on Christ’s body and blood, given for me. I am nourished despite want and deprivation all around. You show your favor and love by anointing me as your own with the blood of Christ that sets me free from Satan’s power to destroy me.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
my whole life long.
Satan and satanic demons may pursue me, but I am safe in God’s dwelling place. As Christ’s body is in, with and under the bread and wine of the Eucharist, the indwelling Holy Spirit puts God’s dwelling place in, with and under all my realities. God is near. I dwell with him. I am at home with God forever, now and hereafter.
How can you remind yourself to pray when all seems lost and you can’t catch your breath because fear has paralyzed you?
© 2012 Katherine Harms