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PRAYING FROM THE WORD OF GOD “When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart, because I bore your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” PRAYER IN THE BIBLE. INTRODUCTION: This Guide has as its objective to help the members of the AMM to discover in the Bible a book of new and timely prayer. The document of Puebla affirms that the Christian moved by the Holy Spirit ought to get from prayer a purpose for one’s daily life and for his work because of prayer. It creates in one a disposition of praise and thanks to the Lord It increases faith It comforts one in hope It leads one to give oneself to the brothers It moves one to be faithful to apostolic work It enables one to form community Puebla 932 Since Vatican II there has been awakened in believers a new and growing interest in the Word of God. Contact with the Bible has returned to occupy a central place in the Christian life. It has transformed into a light which illumines, which orients, which teaches and forms. The Bible is ―THE TEACHER OF PRAYER‖ as much in the Old Testament as in the New. In scripture God speaks to us of the many ways in the history of the People of Israel of the moment in which he pronounces his word in its fullness—―Christ‖. (Hebrews 1: 1-2) He invites us to prayer at all times without ceasing. (Lk. 18: 1) FOR REMEMBERING The Bible arises from an encounter of God with man. It is a book which was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and thus is the living Word and effective source of LIFE and HOPE. The Bible had a process of composition which lasted some centuries throughout which the people of God were experiencing the loving and saving action of God in their life. The Old Testament –corresponds to the foundational stage. ―The Old Testament prepares for the coming of Christ and his universal reign—it announces it prophetically—and represents it with various images. (Constitution on Divine Revelation, n. 15) The New Testament –brings us the perfect revelation. All that the Bible contains acquires its sense and meaning.from the Risen Christ. The Bible is the ―Teacher‖ of Prayer. It teaches us that we can speak with God and hear him. The Bible is without a doubt the richest book of history in the experience of prayer. Fundamentally it is the history of the dialogue of God with man. An encounter is born by the initiative of God. God speaks first and awaits the existential response of man, which opens himself to God in contemplation and in love. The Bible reflects the faith of a people. It takes the word to express before God. Petitions—HIS GRATITUDE—HIS PRAISE—HIS DESIRES—HIS ASPIRATIONS—LAMENTS AND SORROWS. PRAYING WITH THE PSALMS The Bible offers in all its pages a teaching about prayer but it has a book which can be called the book of PRAYER ―The Book of Psalms.‖ When we approach the Bible to learn to pray we encounter in a special way these pages which educate, orient and help us to dialogue with God. The Psalms occupy a prominent place in liturgical prayer. In the Eucharist we always have a responsorial psalm. The Liturgy of the Hours has psalms as its basic structure. The Book of Psalms is composed of 150 psalms written in different eras. They are prayers but are POEMS as well. They use images to express prayer: The rivers clap, the mountains cry out (Psalm 98: 8). In other places, it repeats an idea in different words in the same verse (Psalm 114: 1-2). Hymns: There are psalms that praise and glorify God. Example: Psalm 8—Hymn to God for having made man capable of contemplating the heavens, of taking creation in his hands and praising God. Individual Psalms: There are psalms that are directed to God by an individual. Example: Psalm 22—Complaint to God for abandoning him which ends in certain hope of God’s help. Psalm 51—Plea of pardon for faults, confiding in God’s mercy. Psalms of the Community: In these man expresses himself collectively. They are characterized by the same types as the individual psalms, the laments, the petitions of the community . . . Example: Psalm 44—National Lament for a collective defeat or disaster. Psalm 123 proclaims the security that the people have when they put their trust in the Lord. Royal Psalms: They refer to an historical King and also to a messianic King. Example: Psalm 72—Presentation of the ideal King. Didactic Psalms: They are psalms that contain teaching and directions for life. Example: Psalm 1. It speaks of the two ways of man. Psalm 119. It presents the law as the revelation of God for the good of man. REFLECTION: To search out the psalms that have been pointed out as models, to read them and to meditate on them. THE PRAYER OF JESUS Christ is the model and teacher of prayer. The full revelation of God in all its aspects is found in Jesus. We cannot pray with the Bible as a Christian if we do not take into account what Jesus taught about prayer by his example and teaching. The first fact that is evident in the prayer of Jesus is that he prays with his people, both in the synagogue (Lk. 4: 16-21) and in the temple in JERUSALEM (Lk. 2: 41-42). Before he died he celebrates the PASSOVER with his disciples and recites with them the prayer of the prescribed psalms (Mk. 14: 36). Many times in the Gospels the prayers of Jesus stand out. He lives in continuous communication with his Father, he prays every moment in the various circumstances of his life. In silence and solitude (Lk. 6: 12) In moments of gladness and joy (Mt. 11: 26) In moments of trial and suffering (Mk. 14: 32-36) When he worked miracles (Jn. 11: 41-42) At meal times (Jn. 6: 11, Mt. 26: 30) Etc. It is from prayer that springs forth the strength by which Christ accomplishes the will of the Father. Jesus prayed and taught his disciples to pray. (Lk. 11: 1) ―When you pray, say . . .