I love the graphic imagery from 1 Peter, in which our adversary the devil is imagined as a roaring lion which prowls around, searching for someone to devour; and I love the confidence with which Peter assumes that, despite the hot stink of lion triggering our most primal fears, we can nevertheless remain grounded in God and steadfast in faith. In this latest outbreak of COVID-19, I am alert to my fear: fear of infection, fear of a long shutdown, fear for the social and emotional development of young people, fear for people struggling with mental health, fear for those whose homes are not safe, fear for what’s happening for people overseas. But I don’t want to be devoured by this fear; I don’t want it to shape and guide me. So Peter’s confidence is bracing, and spurs me to keep engaging in the practices which ground me in God.
1. PREPARE: Make yourself comfortable. Uncross your legs; relax your body; uncomplicate your heart. Ask God to help you surrender to whatever it is that God wants to do in you or say to or through you. Breathe slowly and deeply in, then out.
2. READ: Read the following passage aloud at least three times through, slowly. Listen carefully. Notice anything which captures your attention.
- Ground yourselves therefore under God’s mighty hand, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:6-10)
3. REFLECT: Allow the passage, a phrase or a single word or image speak to you. What catches your attention? What emotions are you feeling? What questions are bubbling up? Reflect in silence.
4. RELATE: What are you anxious about? What do you need to be alert to? What is the nature of your suffering? What practices / disciplines ground you in God?
5. RESPOND: Arising out of your reflection, pray. Tell God about anything which has emerged. If you feel called to action, ask God to show you/us the next step.
6. REST: Rest now in the Word, who loves you. As you leave this space, if any word, phrase or image persists, carry it with you and let it guide you. Or, if nothing in particular arises, remember this:
- The God of all grace will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.
Peter writes, ‘Discipline yourselves!’ and I assume that you have a pattern of spiritual practice. If you don’t, you can find a list of practices used by our congregation here, and tools for praying at home here. As a starting point, many people find book-ending each day with an intentional time of prayer to be, over the long term, powerful and effective. For example, I usually open the day with some combination of lectio divina, spoken prayer and silent listening, then close the day with the Examen.
If you want help working out a healthy pattern of prayer, ask me — or ask around. People in our congregation have different patterns, reflecting a diversity of backgrounds, personalities, and life stages. There is no single right way to pray. What matters is that you weave prayer into daily life in a way which alerts you to your weaknesses, grounds you in God’s strength, and is sustaining and sustainable. Especially through shutdown.
Tools for the Journey
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