By Bishop Steven Delzer
What devotional or prayer practices do you use to nurture your spirit? If you’d be interested in sharing, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. With a sense of humility let me share with you my devotional and prayer practices.
Morning works best for me. I usually get up around 5:00AM, a practice I began when my children were little. As I settle into my favorite chair in my favorite room (our sunroom) it almost feels like settling into the lap of God. For several years I have followed the practice of reading through the entire Bible over a two year period. I will admit that tend to skim over the genealogies and detailed descriptions of the tabernacle (and temple) and all of its accoutrements. But I love the stories in both the Old and New Testaments. One of the delightful things about this practice is that every time I read through the Bible again I see something new, or I see something in a new light. I guess that’s what makes it such a timeless book.
Prayer is the other part of my morning devotional time. I find it helpful to maintain a prayer list as a reminder to me of the people who have asked me to pray for them, and the people for whom I have said I will pray. The list also keeps before me the events, plans, concerns, etc. about which I want to pray. From time to time I like to add something new or different to my devotional time. For the past few months I have been using two little books that I have grown to appreciate and even love: The Quiet Eye—A Way of Looking at Pictures, by Sylvia Shaw Judson; and 99 Blessings—An Invitation to Life, by Brother David Steindl-Rast. The Quiet Eye is a collection of 33 pictures that cover a wide spectrum of both ancient and modern subjects and styles, accompanied by quotations from a variety of writers, poets, playwrights, and philosophers. You are invited to simply reflect on what you see and read. 99 Blessings is a “patchwork quilt of blessings (intended to) sharpen your taste for the gift of life in its innumerable facets.”
One of the delightful things about using these two little books together is that sometimes the picture, the quotation, and the blessing coincide in a beautiful way. Here is one example: on this particular day the picture in The Quiet Eye was the “Meeting of St. Anthony and St. Paul,” by the Italian painter Sassetta. St. Anthony and St. Paul are embracing. The quote is “May the Lord bless thee and keep thee,” from the Bible (Numbers 6:24). When looking at the picture it is hard to tell whether they are embracing as they say “Hello,” or as they say “Goodbye.” On this same day the blessing (#13) in 99 Blessings was this:
SOURCE OF ALL BLESSINGS,
you bless us with departures—
for they are a necessary part of our
journey, necessary for arriving.
May I be always ready to take
leave, always aware that every
arrival is a prelude to departure,
every birth a step toward dying,
and may I thus taste the blessing of
being fully present where I am.
As I sat that morning reflecting on the picture, the quote, and the blessing, I began to think about all of the arrivals and departures in my life, and the ways in which both the “hellos” and the “goodbyes” were often times filled with blessing. I also reflected on all of the times during my ministry that I have had the privilege of saying to others, “May the Lord bless thee and keep thee.” In whatever ways you practice your devotional and prayer life, “May the Lord bless thee and keep thee.”
Bishop Steven Delzer was elected to serve as Bishop of our Southeastern Minnesota Synod in June of 2013.