Tools For Prayer – 5 Ways to Pray the Psalms by Alex Tang

praying the psalms

praying the psalms

The following post was sent to me by Alex Tang in Malaysia.  Alex is a physician who blogs at Random Musings from a Doctor where this post first appeared.  I thought that it was a great sample of some of the many ways that we can use the psalms to pray.  I have particularly enjoyed rewriting the psalms in my own language and have added one at the end of the post that I thought you might enjoy.  It is actually a compilation of several scriptures which is usually the way that I tend to write this kind of prayer – after all there are no rules to follow here

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May I suggest five ways we can pray the Psalms.

1. Say them out loud

One effective way to pray the Psalms is to read them out loud. Many of the Psalms are meant to be read in public assembly. Reading out loud not only helps you to proclaim the psalms, it also enables you to hear it. Speaking and listen are important aspect of prayers.

2. Use them as a jumping off platform

As you read the psalms, read it slowly and use the words, phrases, sentences as a platform to launch into your own prayers. After you have finished, then go back to where you left of and continue reading. Again launch off as you felt let to pray around the words or theme in the psalms. For example in Psalm 23:3, when you read “he restores my soul…” you might want to pray about your spiritual life, your present struggles and appeal for his intervention.

3. Paraphase them

Rewrite the psalms in your own words. When you paraphrase the psalm, you are interacting with you seek to understand the main points and to express it your way. It also helps to paraphrase in your own language if English is not your first language.

4. Memorise them

Memorising parts or whole psalms are another way to pray them. Repeat the psalms you have memorized continually and he begin to understand what St.Paul means when he asks us to praying unceasingly. Using memorized portion or whole of the psalms in your prayer is useful when you do not know what to say when you pray. Sometimes you will find that the psalmist can express your needs better than you can say it.

5. Let them talk to you

Use the spiritual discipline of lectio divina to read the psalms during your prayer and let the psalms speak to you. Lectio divina or spiritual reading involves reading, meditating, praying and contemplating. These four movements help us to listen to the psalms and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us.

These are some of the ways you can pray the psalms.

God I am weary, storm tossed and not comforted

Filled with the pain of TV images and broken lives

I cannot forget tsunamis in Asia, hurricanes in New Orleans

Droughts and AIDS in Africa, war in Iraq

Then I remember your compassion

Your unfailing love that is never shaken

Your covenant of peace that is always with us

I remember love and faithfulness go before you

Righteousness and justice are the foundations of your throne

God in the midst of pain you comfort me

I stand secure because you are with me

Your faithfulness springs forth from the earth

Your righteousness looks down from heaven

Praise to God on high

Sit in the contentment of the moment – Pray with us

This morning I wrote this prayer during my morning meditations.

God we sit in the contentment of this moment,
Knowing it holds all we need to find you,
We sit with still hearts and quiet minds to welcome everything it offers,
May we be at peace, experience freedom and enter your rest.

it seemed like a great sentiment to start the day with especially as we are on retreat with the MSA team.  It was a way to help me focus.  But it wasn’t long before my equilibrium fragmented.  Someone blew a fuse that disconnected the internet and panic, panic we couldn’t figure it out at first.  Now I am back on line but the contentment of the moment that I had experienced earlier in the morning has definitely gone.  How to regain that I was wondering.  Our team meets again in 20 minutes and I feel the need to be centered and attentive to God.

In moments like this it is always easy to get stressed out (at least for me) but I realize too that it is more important than anything to sit quietly in the presence of God and just rest in the stillness of the moment – so guess what – the start of our retreat this morning will be some quiet moments of reflection and centering all our hearts on God

We would appreciate your prayers at this time.  We are brainstorming about the next 2 -3 years and we need God’s wisdom and discernment as we move forward.

Breathe In – Fill Yourself with God

Creation and spirituality - Hannah Varghese

This morning I was sitting reading my Bible, feeling rather distracted by thoughts of all I need to do today.  So I reached for my book of prayers to find one that would help me centre in on God’s presence.  I intentionally looked for a breathing prayer because I have found that they help me to focus on God better than any other form.  I came across this one which to be honest I don’t even remember writing.  It encouraged me once more to reflect on the life of God breathed into us at creation and breathed through us afresh as Jesus filled us with the Holy Spirit.

Breathe out empty yourself: of hate, of fear, of anxiety

Breathe in fill yourself with love, with life, with mercy

Breathe out empty yourself of busyness, of selfishness of greed

Breathe in fill yourself with peace, with joy, with hope

Breathe out empty yourself of idolatry, of self worship, of false gods

Breathe in fill yourself with God, with Christ, with the Holy Spirit

As I prayed this prayer and reflected on its meaning three scriptures came to mind that you might also like to reflect on as you pray it.

Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person. (Genesis 2:7 NLT)

Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. f you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20: 21 – 23 NLT)

All Scripture is Godbreathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (2 Tim 3:16 NIV)

More of Hannah Varghese’s art here

Finding the Center – How Do we Balance Our Lives?

