Formation Reflections on Praying the Text

The following posts are here by permission of the two students who wrote them. What is your own experience with prayer and Bible study?

Reflection 1
As I read Psalm 139, I found it difficult to place myself in the passage. Yet, that was the problem. I read, looking for personal application, unaware of how to read in the first place. The author did not write the scripture for me or with any knowledge of me. I should not read it with that assumption. Therefore, I started over and read it again. I began to imagine it as a story, attempting to form some objective images in my mind. Then, the meditation began.

I imagine a man standing in open space. It is a place set apart for honesty and security. A place to confess love without bounds. A place to reveal all things. This is no ordinary relationship. This relationship exceeds familial bonds and human love. It is an ideal form of vulnerability and love. What every parent wants from their child and child from parent. What every couple aspires to achieve. It is an ever-surpassing and inescapable unity and dependency. Oneness. All of our fleshly attempts fall short or only mimic the union this man has with God Almighty. The desire to love and be loved at the core his essence is fulfilled.

But wait…who is this man to cast judgment on others when all is provided for him? He speaks as if he is entitled to God’s love alone, righteously indignant. Who is he to “hate them with perfect hatred”? What justifies hatred from any one to another? But wait, could he be speaking of himself? Surely, he is. He asks to for God to search him? Why not search the doers of evil? Unless, it is he who is wicked and malicious. This man is known and still wants to be known, insecure about his love for the Lord. Insecure about his own reliability. He longs for assurance and justification, fulfilling the very purpose he was created. The very purpose of God.

God, is this truly what humanity was created for? To be lost in the chaos of our own wickedness while trying to find order in your plan? We do try so hard to do your will, or what we perceive it to be. Is acknowledging our finitude against your glory where we begin?

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Reflection 2 – Ashamed: Please Read Me

I am ashamed that I cannot read the scripture faithfully. I want to, but something stops me. It could be me – just the way my mind works. It is difficult for me to slow my mind down to read the simplest text and the scripture is complex. So I feel myself racing and racing and racing; then not understanding what I have read and even know what I am reading. I feel absolutely no comfort through the scripture.

It could be because I love God and Jesus and the people of God so much that what could this book possible tell me to increase that love. I feel the power of the Holy Spirit with me at all times.

All I can get from the Hebrew bible is history. The Psalms take some note: 1, 15, 23, 24, 27, 139 and 150. I just feel like I am missing a piece of the puzzle that will tie this scripture to my life. Maybe I am distressed because we all profess to read but we see nothing different in our lives. I know I want my life to be different.

Shame overcomes me because I cannot quote scripture. It is not the quoting but the foundation of the scripture that one needs in order to preach. I don’t have it. I have considered going somewhere for a year or two to study on the scripture. Now I don’t know where you go, but I would love to find a place where scripture is intently and intentionally studied as Torah is studied by the Jewish people. If anyone knows of such a place let me know. I feel very much like the Ethiopian Eunuch, “how shall I learn without a teacher.”

I feel some happiness that I can fumble my way around the Gospels. I live for the twenty-third psalm and for the 4th chapter of Luke verses 16-30. I am attached greatly to Ephesians 2:8-10. I love the priestly pray in John 17:1-25. I love John 14, the True Vine.

Wait a minute I see something here maybe I do know comfort through the scriptures I was trying to eat the whole book. If I continue to work with parts of the book then maybe one day, one day all of it may come to form and shape for my spiritual being.

The reading of scripture is not a functional task it must form and shape our lives. What little I know does that for me and gives me comfort. Oh I forgot to add I love Acts. Acts speaks to me. Judges, Nehemiah and Ezra and Job all speak to me. Maybe my assessment is wrong. I may know more than I thought. After all I have been somewhere to study the bible. I think shame has turned to joy. I know more than I thought and all of it is a comfort to me.

I allow the word to read me at times. I know that there is more to explore and to take in but I am on my way. Ashamed? Maybe not – after all.