‖ In the Lord’s Prayer is given the realities and contents of Christian prayer.: Confidence in the Father Openness to his ways Seeking the Kingdom Concern for the problems of human life Asking for pardon of our sins An attitude of pardon toward others Asking for help not to succumb to temptation. From how Christ prayed and gave his teachings on prayer we can deduce the principal characteristics of the prayer of a Christian. REFLECTION: From the Our Father one finds the important aspects of Christian prayer. BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO LECTIO DIVINA One of the ways to deepen and pray the Word of God is the practice of Lectio Divina. It is the method used by the early fathers of the Church called holy reading. It is extremely simple and recommended for those who desire to know the Word of God. The steps for following this study, reflection and meditation on the Word of God could be the following: 1. READING (learning, observing, locating) What does the text say? Reading consists in reading and re-reading the page of Scripture putting in relief the important elements. It is advised to read with a pencil in hand and underline the words that impress, even highlighting the verbs, the actions, the themes, the expressed feelings or the key words. (reciting by memory) Our imagination is stimulated by doing this; intelligence, fantasy and feelings are put in motion and a gospel passage which appears to be little known is made new. After many years I read the Gospel in this way and each time I return to it I discover new aspects. This first work can take a good amount of time if we open ourselves to the Spirit. To understand what it means for us, it will put the Gospel passage in a much broader context; of a closer passage, of the unity of the book, of that of the entire Bible. 2. MEDITATION (ruminating, dialoguing, refreshing) What does the text say to me (us)? Meditation is the reflection on the values that stand out in the text. In the reading we help ourselves with historical, geographical as well as cultural aspects of the passage. Here, one asks: What is it saying to me? What message in relation to the moment in which we live is proposed in this passage as the Word of the living God? How am I affected by the permanent values that one encounters within the actions, the words, the themes? 3. PRAYER (asking, praising, saying) What does the text make me (us) say? In the reading one asked oneself: What does the text say? In the meditation: What does it tell me, what does the text say to us? Then in prayer: What does the text make me say? Until now God was the one who spoke through the reading and the meditation. The moment arrived to give our response and to express before God the reaction that the Word, heard and meditated upon, provoked in us. The reality of prayer is present from the beginning, but despite everything, influenced with prayer, one must have a special moment, especially for prayer. 4. CONTEMPLATION/ACTION (enjoying, discerning, realizing) How does it change my outlook and my feelings? What does the text move me to do? It is difficult to define and explain contemplation. It is about remaining with love in the text and takinging the text and the message to contemplation of that which is spoken in every page of the Bible: Jesus, Son of the Father, give us the Holy Spirit. Contemplation is adoration, praise silence before that which is the ultimate objective of my prayer, Christ the Lord, conqueror of death, revealer of the Father, absolute mediator of salvation, dispenser of the joy of the gospel. In this practicum, the four moments are not rigorously distinct, but the division is useful for those who enter into this exercise. Our prayer is like the thread that unites all our days and it can happen that in the light of a Scripture text, we may remain a day about meditation and on the other hand, we pass rapidly to contemplation. This presentation in four parts does not express any more than in a basic way the dynamism of Lectio Divina which, in reality, has eight progressive stages: reading, meditation, prayer, contemplation, consolation, discernment, deliberation, action. For reflection and prayer: Take the test of the Samaritan (Jn. 4) and do prayer in a group applying Lectio Divina following the 4 steps above and share your prayer. Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Bible Lord, we believe that you speak to us in many ways, through creation, through conscience, through events. We believe that your Word is present in the books of Sacred Scripture. Direct us to the light of your Word, by way of justice, love and fidelity to God within your Church. May your Word help us to make sense of the life we live. May the Bible help us to better understand our situation and may the reality which we live help us to better grasp the meaning of the Bible. But do not allow us to manipulate your Word, having it say what you do not want it to say, adapting it to our whim and ideologies. Help us to create in our communities an atmosphere of openness and of fraternal dialogue about your word. Teach us to discover your Word within the history of our community, of our town, and of our Church. We heartily thank you, Lord, for the gift of the Bible.
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