When did you last stand in the middle of a circle? If you’ve ever faced a challenging medical diagnosis, then you may know the power of people circling around you, placing hands on your shoulders, arms, or back before someone anoints your forehead with oil and prays for healing.
Or perhaps you know the pain that can come when you’re in the middle of a circle. Some of us can recall moments on the playground when a group of children gathered around us and proceeded to call us derogatory names. Bullies used the circle as a tool to ensure that we could not escape without hearing their hurtful words.
Police encircle crime suspects. Family members circle around runaway pets that have been found. We circle around things that we don’t want to get away.
But have you ever imagined your prayers forming a circle around God? How can we repeat our words of praise and petition in such a way that God feels our eyes fixed upon God and understands that we refuse to let go until God responds?
The psalmist teaches us to pray in such a way. He fixes his eyes on God, addresses God, affirms his trust in God, and then repeats the same request three times. The psalmist refuses to remove his gaze until God has not only heard his cries for mercy but actually has mercy on him and the gathered community.
“Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us.”
We are tempted to believe that prayer is a language that requires an impressive repertoire of words. But what if prayer is as simple as following the psalmist’s pattern of repeating words over and over again?
Can you circle God with these words?
Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen.
In the book of Judges, we find a woman confidently leading a patriarchal nation as though it were an everyday occurrence. The psalm reminds us that the need for mercy reduces each and every one to a posture of outstretched hands and upturned eyes. To sing such a song on the way to worship, as was traditionally done, is to prepare the mind and heart for the possibility of whatever blessing may be given upon arrival. In First Thessalonians we overhear an apostle’s exhortation to live openly and expectantly regarding God’s future revelation—alert to the coming of Christ but also aware that Christ may come in sudden and unanticipated ways. Finally, a parable in Matthew runs counter to our instincts to safeguard that which we treasure, challenging us to consider the ways in which faithfulness involves a strange coupling of risk and reward.
• Read Judges 4:1-7. Reread the last paragraph of Monday’s meditation and reflect on the writer’s two questions.
• Read Psalm 123. How do you address God? Is God more “enthroned above” for you, or “right here in [your] midst”?
• Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. The writer states, “We stay awake each time we practice acts of love and mercy.” When have you felt divinely awakened by an act of love?
• Read Matthew 25:14-30. Identify ways you take risks in your life presently. Do any of these risks relate to living out your faith?
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