The Practice of Meditation :: Running

Psalm 78.1-3
My people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;
I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known,
things our ancestors have told us.

Reflection: The Practice of Meditation :: Running
By John Tillman

If the elevator is out and you have to climb fifteen flights of stairs, going outside and running a mile first won’t help much. But if you have been running a mile every day for two months, when you need to climb the stairs, the increased lung capacity and strength you have gained will be there to support you.

One way of thinking of meditative prayer is exercise to expand your spiritual lung capacity, allowing you to breathe in God’s spirit more naturally at any time—including during a crisis.

Today we will explore an imaginative guide for meditation on the scripture. We will use the visual image of walking or running to aid us in an analogy of exploring scripture. You can practice this exercise using your imagination while sitting still. Later, if you wish, you can repeat the experience while actually walking around a track or a park or even your apartment or office.

Meditative prayer, especially for beginners, is best begun with scripture. Memorized scripture is helpful, but not necessary. Reading the passage repetitively can be equally helpful. Choose a short passage of scripture. A couple lines from today’s psalms passage would work well. Perhaps Psalm 78.1-3 or Psalm 78.38-39.

Read the passage several times, while simultaneously asking God, through prayer to meet with you and speak to your through this passage.

Now imagine running or walking on an extremely short running track—no more than a tenth of a mile. The repetitive action of circling the track over and over will mirror the repetitive action of reading the scripture in meditation.

Imagine the scripture written on the pathway of the track. Imagine treading each word as you read it. Another option would be to imagine making one circuit of the track each time you read the scripture. Remember your goal isn’t “distance,” to read the passage many times, but depth, to hear God’s spirit speak to you through his word.

Don’t feel pressured to have some surpassingly great breakthrough. To stick with the running analogy, you aren’t going to hit a four-minute mile your first time out. Be humble. Be persistent. Be steady.

It is not God’s ability to speak that must grow, it is our ability to listen.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, for he is speaking peace to his faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to him… — Psalm 85.8

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 29 (Listen – 3:43)
Psalm 78.1-39 (Listen – 7:12)

Additional Reading
Read More about Finding Words to Pray
The remedy for spiritual dryness is prayer saturated with scripture. When we pray the words of scripture they enliven our prayers by allowing God’s word to blossom inside our heart, mind, and soul.

Read More about Praying Through the Stress of Work
The beauty of the psalms is they are not simply inspiration and instruction, but example. In hearing and praying through the psalms we find spiritual vitality in a world austere to the divine.

Support our Work
Each month over 22,000 Park Forum email devotionals are read around the world. Support our readers with a monthly or a one time donation.

A Discipline for the Anxious

Psalm 77.2-3
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.

Reflection: A Discipline for the Anxious
By John Tillman

We live in distressing times. If there are corners of our world not touched by division, aggression, worry, and angst, you probably can’t get email there.

Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues are on the rise—especially among younger adults. National Survey of Children’s Health researchers found a 20 percent increase in diagnoses of anxiety among children ages 6 to 17, between 2007 and 2012. The American College Health Association found that anxiety, rather than depression, is the most common reason college students seek counseling services and that in 2016, 62 percent of undergraduates reported “overwhelming anxiety” in the previous year. (An increase from 50 percent in 2011.)

Studying this, science is discovering things that are not exactly new under the sun. A recent Harvard study found that church attendance paired with spiritual disciplines such as meditation and prayer have a beneficial effect on mental health. In a Forbes article, study author Ying Chen noted that being raised religiously, “can powerfully affect [children’s] health behaviors, mental health, and overall happiness and well-being.”

The psalmists would not express surprise at these findings. Though we think of our society as facing pressures unknown to humanity until now, we would be mistaken to think of ancient times as idyllic and calm.

David and the other psalmists certainly knew what it was like to live under threat, under financial pressure, under the constant weight of political instability and the wavering loyalty of an unpredictable government.

Amidst such pressures, they had a safe haven. Their help for the stresses of life was meditation and prayer.*

The psalmist writes of being “too troubled to speak,” yet he cries to God. He writes of insomnia, yet he rests in God. He writes of doubts and of feeling that God has rejected him, that his love has vanished, that he had forgotten to be merciful. Yet in the midst of doubts and fears, he remembers God’s faithfulness in the past. He meditates on these memories in the heated moment of stress.

Although the benefits of meditation can help in a crisis, meditation is not a quick fix. It is not a fast-acting antidote for the world’s venom, but an inoculation to be taken ahead of time.

