As a congregation we’re taking up the challenge to pray and fast for the next three months as we listen for God’s message to us. There’s a range of ways you might choose to engage with this challenge – after all, we are each in difference spaces and rhythms of life. Wherever your life is up to though, there is a way to step into prayer and even into fasting for you.
I’ve taken up the habit of reading and praying over Psalms every night (well almost every night if I’m honest). At times it’s a hard slog and I wonder what these poems and hymns have to say to me; and at other times my spirit soars as these words bring me closer into the presence of the Holy Spirit. The nature of the habit and practice is to keep at it, regardless of how “effective” or “enlightening” each experience feels.
If this is something you’d like to take up, there are a range of ways into this practice.
- This article is one of the simplest and clearest starting points for praying the psalms that I know (hint: start by saying them out loud to yourself).
- For a bit more depth, these two classic books on the practice have been important to me over the years. Thomas Merton’s book is an absolute gem, and Walter Brueggemann is at his insightful best in his book.
- One of my old theology professors used the psalms as a guide to journaling. He would start by reading the psalm, then sitting in silence for a few minutes. Then he would write the psalm out slowly by hand. Only after he had done this would he then allow his brain to run wild with thoughts, images and phrases that caught his attention – letting the cascade onto the page and seeing where it led him. I imagine it was a mind dump that gathered up biblical images along the way to the page.
- For something different, our friend Dr Ben Myers compiled an anthology of the best short passages about prayer over at his Faith and Theology blog here. You may find some sparks of inspiration to get you moving into prayer.
Finally, check out some of the incredible musical work of Sons of Korah – who have spent many years putting the psalms to song. I know for myself, and several others in the congregation, that their rendition of Psalm 130 has been a spiritual foundation stone.