Let the words of my mouth
and the meditations of my heart
be pleasing to you,
Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
You may have heard me use a variation on these words when I pray before preaching. No matter the opening thought, I always end what is called the “Prayer of Illumination” with a take on this verse. I never heard it used that way until seminary, and it really spoke to me the first time a preacher got up at that tall center pulpit in the seminary chapel and prayed these words before they began preaching – I had never seen anyone do that! It’s just another example of something I had never heard of, assumed Methodists don’t do that but later found out that it’s just my family members who do not typically use this practice. That’s why I didn’t know about it!
I pray before I begin writing my sermon, I pray before worship, why wouldn’t I pray before proclaiming the Word? So, I began using prayers of illumination, particularly using this phrasing. You don’t have to say these words, there is other scripture to pull from or it can come from the heart. The idea, though, is to invite the Spirit not just in the writing of the sermon, but in the sharing of the sermon. It is pretty common for people to get something out of a sermon that I didn’t think I gave. The Spirit works, no matter how the preaching goes. Thank goodness!
I love the idea, as offered in the Psalmist words, that we all are trying, in our own unique ways, to center our hearts and minds around God.
by Rachel Callender
For Pondering & Prayer
How do you prepare to hear God’s word, either through reading the bible or participating in worship? Are there traditions or practices you have to include God in on those moments?
Prayer: Holy Lord, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be pleasing to You, Lord, now and forever. Amen.