Make a Good Decision
Make a Good Decision. As we reflect today on prayer for the third time, we do so with the view that today you will have some idea of what it is you are doing to strengthen your prayer life, or at least are in a better position to ask God to strengthen your prayer life during this season of Lent.
Maybe it is because I have found such fruit over the past few months of praying with the bible that I think it could be valuable to pray with the Bible. And so I am going to suggest some ways in which you can pray with the bible as what it is you do during the season of Lent.
For the bible is the Word of God, and many Catholics may not be familiar with the bible. Perhaps it is because Catholics used to be discouraged from reading the bible. Perhaps is was because of the fear of not interpreting the bible correctly. Perhaps it was because the bible is not always easy to interpret.
For whatever reason, not being familiar with God’s Word is not a good stance for Catholics. It is the Word of God, and it provides the means and methods of following God and growing in faith. And, if you are one who is not familiar with the bible, fear not. There are many ways to become more familiar with God’s word.
Buy a Good Bible
A Bible with Good Commentary is Good
Please do not confuse this section with an advertisement, but there are some bibles that I think are better than other to use. I have become more and more familiar with the Great Adventure Bible from Ascension. It is available in both paperback and hardcover. The benefit is that the narrative story of the bible can be read in 90 days, which makes the story easier to read. It also helps to provide some familiarity with the bible which makes other sections easier to understand.
Another bible that can be helpful is the Didache bible which also is available in paperback and hardcover. Like the Great Adventure Bible it is the Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic edition. The benefit of this bible is that it is tied together with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Both of these bibles are a little pricey, however. It is possible for you to go to your local Catholic Supply store where you can look through bibles and read them there. Or, you can go to the US Bishops Website where you can read the bible online. In addition there are resources to help you study the bible.
Praying with the Bible
Remember that the bible is the Word of God. To that end, it is helpful to pray before you read the bible. In so doing, you are opening your heart to receive God’s word. While it can be quite important to take classes on the bible, when the bible is being used for prayer it is good to start with a prayer that you may ask God to help you to receive his word in your heart.
If you are reading the bible, it may not be the best approach to read it in order. It can be confusing since the books are written in different styles and are meeting differing purposes. Jeff Cavins suggests reading the 14 narrative books in order to understand the story. Doing so would mean reading the Books of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 Maccabees, Luke and Acts.
Reading the bible in this way helps to get a sense of the story of salvation history. Once you have the narrative story together with a beginning, middle and end, the others books of the bible begin to make more sense.
One very ancient and tested method of prayer is the Lectio Divina, or Sacred Reading. This is a deliberate way to read the bible slowly thinking of ways to help the text sink in more deeply. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops outlines the steps to this prayer:
“This spiritual reading is traditionally called lectio divina or divine reading. Lectio divina is prayer over the Scriptures.
- The first element of this type of prayer is reading (lectio): you take a short passage from the Bible, preferably a Gospel passage and read it carefully, perhaps three or more times. Let it really soak-in.
- The second element is meditation (meditatio). By using your imagination enter into the Biblical scene in order to “see” the setting, the people, and the unfolding action. It is through this meditation that you encounter the text and discover its meaning for your life.
- The next element is prayer (oratio) or your personal response to the text: asking for graces, offering praise or thanksgiving, seeking healing or forgiveness. In this prayerful engagement with the text, you open yourself up to the possibility of contemplation.
- Contemplation (contemplatio) is a gaze turned toward Christ and the things of God. By God’s action of grace, you may be raised above meditation to a state of seeing or experiencing the text as mystery and reality. In contemplation, you come into an experiential contact with the One behind and beyond the text.”
Going about these steps can be a good way to read the bible more deeply and to let the message of the bible sink into you. Remember, you are not reading the bible simply for the sake of the bible. Rather you are reading the bible to hear God’s word and to experience more directly the love of His Son, Jesus.
The Daily Mass Readings
Another helpful way to enter into prayer is to read the scriptures that will be read each day at Mass. You can engage in this practice whether or not you attend Mass each day. Unlike the normal daily Mass readings, which are often presented in a sequential style, the readings for Lent are often more deliberately chosen.
They have the purpose then of making your prayer more purposeful. By reading the Scriptures for each day, there can be greater clarity of the message God is trying to speak to you. These readings can also be helpful because they will also touch upon the themes of prayer, fasting and almsgiving during the season of Lent.
You can find the readings for each day on the US Bishops’ website. This way you can plan ahead to read the readings and arrive at Mass better prepared for what you hear. And, if you are not able to go to Mass each day, it can still be the case that you can be connected to the universal Church in the readings.
