pathways of prayer
Week 3 - The devotional path
Most gracious God,
in whom alone dwells all fullness of light and wisdom:
By your Holy Spirit, illuminate our minds,
in true understanding of your Word.
Give us grace that we may receive it
with reverence and humility.
May it lead us to put our trust in you alone;
and so to serve and honour you,
that we may glorify your holy name,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
John Calvin (1509-1564)
Let's return to our parable that we began with.
Did the story of two friends walking along and talking start a memory of another conversation with an inspirational companion?
At Easter-tide we read in Luke's Gospel of how two people walk and talk with a stranger they met on the road to a town called Emmaus (Luke 24.13-35) - and as they talked their "hearts burned within them" as Jesus expounded the scriptures to them.
This pathway takes us down the devotional road, where prayer and spirituality is firmly rooted in meditation on the Bible.
For those within the Evangelical tradition, prayer is rooted in Scripture, expounded in the Christian community and preached to the world. In our reading from John's Gospel, Jesus prays that the disciples will know God together through the Word and will proclaim him to the world.
The great hymn writer John Newton (1725-1807) wrote that prayer and meditation upon the Scriptures was an essential part of the Christian spiritual life: "secret prayer, and the good word, are the chief wells from whence we draw the water of salvation".
Another famous Evangelical, Charles Simeon (1759-1836) woke at 4am in order to pray and meditate on the Scripture for no less than four hours, fining himself a guinea if he overslept!
However, this focus on a prayer life rooted in the Scriptures is by no means to be found only amongst Evangelicals. The medieval practice of Lectio Divina (or ‘Holy Reading'), which began in the monastic orders, is one which reads passages of Scripture repeatedly, in a slow and meditative way, as a basis for prayer and spirituality. Father David Pennington in his book on Lectio Divina, calls it "the art of letting God, our Divine Friend, speak to us through his inspired Word."
Take a passage of Scripture.
Read it through once.
Then read it again a number of times, this time slowly, meditating and reflecting upon the words and the meaning behind them.
Suggestions for Bible passages that lend themselves are: Psalm 43, Psalm 139, Isaiah 40, John 1.1-14 and John 17.1-8.
The next path takes us along the Sacramental Path