Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Spiritual Formation and Psalm 23

At the heart of my Spiritual Formation class at Payne Theological Seminary this week are the daily one-hour prayer times I assign to the students.

This morning I'll pass out this handout which uses Psalm 23 as the focus of one's meditation. Here it is, with a few additional comments I'll make in bold print. Why not print it out and pray this with me and my students this week?


Dr. John Piippo

1. The purpose of this exercise is to enter into the presence of God for the sake of deepening your relationship with God alone. My assumption is that you need God. You need to spend much time in God’s presence. And that time is to be spent in a certain way.

2. Find a “lonely place apart.” When you get to that place, spend one hour with God. [I strongly encourage praying away from your office and home. There are too many possible distractions there. Find a "lonely" place with the least distractions, so you can focus of God.]

3. Take with you only Psalm 23 and your journal. You may also take a Bible with you. But I want you to use Psalm 23 as your focus of meditation.

4. Leave any cell phones, computers, books, palm pilots, shopping lists, and xerox machines behind. They will be waiting for you when you return from this time. [You do not need these things as much as you think you do. And, people do not need you as much as you think they do. God wants to free you from the illusion of your indispensibility. And note: God wants to de-morph your incessantly linking brain. Real meditation on the things of God is impossible for the tweeting mind. See, e.g., here. Blessed are the mono-taskers, for they shall see God.]

5. Use Psalm 23 for meditation. [I have used Ps. 23 in my Spiritual Formation classes for 30 years. A main reason is: it is familiar, and you won't struggle with it. This allows the text to struggle with you. And as that happens you have entered the world of Hebraic hermeneutics. This experience is the Word of God, living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing every part of you. Assume that God. through the text, knows you. Here the text interprets you. Thus, point 6 below.]

6. Your purpose is not to exegete Psalm 23, but to be yourself exegeted by the Holy Spirit.

7. When God speaks to you, write it down in your spiritual journal. A spiritual journal is a record of the voice of God to you.

8. If your mind wanders, you may wish to write down where it wanders to. Your wandering mind is a barometer of your true spiritual condition. Your mind will never wander arbitrarily, but always to something like a burden or a hope.

9. When the hour is over, return to our class.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me

all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.