A prayer practice I have incorporated after attending the “school of prayer” retreat at Conception Abbey this summer is praying with the psalms. During one of the retreat conferences, Dr. Tom Neal, the retreat leader, offered some guidance for entering more into the Psalms. Here are his seven suggestions:
- Imagine what the author of the psalm was thinking when he wrote them. Enter into that psalmist’s world.
- Pray with the Jews. Jews pray from the guts. I, too, can pray from the guts — cry out, plead, and rejoice.
- Pray with the Lord Jesus, who was a Jew.
- Pray as fulfillment of His covenant. We know how the story ends. They didn’t.
- Pray with the Church. We are the means in which God blesses the world. All the baptized have power, authority, and obligation to bless the world.
- Pray the Psalms for all humanity. If you don’t feel it, someone else is.
- Memorize as much as you can, and pray them throughout the day.
After we walked through these seven tips, Tom instructed us to choose a psalm and pray with it for the next two hours. In silence. No digital distractions. Walk the Abbey grounds, go to Adoration, find your peaceful place. But no talking to your spouse (or others) and absolutely no tech devices.
Aaah. What a gift to be presented with an opportunity to pray in silence for TWO hours! Neosporin for my aching soul. A few different psalms rolled around in my mind. What should I pray? Psalm 23, Psalm 114, Psalm 118? I really wasn’t being pulled strongly to one.
Before I could dart out the classroom, I was stopped by the retreat organizer. After our two-hour silent prayer time, we were to head to the oratory for Mass. The retreat organizer asked a fellow deacon’s wife (Connie) and me if we would like to prepare and lead music for Mass. Of course. Of course. It’s always an honor and privilege to take part through music.Â Frankly, I would have been irritated had he not asked me to share my gift of music. But I still found myself, well, irritated. Finally, an opportunity to pray in silence and here I am back into Martha mode frantically searching for music resources for the upcoming Mass.
Now for the beautiful, Divine part.
The responsorial psalm for that day was from Psalm 145: The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs. That one wasn’t on my radar at all. But as I prepared the music, I realized this was the psalm our Lord wanted me to pray. Connie and I planned and prepared the music in under thirty minutes, leaving us plenty of time to enter into our silent prayer time. I set out to walk the Abbey grounds and pray with Psalm 145.
Four kids, three in Catholic schools with one more entering in due time, one income family, moving into a home that has been a bona fide money pit, Joel needs a new truck … these were just some of the stressors on my heart when I walked into that retreat this past July. And the Lord sends me His word: I will feed you, Lisa. I will answer all your need.
I prayed from the guts with Psalm 145 for the rest of that silent reflection time. It was healing and powerful. I participated in the sacrament of Reconciliation. I turned it all back to God in the form of praise, blessing, and thanksgiving. Yes, Lord! You indeed feed us and answer all our needs.
Now two months later, I was approached about a full-time job opportunity. I prayed about it because it came out of nowhere, as if God was “feeding me” through this professional opportunity and all its benefits. Lots to ponder as taking the job would requireÂ all day childcare for our youngest plus after-school care for our older three. It would add a great deal of stress to the heartbeat of our family. But the salary, of course, would provide a financial cushion for the years ahead.
I wasn’t feeling consolation with this particular opportunity, but still decided to interview, explore, and continue discerning. The morning of the interview, the words of Psalm 145 were on my lips and seemingly out of nowhere I began singing,Â The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
I knew then and there I wasn’t being called back into the workforce. It was a reminder from our Lord, I will feed you, Lisa. I will answer all your needs.Â There, in His word, I found consolation. He has other plans for me. He will take care of me and provide for my needs. Not my wants, but my needs.
Pray with the Psalms. Pray from your guts. Memorize them. Pray them throughout the day. His word will rest upon your lips in time of need.