When beginning (or returning to) meditative prayer, start small and short. Use the prayer provided at the end of this devotional (Psalm 119.147) as a start. Spend two to five minutes simply re-reading the prayer with an expectant heart, asking God to be with you.

This week we will explore a bit more about this practice.

*We are in no way implying that meditation should be pursued in lieu of proper medical treatment. If you are in need of counseling and professional services, please consider the following resources:

Mental Health Grace Alliance
Not A Day Promised Resource Page
Life Recovered (Resources for Ministers)
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention
Suicide Prevention Resource Center

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Early in the morning I cry out to you, for in your word is my trust. — Psalm 119.147

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 28 (Listen – 4:32)
Psalm 77 (Listen – 2:12)

Additional Reading
Read More about Treatment of Mercy
May we seek to treat those suffering from mental illness medically, spiritually, and relationally, as we support them within our communities as treasured ones, loved by Christ.

Read More about When Help Isn’t Help :: Readers’ Choice
May we understand that times of trial and hardship will come into our lives. May we listen to understand, and when we do respond, may it be with sincerity and sensitivity.

Support our Work
Each month over 22,000 Park Forum email devotionals are read around the world. Support our readers with a monthly or a one time donation.

Battered with Love :: Worldwide Prayer

Psalm 75.1-3
We praise you, God,
we praise you, for your Name is near;
people tell of your wonderful deeds.
You say, “I choose the appointed time;
it is I who judge with equity.
When the earth and all its people quake,
it is I who hold its pillars firm.

Christ’s love is the power working within us, to change not only our lives, but to manifest his kingdom of love in our dark and loveless world. — John

Reflection: Battered with Love :: Worldwide Prayer
A psalm acknowledging God’s intervention from the USA

Oh Lord

You battered me with love, you assaulted me with mercy,
You pierced me through with compassion
and turned my sorrows into peace;
you gave meaning to my calamities and
my heartbreaks you repaired with your presence.

And still I could not love like you loved,
nor could I see myself in the beauty you found
with your searching eye.
For I was shackled with depression,
and my hand was against my own neck,
my thoughts against my own heart.

But you would not let go until you saw
the dawning of my liberation.
Then you turned my eyes towards you
and you let me see the face of God,
the wondrous smile of the Son of the living God,
in the glory of Love.

And so I was changed, and I believed,
and I was never more the same.
And where there was darkness, you birthed light,
where there was wickedness you painted in the colors
of righteousness and peace.

And upon my brow, the forehead of my temple,
you carved a new name, one secret and holy,
known only to you, a gift to be revealed
in the fullness of time to your eager, watchful servant.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. — Psalm 103.1-2

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 27 (Listen – 5:15)
Psalm 75-76 (Listen – 2:33)

Additional Reading
Read More from In Praise of God’s Mercy :: Worldwide Prayer
When I think of your great mercy, oh Christ, my heart wants to burst; it is too great for me, too great to comprehend.

Read More about Realizing the Power of Love
Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in all of human history, a movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world. A movement mandating people to live that love.

Support our Work
Each month over 22,000 Park Forum email devotionals are read around the world. Support our readers with a monthly or a one time donation.

Confession Destroys Denial

Psalm 72.2, 4
May he judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice…
May he defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
may he crush the oppressor.

Reflection: Confession Destroys Denial
By John Tillman

Nothing destroys denial except confession. Nothing repairs the damage of denial except repentance.

As a way of mourning with Ezekiel, and confessing what we have been in denial about, let us join in a prayer from earlier times—a Psalm celebrating how the kingdom should have been and looking forward through Christ to what it will ultimately be.

Psalm 72 is attributed to Solomon, but it’s closing line tells us that it “concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.” Of course, the psalmist is prophetically speaking about Jesus, the true son of David.

A Prayer of Confession and Repentance

We acknowledge, Lord, that justice deserving the name does not come from us.
We pledge to pray and work for justice knowing that our best work will be partial and incomplete…

Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.

You are the source of justice, Lord, but we accept our roles as sons and daughters of the king.
We bear your name and must carry out your justice and righteousness in the earth.

May he defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
may he crush the oppressor.

We claim your promise to Eve that her seed would crush evil at its source.
We give our lives and bodies as Mary did to be used by you to bring down rulers from their thrones, lift up the humble, and fill the hungry with good things.

For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.

