Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Daily Prayer and Meditation Resources

Below is a portion of a pastor's newsletter I just delivered to my congregation. In it, I offer some resources for prayer and meditation at home. The suggested devotional format includes the Daily Lectionary from Lutheran Service Book, and since the Bible readings start over on Ash Wednesday, I thought this was the perfect time to introduce it. The suggested Psalms, however, are my own suggestions, based on the Daily Lectionary and the Psalms assigned for the Sundays in the historic lectionary. The portion of the Small Catechism we're beginning with follows our Sunday School plan, so it kind of starts in the middle.

The Treasury of Daily Prayer essentially includes all the same material. Why not just suggest they all purchase a copy of the Treasury of Daily Prayer? Two main reasons. One, this simple format breaks down the Small Catechism into weekly portions and puts the whole devotion onto one 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" card. Two, after using the Treasury for over a year, I think it's a great resource, but I feel disconnected from the Bible as a book when I use it. (Maybe it's just a personal preference.) So I'm distributing three bookmarks with these resources (Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament) with the Bible references printed out on them for three months at a time so that members can continue to use their own Bibles.

I'll include below some links to PDF files of the daily prayer resources for this week and the bookmarks for the next three months. If anyone finds these resources helpful, let me know and I can link the weekly updates that I'll be including in my local service folder.

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Quinquagesima 2012

And taking the twelve, [Jesus] said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise” (Luke 18:31-33).

Even with plain words like these before them, Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was telling them. But by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, we do. And because we do, we set aside every year a season called “Lent” in order to slow down from our busy-ness and reflect on the battle our Lord waged for us against sin, death and the devil, a battle that culminated in his crucifixion, his burial, and his resurrection from the dead. His victory is our victory, and the victory of all who trust in him.

Lent begins this Wednesday, February 22nd. It’s a season for reflection, repentance and renewal. It’s a season for reevaluating our walk as Christians and for recommitting ourselves to the message of the cross and to the way of the cross, to the daily self-denial to which our Savior calls everyone who would follow after him.

It’s also a season in which the Church intensifies its emphasis on catechesis – the instruction in the Word that has as its primary goal the creation and sustaining of faith in Christ, and how that faith expresses itself in the Christian life – the baptismal life. Catechesis is not a one-time, learn-this-and-be-done-with-it kind of instruction. It’s lifelong, from baptism to the grave. So catechesis is for children, but it’s not only for children. It’s for all who would be Christians.

In addition to the regular weekly opportunities for catechesis already offered (Sunday morning Bible class and Divine Service), I would like to invite all of our members to participate in two other opportunities for intensified catechesis, one for the church, one for the home.

As usual, we will be offering Wednesday evening prayer services during the Lenten season, beginning with the Divine Service on Ash Wednesday, continuing with Vespers (“Evening”) services on the five Wednesdays between Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday. In these special services, we will be reviewing the Psalms sometimes referred to as the “penitential” Psalms, as well as a portion of Luther’s Small Catechism and Luther’s six catechism hymns.

The other opportunity I want to set before you begins now during Lent, but does not end there. In fact, the idea is that this would be the beginning of a routine that would never end. It’s an opportunity to make prayer and Bible reading a daily part of your family’s schedule. I have not urged this among you as I ought, and I confess that even I, as a pastor, have, until now, failed to implement this properly in my own home, and for that, I am sorry. But since Lent is for reflection, repentance and renewal, I invite you to join me today in reflecting, repenting, and, with the comfort of God’s forgiveness, making a change for the better.

Maybe you and your family have already been using the Meditations booklets put out by Northwestern Publishing House. Maybe you have been using a devotional format from the hymnal. This is good, and I do not want to discourage it in the least. I would simply like to suggest something more comprehensive.

So I offer you the following resources:
  • A very short and simple format for morning, mealtime and bedtime prayer, adapted from Martin Luther’s own suggestions in the Small Catechism.

  • A pattern for Daily Prayer and Meditation to be used every day in family devotions.
Most of the elements of Daily Prayer and Meditation are set up to be repeated each day for a week, changing every Sunday, so every Sunday the order for Daily Prayer and Meditation will be printed on the back of the service folder (or offered as a separate insert). It will also be available for download on our website. The Scripture readings that make up the Daily Lectionary change daily, so they are printed on three bookmarks (for Old Testament, Psalm, and New Testament) which you can keep in your Bible at home. The references for the Daily Lectionary are from Lutheran Service Book, starting over each year on Ash Wednesday. You can use whichever Bible translation you wish. I recommend the English Standard Version or the New King James Version.

Families that follow this daily routine will read through about 1/3 of the Old Testament and almost all of the New Testament every year, and the Book of Psalms will be prayed through at least twice a year. The entire Small Catechism is relearned each year as well.

Luther says in his Preface to the Large Catechism, “I am a doctor and preacher. Yet I act as a child who is being taught the catechism. Every morning—and whenever I have time—I read and say, word for word, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, and such. I must still read and study them daily. Yet I cannot master the catechism as I wish. But I must remain a child and pupil of the catechism, and am glad to remain so.”

Let us all remain “children and pupils of the catechism.” The resources I am setting before you are not the only possible Lutheran resources that can be used. They are intended to be a useful discipline for keeping our families constant in prayer and firmly rooted in the Scriptures and in the Small Catechism. Putting this discipline into practice as a congregation can only serve to bring us closer together around the truth of God’s Word. As for me and my house, we will begin using these resources today.

Morning and Bedtime Prayer
Mealtime Prayers and general format for Daily Prayer & Meditation
Daily Lectionary Bookmarks - Lent through Easter 2012



* Additional resources (all from Concordia Publishing House):

6 comments:

Paul McCain said...

Thanks, Pastor, great advice.

Just one thing so, the "Treasury of Daily Prayer" does contain Martin Luther's Small Catechism and includes a way to pray it.

See pgs. 1444ff

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Oops. You're right, it does. I'll make that correction above in the post.

Dana said...

Weekly updates would be wonderful! Thank you for this!

David Moseley said...

My LCMS Pastor will be making the catechism the center of our Ash Wednesdays. I'm looking forward to it. (And of course the soup suppers:))

Pastor Boehringer said...

We have My First Hymnal for our oldest daughter (almost 2 1/2 years) and she loves it. It's a great way to introduce hymn singing and the church year to little ones (the pages are a bit thicker than a typical hymnal). We just got one for our godson also.

At church I'll mention from time to time that anyone is free to take a hymnal home because of its usefulness in the devotional life. To my knowledge in 2 1/2 years, no one has taken me up on my offer. Maybe they all already have one at home :)

I think there are two things that I can do: on my regular home visits, bring along hymnals (and perhaps Lutheran Book of Prayer) and tell my flock how beneficial they can be and then show them how singing can be a wonderful part of their devotion.

Two, teaching the next generation how to sing and giving them a love for singing. This task is harder than rolling a greasy boulder up a mountain in the age of Don't DIY music, but it's always good to plan ahead for days when perhaps the lights won't come on with the flip of a switch. I think I'd like to make low-tech music with my family on that day.

Anyway, enjoy singing at home!

Nick said...

I'm relatively new to Lutheranism, so knowing how to use the hymnals, lectionaries and everything else has been a process. I plan on making use of these cards with my family. I have been using The Story Bible and the Sing the Faith CD (both also from CPH)with my kids and think they are great resources. Thanks for the additional recommendations!

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