Spiritual Formation daily prayer connects to the breath of God within us — and in Creation
by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — At the beginning of the recent Theology, Formation & Evangelism ministry cohort on spiritual practices, the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell began a presentation on daily prayer in a curious way.
“This might seem unusual” he said, “but I want to think about daily prayer as joining the prayer of all God’s Creation.”
Before asking the spiritual formation cohort to share examples of when they prayed with all of God’s Creation, Gambrell, Associate for Worship in the Office of Theology & Worship, went through a litany of verses that teach about daily prayer and praying with all of Creation:
- Psalm 19 says the heavens tell of the glory of God, of days pouring forth God’s praise, and nights declaring God’s wisdom.
- Psalm 104 connects this with the creatures of the Earth, which manifest how the many and diverse works of God are made in wisdom, with God giving them what they need each day to thrive on the planet.
- Isaiah 55 describes a prayerful pattern of rain and snow coming down from heaven to water the Earth and then returning, just like God’s word which comes to us and then goes back to God. The prophet says, “You shall go out in joy and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all of the trees of field shall clap their hands.”
“So, when we are in daily prayer, we are singing with the mountains and hills — and clapping our hands with the trees in the field,” Gambrell said.
Gambrell believes that daily prayer is also connected to one of the most important commandments in Hebrew scripture, which is known as the Shema in Jewish tradition:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
Gambrell noted that when asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus added “loving our neighbor as ourselves” to the Shema, which comes from Leviticus 19:18.
“Loving God and loving neighbor, with everything that we are, I think is what it means to live out the practice of daily prayer in our lives,” Gambrell said.
For Gambrell, there is also a baptismal rhythm to our daily prayer. According to Romans 6:1-11, the journey of faith begins in the waters of our baptism, where we become dead to sin and alive in Christ.
“Symbolically we share in the death and resurrection of Jesus,” he said. “This allows us to say ‘yes’ to God’s invitation and ‘no’ to make room for the practice of prayer — which can also be thought of as the life of the Spirit within us.”
For Gambrell, the practices of prayer are the Spirit working in us and through us, filling our world so that we can join in the song of Creation, as Psalm 150 says, “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!”
The fact that this is the last verse of the 150 psalms is meaningful and important to Gambrell.
“For just as Genesis starts with breath of God moving into the waters,” he says, “the psalms end with an invitation for everything that breathes to praise the Lord.”
With that, Gambrell asked, “Are there ways you have learned to pray with Creation?”
During the conversation, Donna Phillips, a recent graduate of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, shared her experience in the brief clip below:
Using the Book of Common Worship to guide cohorts through an evening prayer service, Gambrell encouraged participants by reminding them, “There is no wrong way to pray.”
“The practices of prayer should be life-giving, not life-draining,” he said. “What are some helpful or unhelpful messages you have received about the practice of payer? What are some of the daily practices that sustain you?
“Let the practice of prayer engage your senses,” he said. “Let it be authentic and natural for you.”
You can join the spiritual cohort group anytime, including 6 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, Feb. 22, to continue to explore experiences with daily prayer and participate in a second service of evening prayer. Register here.
Here are the descriptions, applications and registration for all of the Ministry Leader Formation Cohorts that Theology, Formation & Evangelism is piloting.
The PC(USA) has a Daily Prayer App. Used extensively at the 146th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the app was launched in 2012 and received an upgrade in 2020.
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Categories: Evangelism & Discipleship, Faith & Worship
Tags: Book of Common Worship, cohort on spiritual practices, daily prayer app, deut. 6:4-5, donna phillips, isaiah 55, lev. 19:18, louisville presbyterian theological seminary, office of theology & worship, presbyterian church in canada, psalm 104, psalm 19, rev. dr. david gambrell, romans 6:1-11, the shema, theology formation & evangelism
Tags: breath of god, daily, daily prayer, daily prayer as joining, david gambrell, formation evangelism, gambrell, gambrell encouraged, god, god's creation, practice of prayer, practices of prayer, praise the lord, prayer, prayer as joining, prayer of all god's creation, spiritual formation, spiritual practices, theology formation, theology formation evangelism
Ministries: Theology, Formation & Evangelism, Theology and Worship