There’s An App for That
There are other spiritual aids that can assist you in your prayer. Hallow is an app that came about from an attempt to combine meditation and prayer. Thinking of the great Saint Thomas Aquinas, who had an experience of God so powerful it caused him to see his great Summa Theologica so small in comparison, the app was born as an attempt to access these types of mystical experiences common the the saints.
Alex Jones, the creator, writes this:
To access the full features requires a subscription, but you can at least get an idea what it is like without buying a subscription. The app does provide a number of practical suggestions to get the most out of the season of Lent.
Another podcast to listen to is the “Bible in a Year” podcast from ascension. Over the course of the year Fr. Mike Schmitz reads the bible and offers commentary on what he has read. Each episode is about 20-30 minutes, and he provides a lot of background to make the bible more understandable.
One last bit of advice is to check out the daily reflections on the US Bishops website as well. These are video podcasts that can help you to think about the readings for the day as well. Presented by a variety of persons, these reflections can also help you to connect to the daily Mass.
Whatever You Do – Do It!
I remember being in school and learning about Sir Isaac Newton and the Laws of Motion. One thing I remember is that an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by another. This can be a good description of the spiritual life too. There are two hard days in the spiritual life: the first day we do something, and the day after we miss a day.
And so the most important part is to get started. Allow the Holy Spirit to move you so that you begin your life of prayer. If you have focused on the bible, as this day’s reflection has, then get started by praying with the bible.
But if you would rather do something else for prayer, feel free. You could pray the rosary. You could commit to more silent prayer. You could make regular trips to adoration in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. You could choose to make confession more a part of your life.
For whatever you strive to do, if it is geared to asking God for greater holiness will work. Open your heart to God. Raise your mind and heart to God in whatever prayer He leads you to pray. You cannot be disappointed if your genuine and sincere desire is to grow closer to God.
And that is the purpose of Lent. To turn away from sin and to be faithful to the gospel. To see that while physical death is part of our existence, by opening ourselves to allowing God to change us, spiritual death need not occur.
Think About Getting a Friend to Pray with
One thing that can be helpful as you think about prayer this Lent is to think of asking one person to partner with you during your Lenten prayer, or even creating a community to pray with you. There is a powerfully wise idea that Jesus called disciples to follow Him. The Church is not the work of just one person, but a community of believers praying together and supporting each other in becoming more and more like Jesus.
Bible Verses to Ponder
Reflection Questions to Ponder
How does God speak to you in your life?
What keeps you from reading the bible more?
What does it mean to you to pray with the bible?
What is your favorite book of the bible, and why is it your favorite?
As you think about people in the bible, who is most inspiring to you?
Heavenly Father, we praise and glorify your name. We thank you for giving us your Word. We thank you for speaking with us so that we may know that you are always with us. Teach us to love your word, to hear your word, and to act on your word.
We thank you for your word as well because in so many ways it still describes how you are active in our world, how you can use our brokenness to bring about goodness, and how you can still lead us to holiness.
As we begin this season of Lent, help us to know how to read your word. Help us to be open to the grace we need so that your word goes deep into our hearts. Help us to live by your word.
And so we make this prayer in the name of your son, Jesus, for He is Your Son, You sent Him to save us, you showed us your overwhelming love for each of us by having Him die on the cross for us. In His name we pray. Amen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Other Helps to Grow in the Spiritual Life
Participate in the Friar Book Club, where you can read along with the Confessions of Saint Augustine, and soon the Meditations for Time of Retreat and the Companion to the Summa by Walter Farrell, OP.
Search our website for devotional prayers. You can ask for people and the friar to pray for you, and you can pray for others. There are three ways you can pray the rosary. You can pray the traditional rosary (the one you may have learned as a child). But you can also pray the rosary in a tradition that comes from the Dominicans or you can pray the rosary in a tradition that comes from the Lasallians. All of the links to the rosary come with audio recordings so that you can pray the rosary in the car, on your way to work, or anytime you are otherwise occupied.
There will be other resources which you can find as well. The high school students I teach and work with will offer a reflection each day. Of course all those who ask me to pray should know that I do each day, twice a day.
And sometimes it is helpful to know what is going on in the Church, and so from time to time I post news stories from the Church too. I pray that all of you will find a deep and fulfilling personal relationship with Jesus. Nothing is more important or able to change your life than that. And I pray that this relationship with Jesus changes your life in every way. It can.
When you see the world as God sees the world, it does not mean there are not hard times or that there is not still suffering and sin, but it does mean that none of these things do you need to experience on your own. Be sure to come back tomorrow.