Monday, February 19, 2007


I need to begin this post in utter honesty. My prayer practice is nothing to be emulated or admired. It is herky-jerky, characterized by fits and starts, and altogether a thing of momentary enthusiasms and chasms of desperate need. Still, once in a while something comes along that helps me to make it more what I hope it to be... an authentic opening of myself to God's presence, already there, I know, I know. The Book of Common Worship Daily Prayer book was one of these resources. So was Companions in Christ, the 30-week Cokesbury curriculum for spiritual formation that I worked through with three wonderful women in my first interim call. And the lovely Prayer Book for Remembering the Women (by Mary Louise Bringle and J. Frank Henderson, who has done really important work suggesting adjustments to the lectionary so that women might reclaim their place in the salvation story). I am always on the lookout for new resources, in hopes that my herky-jerky practice might find itself on a more even keel. (I know.)

In a post not too long ago the Velveteen Rabbi turned me on to this book, Opening to You: Zen-Inspired Translations of the Psalms by Norman Fischer. Steeped in both Jewish tradition and Zen practice, Fischer re-interprets 93 of the 150 psalms contained in the psalter. I have not read all of them... I have been using it along with daily prayer, so I have explored them one at a time.

Here is Psalm 5, one of today's morning psalms:

Incline your ear towards me
Listen to my piercing cry as I pray
At daybreak hear my voice
When I order my words toward you
And wait

For you do not take pleasure in the crooked
The heedless can never reach your courts
The arrogant fall away when you look at them
The wicked are distasteful to you
Liars you cut off
The violent ones, the deceivers, you cast away

But as for me--
Bathed in your encircling kindness I enter your house
Bow myself down before your presence
In awe and wonder

Lead me into rightness against the force of my envy
Straighten me
For their mouths know not a single sincere word
Inside they are full of deception
Their throats are graves
Their tongues slides
Cast them out of me
Let them fall by their own weight all the way down
For they are your counterforce

Then all who put their trust in you will rejoice
Will shout out their joy in your protection
Will exalt in you all you love your unsayableness
For your bless the faithful
Circling them round like a shield

When I approach this psalm in a lectio divina frame of mind, I am stopped by the words "Bathed in your encircling kindness..." I want to remain with that image, the warmth and intimacy of it. Fischer is redeeming for me some psalms that have left me cold, and even psalms I already love, such as 145 (the other morning psalm, every Monday), are breathing freshly in me. Lines like this are making my heart skip a beat:

I will stop
And consider
Your burning beauty
Your wondrous deeds
I will stop and speak
Of your awesome acts
I will stop and remember
Your greatness

And that wonderful newly coined word, "unsayableness." Your unsayableness... I want to pray it over and over.

Lotus blossom courtesy of Toshio at Flickr.

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