I just received an email from a friend with whom I was supposed to meet this morning.  Unfortunately she is so stressed out trying to maintain the balancing act of work, life and faith that she has had to cancel.  And she is feeling guilty not just because she is too busy but also because she cannot stand the pressure of the balancing act.

The compulsions all of us face to get busier and busier are enormous and our culture constantly impresses on us the fact that we should never slow down or take a break.  Multitasking is the order of the day and hundreds of gadgets appear every year to help us with the ever increasing complexity of the juggling act.

But is this really the way that we are meant to live and conduct our work?  What relationship does this type of life bear to the way of life in the kingdom of God? Perhaps you think that I harp on this too much, but I am concerned that this way of life is not sustainable for any of us, and it is certainly not drawing us closer to God and God’s kingdom ways.

Many of you know that a couple of years ago here at Mustard Seed Associates we started using the Quaker discernment method as a way to conduct our staff meetings.  It is a wonderful process that focuses on listening and learning from each other rather than on the assigning of tasks and the seeking after goals.  It encourages us to develop relationships and form community rather than see life as an assigning of tasks and an accomplishment of goals.  It also affirms the fact that God speaks through all people and that every voice needs to be listened to and taken notice of.

To be honest we drifted away from this approach for a while last year, but with the encouragement of our Quaker pastor friend Stan Thornburg, we have returned to its use this year with amazing results.  If you are unfamiliar with this process you may like to read the 2 posts I wrote when we started using this approach

Quaker Discernment

More About Quaker discernment

The sense of community and mutual respect this process engenders in us is phenomenal.  Part of what I have discovered is that it slows me down and encourages me to listen to those around me – not just in the midst of our meetings but at all times.  And believe it or not I think that as a result I actually accomplish more – more of what matters from a kingdom perspective that is.

Life is about relationships but our culture has converted it into a series of tasks and goals.  To move into a different way of thinking and operating we need new tools and processes that affirm God’s new life that wants to blossom and grow within us.

Let me finish with a centering prayer that I wrote over the weekend and have been using this week to help me focus and discern in the midst of all that is happening in my life and at MSA

May the centre of all things be Christ

May the way of all things be Christ

May the truth of all things be Christ

Behind, before, within, without

May the life of all things be Christ

A Breathing Prayer

ALong the coast Northern Queensland

ALong the coast Northern Queensland

I have had several requests for this prayer recently.  I use it in the introduction to my GodSpace workshops and wrote it last year when I was in a time of really needing to center down myself.  It really helps me to relax and focus on God.

I suggest that people sit with their hands in their laps palm up while they say the first line and take a deep breath then turn palms down and breathe out as they say the second line.  The lines in bold can be recited by the whole group if you like.  Enjoy

Breathe in the breath of God

Breathe out your cares and concerns

Breathe in the love of God

Breathe out your doubts and despairs

Breathe in the life of God

Breathe out your fears and frustrations

We sit quietly before the One who gives life and love to all creation,

We sit in awe of the One who formed us in our mother’s wombs

We sit at peace surrounded by the One who fills every fibre of our being

Breathe in the breath of God

Breathe out your tensions and turmoil

Breathe in the love of God

Breathe out your haste and hurry

Breathe in the life of God

Breathe out your work and worry

We sit quietly before the One who gives life and love to all creation,

We sit in awe of the One who formed us in our mother’s wombs

We sit at peace surrounded by the One who fills every fibre of our being

More on Quaker Discernment.

We held our first discernment meeting Tuesday with our MSA team. It was an exciting time which we felt drew us both closer to each other and also closer to God. We were particularly encouraged by the fact that this process gave everyone in the MSA team a sense of ownership and drew us together as a team that is focused on Christ rather than on our own agendas. We see it as an opportunity to mentor each other and to integrate our spiritual practices with our work. Our greatest struggle was a concern that this would slow us down and make it harder to accomplish concrete goals. We were also concerned at the extent to which outside pressures distract us from God’s purposes. To be honest as I reflected on this I realized that we are probably not wasting time at all – in the long run we are probably saving time. The more time we spend focusing on God and God’s agenda the more effectively we will be at doing things that have eternal value.

Here is a summary of the process we used. It was developed by Bruce Bishop – one of the authors of Practicing Discernment Together.

Centering

(Recognizing the presence of God)

Gathering silence before the meal/meeting

Relating

(Checking in with each other)

Briefly checking-in: Something we are looking forward to this week, something we’re not so excited about

Receiving

(Attending to God, listening)

Prayer of Examen on your experience of God this last week: Consolations and Desolations

Ruminating

(Considering the fruits of the prayer, looking for direction and threads)

Listening to one another, considering how God is moving in our personal lives

Reflecting

(Given what we’ve heard and shared, what is God doing among us or calling us to?)

Noticings and reflections and implications of where God is active

Responding

(With this focus on God and God’s activity, we do the business at hand)

Looking at our business agenda in this spirit of attentiveness

*Business*

including recentering as needed to keep ourselves attentive

Returning and Closing

(offering ourselves and our efforts to God)

Noticing God-movements and shifts during the meeting

Reflecting on where God seemed to be active

Prayer