Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Loop-Dance of the Three-in-One

Praying the Word means reading (or reciting) Scripture in a spirit of prayer and letting the meaning of the verses inspire our thoughts and become our prayer. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we find instances of God’s people "praying the Word" by quoting Scripture in their prayers. 
Our life should be soaked in God’s Word, so it is only natural that our prayers be filled with it too. In doing so, we can experience numerous benefits to praying the Word. For example, it helps keep our prayers in scriptural proportion. "We may tend to pray about the same few issues over and over and over," says Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology Andy Naselli. "But if we pray Scripture as we read through the Bible, that will force us to pray about a rich variety of issues in scriptural proportion." 
The NIV Bible Blog 
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 It is surely, therefore, very possible that when God began to reveal himself to men, to show them that He and nothing else is their true goal and the satisfaction of their needs, and that He has a claim on them simply by being what He is, quite apart from anything he can bestow or deny, it may have been absolutely necessary that this revelation should not begin with any hint of future Beatitude or Perdition. These are not the right point to begin at... 
CS Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms
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...taken together [the Bible is] a book which has been developed in community over thousands of years, forged in and against the white heat of empire and domination, edited and revised, pored over and criticised endlessly. And it is pure treasure – it contains the voices of those who have gone before us. It shows them working out their ideology and identity, and wrestling with ideas about and experience of what they consider to be the divine. It tells us of their lives, their longings, their weaknesses and their wisdom. It showcases their failings and their blind spots, just as it demonstrates their extraordinary compassion and courage. There is, put simply, no other book like it...
But ultimately this all means little unless we are able to let the Bible 'speak' to us – and in so doing to change the way we think and the way we live. Too many people consider it the "word of God" and then find ways to justify the way they live already, claiming that this is divinely ordained. A big thumbs up from the guy in the sky. The keys to understanding the Bible aren't hard to locate, they are there in black and white, sometimes in red and white. They are there in the Mosaic covenant, and repeated by prophets: they are demonstrated by Jesus who shows that to live this way requires dedication and humility, and a radical acceptance of 'others'. When we listen for the voice of the Bible in this way, perhaps we do indeed hear God's word, from far back in time, whispered through the lives and words of our ancestors: Love other people as you love yourself. There is no limit on whom you should love.  
Simon Cross (see also his subsequent post)
On the face of it, these may appear three disparate quotations, tied together by little more than their common subject, Scripture. But reading the Bible isn't quite like reading any other book - as Simon Cross says, doing so is of little use unless we are prepared to let ourselves be changed, in ways we cannot predict or prepare for. Change is always a risky venture, yet it is the inevitable result of prayer, and of the prayerful reading of Scripture.

Whether we follow a traditional, discursive path such as Ignatian meditation, or a more obviously apophatic one such as the Jesus Prayer (which is itself drawn from Mark 10.47 and Luke 18.13), Christian contemplation is rooted deeply in Scripture. After all, it is perhaps not stretching things too far to suggest that the inspiration of Scripture ("All Scripture is God-breathed..." (2 Timothy 3.16)) comes in the first instance from people's silence before God, their listening for his unspoken word upholding all that is (Hebrews 1.3). Contemplation returning on itself, our hearts following the loop-dance of the Three-in-One...

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