The Receptive Life

"We are beggars; this is true." (Martin Luther)

The Psalm 119 Prayer Cycle

In his preface to the Small Catechism, Martin Luther noted, bemoaned and wrote, with razor words and cutting clarity, the following observation about the state of his church and culture:

“The deplorable, miserable condition which I discovered lately when I, too, was a visitor, has forced and urged me to prepare [publish] this Catechism, or Christian doctrine, in this small, plain, simple form.

Mercy! Good God! what manifold misery I beheld! The common people, especially in the villages, have no knowledge whatever of Christian doctrine, and, alas! many pastors are altogether incapable and incompetent to teach [so much so, that one is ashamed to speak of it].

Nevertheless, all maintain that they are Christians, have been baptized and receive the [common] holy Sacraments. Yet they [do not understand and] cannot [even] recite either the Lord’s Prayer, or the Creed, or the Ten Commandments; they live like dumb brutes and irrational hogs; and yet, now that the Gospel has come, they have nicely learned to abuse all liberty like experts.”

It’s one thing to wring our hands and bemoan the spiritual state of our church and culture. It’s another to roll up our sleeves, get to work and offer it a tangible and tactile tool.

Luther bemoaned.

But then, he got busy. 

He created the Small Catechism, a little book of instruction through which lost and harassed sheep might receive all the gifts that only Jesus, the Good Shepherd, could give.

In the Small Catechism, Luther grouped the essentials of the Christian faith into six chief parts:  the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacrament of Baptism, the Office of the Keys, and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

Then, with short questions and answers, he explained each chief part. And he did it in a clear and simple way, so that the “head of the household” could teach about and deliver all of the gifts of Jesus to his family.

  • For an online version of the small catechism click here.

But Luther was more than a theologian. At the core, Luther was a pastor, a shepherd. The German word he used to describe himself was “seelsorge” (which means, “one who cares for and cures the soul”).

Luther was a spiritual doctor, a soul healer who …

  • used the Ten Commandments to diagnose the sin disease
  • offered the cure, the forgiveness of sins earned by Jesus, in the Sacraments and Confession
  • nursed the sick back to health with the comfort of the Creed
  • strengthened and protected them with the Lord’s Prayer
  • and then, sent them back into the world with a vocation, God’s agents of healing

Like Luther, I too am a Seelsorge. For almost 25 years I’ve been called to the care and cure of souls. And, like Luther, I’ve tried to develop practical tools that would take all of the divine gifts that only Jesus can give and deliver them to the human soul. 

And so, the material on this site is my modern day way of following Martin Luther’s pastoral lead. It’s my attempt to provide practical tools to help individuals intentionally and regularly get and give themselves to all of the places where God has promised to do his healing work. 

The primary tool I’ve developed is “the Psalm 119 Prayer Cycle”. The heart of the prayer cycle, as the name suggests, is Psalm 119 (one giant song, 176 verses, about the Word of God and the God of the Word).

It pulses with these three themes:  prayer, meditation on the Scriptures and the promise of grace in the midst of soul-struggle.

The Prayer Cycle gives focused thought to the following:

  • the spiritual rhythm of life (evening and morning prayer)
  • the person and work of Jesus Christ
  • the heartbeat and pulse of the receptive life
  • the continual call to live a life of repentance
  • the daily reading, meditation and memorization of Scripture
  • the Psalms (Life Happens/But the Lord is …)
  • the Ten Commandments (the way of Love)
  • the Creed (the nature and character of the Triune God)
  • the Lord’s Prayer (a guided intercession from Jesus)
  • the Forgiveness of Sins (Baptism, Confession, the Lord’s Supper)
  • and our God given and graced Vocations (the call of Jesus to follow)

Here’s what it looks like.

The Psalm 119 Prayer Cycle helps to diagnose the human condition. It prescribes the right medicine. It strengthens and soothes the soul.

And so, with that spirit, I offer it to you.

Admittedly, at first glance, The Psalm 119 Prayer Cycle may look overwhelming, intimidating, confusing, or, to put it bluntly – a scrambled mess. But on this site, I’ll do my best to guide you through the process with further posts. I’ll also try and offer a number of retreat options where we can talk through some of the specifics.

All the gifts that only Jesus can give to you,

Paul

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