It is Wednesday morning, and with coffee in hand, I settle in on my sofa and open my devotional guide. I tend to shift between different devotional books, but this morning I have returned to one of my favourites, The Upper Room’s Disciplines. The reading for today is Psalm 30.
I still struggle with the Psalms; I love stories, so my heart seems to connect with Biblical history and the Gospels. I can easily get caught up in Luke’s re-telling of Jesus’ birth or the stories of the Biblical patriarchs, but give me a psalm, and I am lost. Poetry has just never been my thing. But a couple of years ago, I heard Tim Keller refer to the psalms as lessons in prayer, and I found myself challenged to start engaging more fully with the Psalms as a way of learning to pray.
I have found the Lectio Divina process of prayer helpful in engaging with the Psalms, and so this morning, I decide to use the four steps (Read, Meditate, Pray, Contemplate) to help me engage with Psalm 30.
Prepare – sit comfortably and take three or four deep breaths
I am one of those people whose feet don’t touch the floor while sitting on the sofa, so I curl my feet up on beside me and adjust the cushions so that I will be able to stay seated for the duration of my prayer time. I take a few deep long breaths to slow down my mind and help me focus as I begin to pray. When I notice myself becoming distracted, I will pay attention to my breathing again to help me pay attention to God’s presence with me.
Read – The First Reading - Read the passage slowly to become acquainted with it.
I find it helpful to hear and read the passage, so I set up the Dwell[i] app on my phone to play Psalm 30 through in the ESV version while I follow along in my Bible. This first time I am simply listening, not to study but to hear what draws my attention. I particularly notice this time the words “you have” in verses 1-3 & 11.
After the first reading, I sit quietly with the passage for three minutes. In my Bible, I underline the six occurrences of “you have,” this is one of David’s psalms, and I reflect on the reality that David sees that God is the one who has “healed him”, “brought him up,” and “turned his mourning into dancing”. I realise that so often, I act as though I am the one who must rescue me from the challenges of my life. I have been experiencing a lot of grief of late, and I wonder if part of my struggle; this past week has been that I have been looking to my own resources for a solution rather than to God.
Meditate – The Second Reading – Meditate on a Word or Phrase that captures your attention
At the end of the three minutes, the Psalm plays again and taking a deep breath, I listen and read. This time the words of verse 11 capture my attention “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing”. As the reading finished, I run the words through my brain; they are so familiar, yet I hear them anew specifically for me. Mourning into dancing is such an amazing contrast. Mourning fills my mind with images of darkness, sorrow, and tears. It feels so familiar these days. Dancing seems incongruous, why would I be dancing, dancing brings images of colours and joy, and these days I feel so little joy.
I feel a wave of grief roll over me, distracting me from the passage, and I take a couple of deep breaths. When I get distracted by emotions like this, I often pray a simple breath prayer to help me focus again. Today it is the words of Song of Solomon 2:16 (Inhale) “My Beloved is Mine” (Exhale) “and I am his.” I remember that I belong to the God of whom David writes and find that I can turn my focus back to Psalm 30. “Mourning into Dancing, what a wonderful promise!”
Pray – The Third Reading – Talk with God about what you have noticed during your time of meditation
As I read and listen to Psalm 30 for the third time, my mind is filled with the images of the darkness of mourning and the light of dancing. I turn my attention to putting those thoughts into words. I talk to God about how I long to move from the mourning of this last season to the joy and freedom of which David speaks. I confess that I often try to make that transition happen by myself. I did it just yesterday when I was feeling low, I tried to “treat” my way out of the sadness by indulging in a favourite food, but that failed as it always does because God alone is the one who can bring me from mourning to dancing.
Picking up my journal, I write down what I have learned and what I have been praying about and inspired by the verse, I create a Word art of the verse to go in my journal; the shift of colour from black to orange feels like the shift that David describes in the whole of the psalm.
Contemplate – Sitting with God.
As I finish my time talking with God, I put my pen down and take a couple of deep breaths seeking to focus my heart and mind on God. The time of contemplation is the hardest for me because it is not a task to complete but is simply a time of sitting with God and letting Him speak to me if he chooses to do so. Today I imagine myself curled up on the sofa with Jesus. When my mind starts to wander, I focus on my breathing again, praying the words of Ps 30 v 11 “you have turned for me my mourning into dancing.”
There are no words in this time, just a recognition of God’s presence with me and a quiet realisation that Jesus wants to turn my mourning into dancing.
Throughout the day, the words of Psalm 30 vs 11 come back to my mind, and I pray them again and imagine how God might do that work in my life, how might he turn my mourning into dancing, and what might he change in me to make that possible. The words of David’s psalm have now become part of my prayer life as I pray them for myself.
“Abba, please turn my mourning into dancing!”
The Dwell App allows you to read and or listen to scripture in 8 versions and multiple voices. You can play music in the background, and in dwell mode, you can have up to three minutes for meditation between repeats of the passage. You can find out more information at https://dwellapp.io