Friday, October 18, 2013

Lectio & Labyrinth: A Parable about Patience and Persistence in Prayers for Justice

This week we weave together the ancient spiritual practices of Lectio Divina with walking the Labyrinth as we pray with Luke 8:1-8.  Do you have easy access to a Labyrinth that you could walk?   If not, you can take this Link to a finger Labyrinth that you can download and print: PDF File/Labyrinth.  If you prefer, I'll give you a link below to an online labyrinth within your experience of Lectio.  

Thus says the LORD:
Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls. 
Jeremiah 6:16ab

Both Lectio Divina and Walking the Labyrinth are ancient spiritual pathways to God.  Lectio Divina is a Latin phrase that means "sacred reading." It is a way of praying and listening for the still, small voice of God speaking through gentle reading of scripture.  Lectio Divina has also been known as "listening with the ear of the heart."    Beginning in the middle ages, Christianity adopted the Labyrinth as a symbol, changing the design to permeate it with specifically Christian meaning. For almost a thousand years there has been an identifiable Christian labyrinth tradition.
Celtic Triple Spiral Labyrinth at Grunewald Guild in Plain, Washington Photo by Cindy Serio
Today’s passage is often called the “Parable of the Unjust Judge.”  And yet, in the first verse we are told that the parable is about the disciple’s fading faith, their “need to pray always and not to lose heart.”  We might read into this that his followers were not praying and perhaps were in danger of “losing heart” because their prayers were not being “answered.” I can relate to that, can you?  The disciples were not a lot different from people today who wonder why their $5 worth of prayers are not bringing them their $5 worth of rewards. 

Perhaps we ask, just as they were, “why is God not answering my prayer?”  To this question Jesus tells an almost puzzling parable.  

In her book, The Parables for Today, Alyse M. McKenzie tells us, “Parables are short narrative fictions that seek to make us evaluate our lives.  While we think we are interpreting them, they are actually interpreting us!”  

So … dear reader, how is your prayer life?   

And now, here is a 1-line interpretation of this parable by an elderly black minister that Fred B. Craddock relates in his book Interpretation: Luke.   “Until you have stood for years knocking at a locked door, your knuckles bleeding, you do not really know what prayer is.”  

So … dear readers, what is the state of your knuckles?

So often we think there is something wrong with our prayers or with us when we pray fervently and do not get the answer we want or … we pray and nothing changes. Our life stays the same.  But ... Do we stay the same?  Do we allow God to change our heart so that we are in tune with the heartbeat of God in our situation?   What is God telling us about our own spiritual life and prayers through this parable that Jesus shares with the disciples whose faith seems to be fading away?   What does this parable tell us about God?   
Please note that in this parable God is NOT the unjust judge. Although, God does work through the unjust judge to grant justice to the widow, a marginalized woman in a dangerous time to be alone. 

God is the One who grants justice!  Let us meet God in our Prayers!

Settle into a place of loving openness within yourself with a simple Breath Prayer.  Use this one or allow one to emerge as you breathe in and breathe out.  (I have found that six to eight syllables is best for breathing but a longer prayer often speaks what we need to hear for ourselves … simply be authentic with your breath prayer)

Breathe in ... God of Justice (Your Name for God)
Breath out ... Hear My Heart’s Cry (Name Your Desire)

Pray: God of Justice, I cry out to you day and night and never stop pleading with you.  Give me patience, fill me with persistence as you change my heart to accept your desire for my prayers of justice for the world and for the way I am called to embody those prayers in my daily life.  In the name of Jesus Christ, the One who brings Justice to the World.  Amen.

Read Luke 18:1-8.  Engage in Lectio Divina, Praying with Scripture.  Allow yourself to be drawn deeply into God’s Presence as you read and pray and listen for the whispers of God.   Allow yourself to notice how you would feel if you were the widow crying out for justice.  Is there anyone that you know who may be in this situation and whose seems to be “losing heart?”  As you read and pray and walk with this passage move in prayer and solidarity with that person.   Perhaps that person is you …

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.  He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.  In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, 'Grant me justice against my opponent.'  For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, 'Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'"  And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?  I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
Read this passage again slowly.  Consider where God is calling your attention.   Reflect on just a word or phrase.  Spend time with your word or phrase and listen to the whispers of God through the words that have drawn you into the text ... Listen!    Take a walk on the Labyrinth or spend some time outside in nature.   Find a place to sit quietly.  Let the Spirit of God guide you.  

Turn your word or phrase or image over in your mind. Let God speak into your heart as you listen.  Take time to "Release" anything that emerges that you need to let go of in order to move on in your prayers.

As you pause at the center of the Labyrinth, take time to "Receive" and welcome God's word for you. Consider these questions or others that may arise in your time of pause:  Where is God speaking into my life through my word or phrase?  How is my prayer life touched by my word or phrase?

Before you begin your journey anew from the center, slowly Read the passage again.   Turn your attention to your word or phrase.  Know that it is ok if you are being drawn in a different direction on this reading!   

Consider how you will "Respond" to what you have heard from God …

As you walk or move out of the center along the same labyrinth path you took in, know that you are gaining strength for your continuing journey of life.  Who is God calling me to pray for or to reach out to through this passage?  How is God calling me to change?

As you reach the end of the Labyrinth pathway, it is time to Rest in the silence of God's Presence.  Allow God to draw you deeper into the shining light of the Holy Presence and into the prayerful sense of God’s Spirit, ever holding you and loving you.  Let all the words fade away and stay in this lovely place as long as you can.

Simply BE with the God who always hears your prayers.

Be aware that you may find a desire to express what you have received.  This is a wonderful time to journal, to write about your experience, thoughts, feelings, and insights.   Some persons find that God’s voice is clarified through the writing process.

Prayer:  O God of my Heart, I know you hear my prayers but sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.  Help me to be patient and to simply continue praying even when life doesn’t make sense.   Help me hear your gentle whispers in my heart as I pray and change me.  Help me to notice and pay attention to those places in life where I can not only pray for justice but can work for justice too!   In the name of Jesus Christ the Justice-Bringer, Amen.

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