We confess we have been deaf to cries of the needy, cries for help, and cries of injustice.
Give us your hearing and heart as we work in the name of Christ our king to proclaim good news to the poor and set the oppressed free.

Where earthly governments will join us in these tasks, may we walk and serve with them.
But never let us rely on earthly kings to carry out the tasks of the heavenly kingdom.

Praise be to his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Our sins are stronger than we are, but you will blot them out. — Psalm 65.3

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 24 (Listen – 4:13)
Psalm 72 (Listen – 2:21)

This Weekend’s Readings
Ezekiel 25 (Listen – 2:50) Psalm 73 (Listen – 2:56)
Ezekiel 26 (Listen – 3:45) Psalm 74 (Listen – 2:34)

Additional Reading
Read More about Blind to Injustice, Deaf to Oppression
We were fascinated by the lure of prosperity and closed our eyes to injustice and our ears to the cries of the oppressed.

Read More about Praying Beyond Confession
In Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible Bonhoeffer shows that for each Psalm of confession there is another Psalm proclaiming righteousness.

Support our Work
Last month over 22,000 Park Forum email devotionals were read around the world. Support our readers with a monthly or a one time donation.

In Denial about Greed and Power

Ezekiel 23.4, 36-37
Oholah is Samaria, and Oholibah is Jerusalem…
The Lord said to me: “Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Then confront them with their detestable practices, for they have committed adultery and blood is on their hands.”

Reflection: In Denial about Greed and Power
By John Tillman

Today’s passages from Ezekiel are ones you’ll rarely, if ever, hear read out loud in church due to the flagrant sexual content.

It is some of the most lascivious-seeming writing of the Bible. Because of that, it is easy to forget that sex is not the topic. Our distraction (and discomfort) with sexual language and content in scripture can cause us to lose sight of the passages’ intended message.

Another example of popular teaching distorted by sexual content is the story of Onan and Tamar. Many ministers obsess over the reference to spilling of semen on the ground and use the passage to warn teenagers off of masturbation. However, what God actually finds to be evil is not Onan’s questionable family planning, but his intent to commit real estate fraud and double his inheritance by denying Tamar a son. Onan’s sin is greed—not lust.

In a similar manner, many have been taught from this passage in Ezekiel that the sexual acts described are sinful and offensive to God. It is true that God is concerned with sexual fidelity and condemns sexual sins. God also vehemently condemns sexual abuse and manipulation, which is metaphorically depicted as part of Israel’s slavery in Egypt.

But all the sexual acts described in this passage are metaphorical. This passage in Ezekiel isn’t about women, their sexual abuse, or their sexual desires. It’s about nations and their political desires.

God isn’t writing bad pornographic fanfiction like Fifty Shades of Grey, he’s condemning Israel’s lust for the power and wealth brought by political alliances.

It is the size of Egypt’s political and economic power God is analogizing when he refers to bizarrely sized body parts. It is the capabilities of Assyria and Babylon’s militaries that God is referring to in texts that sound like exaggerative, locker room style sexual jokes.

This offensive language is not an accident. Ezekiel’s purposely shocking parable is intended to connect the established shame of sexual sins to the sins Israel was unashamed of—greed and pursuit of power.

If there is anything that can still be shocking in today’s world, it is that we still don’t fully admit or understand the destructive nature of the sins of greed and power.

May we not flinch from the convicting vision of our naked lusts.
May we seek God’s grace and mercy, knowing what we deserve, letting go of what we lust for, and longing to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
My eyes are upon the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me… — Psalm 101.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 23 (Listen – 7:48)
Psalm 70-71 (Listen – 3:29)

Additional Reading
Read More about The Idol of Immorality, Impurity, and Greed
Paul reveals to us that what is truly at the root of sexual immorality, is exactly the same thing that is at the root of greed—selfishness. We worship this idol, by making an altar of our own bodies and sacrificing the bodies of others upon it.

Read More about In Denial in Exile
Israel was in denial about their exile. They thought they deserved to go back. They were God’s nation. They listened to false prophets of God, who taught that God would miraculously bless them with deliverance, wealth, and freedom. They confronted anyone who questioned this narrative as unpatriotic.

Support our Work
Last month over 22,000 Park Forum email devotionals were read around the world. Support our readers with a monthly or a one time donation.

Spur a spiritual rhythm of refreshment right in your inbox
By joining this email list you are giving us permission to send you devotional emails each weekday and to communicate occasionally regarding other aspects of the ministry.
100% Privacy. We don't spam.