A Prayer Sandwich (February 1, 2013)

…Opening To…

We say we read to “escape.” …A book so excites our imagination that we “consume” it… What would it feel like to consume the sacred book? Or to be consumed by it? To eat it, chew it, swallow it, digest it, to make it a part of you? (Roger Ferlo)

…Listening In…

Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord! Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. (Romans 12:11-12; context)

…Filling Up…

The fifth thing you should do when you read the Bible is pray before you do it and after you do it. This is the model we have in church. In the Episcopal Church experience (my faith background), the four lessons from the Bible happen near the beginning of the service. But before we read scripture, we pray for God to cleanse our hearts. Then we praise God in song. Then we “collect” the theme for the day in a special prayer right before the lessons.

Afterward the lessons (and the sermon), we recite the Creed, the church’s historic affirmation of faith, which is really another prayer in disguise. Then we pray the prayers of the people, in which we pray for our own needs and for those of others. The four lessons form the meat in a prayer sandwich.

In our own Bible study or that which we do in a group, following this example is a good idea. Reading the Bible is a prayerful experience, and so bookending the reading with dedicated prayers makes sense.

Begin your reading with a prayer of openness: ask God to encounter you in a surprising way during your reading. Ask God to show you something you’ve never noticed about the text or about yourself. End your reading with a prayer of thanksgiving: give gratitude to God for being with you all the time and especially when you engage the text. Thank God for God’s presence in your life, remembering that you are in God’s presence always. Reading the Bible helps us hold on to this fundamental truth of our existence.

…Praying For…

Dear God, I am in your presence all the time. Open me to receive your word in ways I might not expect. Thank you for being with me when I read the Bible. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, gladdened by the prospect of meeting you in the Bible.

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