Word-saturated meditative prayer

Man studyingDietrich Bonhoeffer, in his concise text, Meditating On The Word,* begins his preface with the following paragraph:

Word and sacrament are at the heart of our worship and our life together as Christians, yet it is my experience in the church that we keep ourselves close to the sacrament but at some distance from the Word. This is commonly seen in the small attention paid top-reaching, the trivial nature of so many sermons we hear, the absence of Bible study in many congregations, and (one imagines) the infrequency of personal reading of the Bible. I believe this is an imbalance that needs correcting, although I think I understand at least some of the reasons why it exists.

As we look at the spiritual elements of our lives as church workers and laity alike, could it be that we are Word-impoverished?

A recent study amongst clergy would suggest that the average amount of time devoted to being in God’s Word, personally, is less than 15 minutes per day.

Occasionally, truth be known, sermon preparation might be realized to be more intellectually engaging, more scholarly detached, rather than being a time of “praying” the Scriptures.  The truth can carry quite a sting.

Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor and seminary leader, lost his life because he risked it in resisting the Nazi regime during WWII.  His shepherding of the ordinands of the Confessing Church in Germany and his writings, particularly of the Psalms, and of Psalm 119 to note, give us 21st century resource for spiritual wellness.  His call is not to read his sermons, but to “take up and read” God’s Holy Word…to read, say, sing, pray, digest, meditate on, reflect in, and live out God’s Holy Word.  It is a daily discipline.

As we look at our faith-health, our spiritual wellness which envelopes and energizes all aspects of our well-being (as we have been examining for the past six months), might there be a place for the “classical” spiritual disciplines, and in particular the discipline of meditative prayer in God’s Word?  I will use the next installments of “Living and Serving Gracefully” to take a look at Word-saturated meditation, utilizing Bonhoeffer’s insights and guidance.  We may explore, together, if meditating on the Word is a helpful health practice for your life; I will tell you, up front, it has been life-changing in my personal pilgrim walk! Subsequently, I will explore with you other classical spiritual disciplines including fasting, study, service, solitude, and simplicity.

However, since Christ-focused, Word-saturated Christian meditative prayer is the essential platform of Grace Place Retreats and Congregational Wellness Weekends, we’ll take a look at that in more depth.  On retreat and carried into daily pilgrim walk, everything we do, all of our programming and experiential health education, no matter the health element, is underpinned and grows from a time of being together in God’s Word.  The Word is the Wellspring of our health and wholeness.  Next month will look at the nuts and bolts of meditatio.

*Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Meditating On The Word, edited and translated by David McI. Gracie, Cowley Publications, 1968.