matterofprayer blog post for Saturday, January 18, 2014
God Has A Purpose
I did a good deal of computer work and read several blogs online today, since it was my day off. Including one blog I’ve been following for a number of weeks. The narrative the author of the blog talked about was from the Book of Judges, from the Hebrew Scriptures. The contents of the blog post struck me so strongly today, I decided to meditate and pray with that passage, Judges 6, the story of Gideon. Specifically, verses 11 and 12.
I’ve known various manners of prayer for years. Moreover, I was instructed in spiritual formation and prayer practices when I went to seminary. Very helpful, and deepening to my spiritual understanding! But over the past two years, I’ve regularly been praying and meditating using a basic plan of holy reading, lectio divina. There are a number of good instructional books out there, giving some guidelines on holy reading. However, the book I’ve been using (on and off) is by Rev. Martin Smith, a skilled spiritual director and now a retired Episcopal priest. His book The Word Is Very Near You is subtitled A Guide to Praying with Scripture. He gives these guidelines for lectio divina in Chapter 8.
He suggests “1. Spend a few minutes settling down and pray that your heart may be opened and receptive to the gift God knows you need today. . . . 2. Begin reading at the place you have previously chosen, and read on very slowly indeed with an open mind. . . . 3. When a particular sentence or phrase or single word “lights up” or “rings a bell,” put the Bible down. Resist the temptation to go on. . . . 4. Gently repeat this phrase or word again and again within the heart . . . Gradually allow yourself to be absorbed in the word. . . . 5. Express to God in the simplest way the impression the words have made on you. . . . put into words the longings or needs they have brought up. . . . Your prayer may move into contemplation.”
Thus, with some variation, I have often prayed since I read these simple instructions.
Today I was particularly struck by this passage from Judges, so I practiced holy reading with chapter 6, verses 11 and 12. God communicated to me that I have been called and chosen, just as Gideon was called and chosen. Gideon had a problem with low self-esteem, certainly. I have that difficulty, too. Gideon was the youngest in his family—same, here. (I can relate to Gideon, in several significant ways. I, too, need regular fleeces, confirming the way in which I am to go.) But the words that hit me right between the eyes today were those of the Angel of the Lord: “mighty warrior.” The Angel named Gideon by what God knew he was, who he really was. This is particularly important, because it is not what Gideon thought of himself, which was a flawed and incorrect perception.
I get downhearted and depressed by life, and how things can be rocky sometimes. Even often. What I think of myself is often a flawed and incorrect perception of myself. But these words give me hope. God has named me “beloved child” and “God’s masterpiece.” Who am I to think that I am less than that? Thanks for the two thumbs up, God! It’s awfully heartening. Loving, too!
Let’s pray. Dear God, You named Gideon “mighty warrior” because You saw him as You intended him to be. Forgive us for viewing ourselves incorrectly, through a blurry window pane or dark mirror. Thank You for Your clear sight, seeing me as You made me, not in the flawed way I see myself. Help us to see ourselves in the heartening, loving way You perceive us. As Your beloved children, as Your masterpiece! Thank You, thank You, God.