Prayer allows us to see one another the way God our Father sees us, and to realize that we are brothers and sisters.Pope Francis
Sunday, July 9, 2023
The readings for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time encourage us to praise God for all of the blessings in our lives. The first reading (Zechariah 9:9-10) is a song of praise for the coming Kingdom of God. The psalm (Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14) shouts out “I will praise your name forever, my king and my God”. The second reading (Romans 8:9, 11-13) tells us to live by the Spirit, for the Spirit will bring life to our mortal bodies through Christ Jesus. And in the gospel (Matthew 11:25-30) Jesus praises the Father and then invites us to follow him, for he helps us when we are stressed and overwhelmed.
So prayer, especially praise, relationship with Jesus, and letting go of our burdens are all possible themes for this weekend’s readings. Here are some ideas:
We are created with a longing for God. Prayer is a way to connect with God. Even though Jesus is not with us in human form, we can speak to Him every day. Below you can find ideas, games, and activities related to this Sunday’s readings for your youth ministry, classroom, or family church.
Lectio Divina means “divine reading”. It is a prayer practice which trusts that God speaks to us through scripture. This is a practice I started doing regularly a few years ago. I use the book Sacred Space to guide me through my daily Lectio Divina. It provides a reading (based on the gospel of the day) and some elements which make it easier for me to keep up with this practice every day. I also like to use a note-taking Bible to write down a few of my thoughts. But all you really need is a regular Bible.
Lectio Divina is very flexible and allows room for the Holy Spirit to guide us. I do it as an individual. But it could also be done as a family prayer with children or as a prayer in a youth group. The steps are basic, but don’t feel like you are doing it “wrong” if you adapt it to the needs of your family or youth ministry. The important part is to hear God speaking through scripture.
How to Pray with Bible Readings
Opening: The first step in Lectio Divina is to place yourself in God’s presence. Slow down your breathing and just be open to the voice of God speaking through the scripture. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you.
Lectio: Next, read the scripture passage. I always just read the first time for content. Then I read it again, more slowly. I notice if any word or phrase stands out. Or maybe an idea or picture comes into my mind. I write these in my journal. (Journaling is not absolutely necessary, but I find it very helpful. In a family or youth group setting, you can also just have everyone keep one phrase or word in their thoughts.)
Meditatio: Think about the word or phrase which stood out. Just let it go where it will. I used to think that some of the things I thought were distractions, but I have found that this is often not the case. Lectio Divina, like a sport or a talent, takes some time to develop. You can’t expect to pick up a basketball and be an NBA player. It takes time and practice. Lectio Divina is the same way.
Oratio: In this step, I listen to God. Is there something going on in my life which makes this significant right now? What emotions does it stir up? Are they positive emotions, which make me feel free? Or negative emotions which make me feel unfree? God is speaking to me through these feelings I have. What is God asking me to do? What is making me feel separated from God? What is making me feel closer?
Contemplatio: Go deeper. Is God calling me to change something? To be patient? To action in my community? to forgive someone? To ask for forgiveness? If I feel called to it, I make a commitment to take a concrete action.
Closing: I usually close with a prayer of gratitude or a traditional prayer (Our Father,Glory Be, Hail Mary). Or sometimes I feel like I just need to make the sign of the cross.
Through prayer we can enter into a stable relationship with God, the source of true joy.Pope Francis
Prayer is an expression of our need to respond to God’s love, which always precedes and sustains us. Christians pray in the knowledge that, although unworthy, we are still loved.Pope Francis