Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
Convinced that prayer is at the heart of following Jesus, I am always searching about for help with my praying. I read eagerly and eclectically from Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox writers who pursue a life of prayer. I found Martin Luther’s A Simple Way to Pray to be helpful, and so I passed on the gist of it in last week’s eVotional. Many people have told me that they find Luther’s words helpful in their praying.
Today I want to pass onto you more helpful thoughts about prayer that come from Francis de Sales (1567-1622) in his spiritual classic Introduction to the Devout Life. Francis lived just a generation after Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564) and was widely respected for his down-to-earth spirituality. He was a Roman Catholic bishop of a small diocese around Geneva, Switzerland, and a spiritual counselor to a wide variety of people who were interested in living out their faith in their daily lives.
Francis opens his Introduction to the Devout Life expressing concern that “Almost all those who have hitherto written about devotion have been concerned with instructing persons wholly withdrawn from the world.” Just like Luther wanted to teach his barber about a life of prayer, so Francis wanted “to instruct those who live in town, within families, or at court, and by their state of life are obliged to live an ordinary life.”
Among Francis’ many practical teachings on prayer my ‘take away’ is always his instruction “to gather a spiritual bouquet” as we pray:
People who have been walking about in a beautiful garden do not like to leave without gathering in their hands four or five flowers to smell and keep for the rest of the day. In the same way, when our soul has carefully considered by meditation a certain mystery, we should select one, two, or three points that we liked best and that are most adapted to our improvement, think frequently about them, and smell them spiritually during the rest of the day.
Francis further instructs on gathering a ‘spiritual bouquet’:
At the end of your meditation linger a while, and gather, so to say, a little spiritual bouquet from the thoughts you have dwelt upon, the sweet perfume whereof may refresh you through the day.
I find Francis’ instruction helpful when, at the end of my prayer, I think back over my time with God searching for ‘spiritual flowers’ that I want to take with me into the day. A ‘spiritual flower’ might have been something I sensed God’s Spirit impressing upon me as I prayed. It might have been a realization of need or a nudge to take action. Perhaps the ‘spiritual flower’ was God’s still small voice of reassurance. I gather it all up into my ‘spiritual bouquet’ to carry with me as I go.
Like you, I deal with large quantities of information and instant communication, and the ‘spiritual bouquet’ helps me practice God’s presence and apply His wisdom throughout the day. Then just before I go to sleep at night, I like to complete the day by presenting my “spiritual bouquet” to Abba Father.
How about gathering up your ‘spiritual bouquet’ for today! Here’s how to do it:
- Place yourself in God’s presence.
- Ask God to speak to you.
- Prayerfully meditate on today’s Scripture text: Psalm 1:1-3 [at top of page] [Keep in mind that the word “law” in today’s text is a translation of the Hebrew word torah. The word torah signifies a “finger pointing” the direction to go. In this case, God’s torah is pointing the way to life]
- As you complete your prayerful meditation gather up those ‘spiritual flowers’ you want to take with you into the day.
Grace and peace,
photo by Filip Maljkovi?