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Scripture and Prayer – Listening Prayer

“Speak Lord; your servant is listening” 1 Sam 3:10

God speaks to us in many ways: nature, people, and events… In listening to God in prayer, we focus on Scripture as God’s word to me here and now. What the text meant to the original writers/ hearers, to others throughout history, may be helpful – but it can also distract from what God is saying to me now. We are not trying to preach mental sermons to ourselves, nor discover insights that will be helpful to others.

In any relationship, there is a great difference between hearing the words and really listening. So being attentive in this form of prayer is essential. Inner quiet, relaxation, attentiveness, total honesty: “God I feel bored, angry, excited, scared…”

Use only a small passage of scripture. Taste God’s goodness. Ignatius of Loyola called this form of prayer an “application of the senses”. If you wish, you can use the same passage again and again, simplifying, returning to and resting at that point where you met God. Where God spoke to you. Savouring one phrase, one word. Resting “like a child quieted at its mother’s breast” (Ps 131:2)

Scripture is food. It needs to be taken in, chewed over, tasted, to be nourishing.

PICK a passage, eg. Can have it ready the night before, go to sleep with it, wake up with it…

PLACE solitude, can be uninhibited about our response, maybe a “special place”, a “prayer corner”…

POSTURE relax, do a relaxation exercise, music, flowers…

PRESENCE of God. “God you are here, you love me into being, you love breath into me, you wish to speak to me …”

PRAY eg. Begin with the Collect for Purity; ask for God’s Spirit, for grace to listen, to hear God’s word to me now…

Use imagination, PICTURE the scene, become involved, with whom do I identify? “That person is me” (2 Sam 12:7)

Read very slowly. PONDER. Can read aloud. Repeat. Read, Ruminate (Reflect) Respond (PROMISE), Rest. If a word or phrase touches your heart, savour it, repeat it, rest in it, return to it in a later prayer period, carry it in your heart for the rest of the day – for the rest of your life. Don’t hurry. Don’t try to look for lessons or profound thoughts.

Some scriptures: Gods covenant with me Is 54, Is 55; Deut 7:7-11
God loves me and calls me Rom 8:28-30
The choice to respond to God’s love Deut 30:11-20
Any favourite passages, one that suddenly comes to mind, a gospel passage, a psalm, a prayer.

*****

Blessed Lord,
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
help us so to hear them,
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast
the hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Cranmer’s famous collect for Advent 2

(Excerpt from: Liturgy: Worship that Works – Spirituality that Connects)

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The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome
but kindly to everyone,
an apt teacher,
patient,
correcting opponents with gentleness.
2 Timothy 2:24-25 (NRSV)

God’s servant must not be argumentative,
but a gentle listener
and a teacher
who keeps cool,
working firmly but patiently
with those who refuse to obey.

2 Timothy 2:24-25 (The Message)

Today we consider gentleness as a fruit of the Spirit.

From birth onward, we seem to know instinctively how to be harsh and even cruel, particularly to those with whom we disagree. Most of us have mastered well the skills of sarcasm and superiority. Gentleness, on the other hand, seems to be something we have to learn, particularly when dealing with those who strongly oppose us.

Yet who among us would not prefer that we ourselves be corrected by a gentle person rather than by someone whose manner is rude and caustic? Paul asks the Corinthians a question whose answer is a foregone conclusion: “What would you prefer? Am I to come to you with a stick, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?”

In our interactions at home, at church, in the workplace, in the world at large, the gentle manner of a Christian believer is a powerful testimony to the alluring gentleness of the Christ to whom we are to bear witness.

Prayer

Give grace, O Lord Jesus, as I seek your way,
that I may grow more and more into your likeness
and that I may bear your ensign
as a banner of hope and direction
before all who are distraught or confused.
Through this time of daily devotion
instill in me your own gentleness,
quiet my over-wrought alarms,
and enable me to rest confidently in your wisdom.
These things grant by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

(excerpts from This Day: A Wesleyan Way of Prayer. Laurence Hull Stookey)

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