by Pastor Michael Salemink
Lectio divina means “divine or heavenly reading.” This devotional practice has a long history among Christians. It involves not just scanning and understanding the words on Scripture’s pages but also contemplating and praying them. Lectio divina recalls the familiar petition that our Lord grant us to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” His Word. This draws us into a sacred conversation with our God who both speaks and listens. Martin Luther offered a unique adaptation of lectio divina to a dear friend when instructing how to “pray” the Small Catechism. He suggested taking each portion as a teaching, then as a thanksgiving, then as a confession, and then as a request. Our 2022 national conference and 2023 Life Sunday theme—Blessed For Life, from Psalm 41—offers an opportunity for us to engage the benefits of lectio divina.
Psalm 41:1a: Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
O Lord, Heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, You teach us that You remember, visit, and relieve us and our neighbors in our needs and sufferings. You draw near in Jesus Christ and invite us to receive others as gifts and privileges by sharing in their circumstances. For Jesus’ sake, accept our humble and hearty thanks that You involve us in community with Yourself and with each other, giving us occasion to belong to and serve persons other than ourselves. We confess that we have despised our poverties as opportunities for Your blessings and have disregarded those whose differences cause us discomfort. Pardon our iniquities and open our eyes to behold You encountering us through the least of these, especially in their hours of crisis and moments of vulnerability; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Psalm 41:1b-3: In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him; the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies. The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health.
Mighty Deliverer, You teach us that Your relentless grace and gentle mercy protect and provide for even the weakest among us in every danger and adversity from fertilization to forever. Let us thank and praise Your name for so honoring us in the sight of all the forces and agents of evil, especially as You have granted healing from every injury and illness. Forgive us for doubting and despairing of Your power to save and sustain and for reckoning disease or affliction as indication of displeasure on Your part. Lead us to seek health and not death, caring and not killing, for our neighbors’ ailments and our own, with sure trust in Your authority over all our days; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Psalm 41:4: As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!”
Holy Father, You teach us that our common human condition of sinfulness causes all pain and dying, and if not for Your patience and grace, we would perish entirely and eternally. Thank You for Your Son’s atoning sacrifice that imparts Your forgiveness to not only rescue us from everlasting damnation but also to spare us every temporal calamity that we deserve. We acknowledge our transgression in not reflecting and extending the same grace and compassion to the precious lives around us, even though our Savior has reconciled every member of our race. Grant Your Son’s resurrection and redemption to restore wholeness and dignity to us and all whom sin has deprived; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Psalm 41:5-8: My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die, and his name perish?” And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad. All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me. They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies.”
Gracious God, You teach us that death represents the enemy of life, survival, identity, and immortality, and it operates as instrument of the evil one in hardening hearts against Your Gospel. We gratefully celebrate how You continue to befriend and defend those considered disposable by the culture. We also admit our guilt in seeing and treating neighbors of differing ideologies as enemies and wishing or working evil toward them. Inspire us to advocate on behalf of the hearts and lives endangered by abortion, embryocidal experimentation, assisted suicide, and other mindsets and measures that threaten Your dear ones; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Psalm 41:9-10: Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. But you, O Lord, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them!
Dear Jesus, You teach us that Your incarnation as an embryo among us has made our sorrows, sicknesses, and other sufferings Your own. Thanks to You undergoing betrayal, abandonment, crucifixion, punishment, and persecution, we never face these anxieties hopeless or alone. Forgive us for having turned our backs on Your Gospel promises and underserved persons because we fear the difficulties they come with. Preserve us during the agony of interpersonal conflicts that arise from speaking Your truth and showing Your love, that we remember and rely on Your comforting presence and keep reaching neighbors whom the world isolates, for Your name’s sake.
Psalm 41:11-12: By this I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me. But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever.
Almighty Maker, You create, redeem, and call us and each human life for Your own delight and to dwell in Your presence forever. Thank You for the everlasting assurance that You have subdued our enemies for us and will not permit sin and death to have authority over us. We confess that our integrity and faithfulness wavers because of our selfish hearts and the weakness of our nature, and we regularly give in to and even ally ourselves with pursuits that we ought to avoid. Let us know Your great delight in snatching lives from the jaws of death and upholding them by Your hand; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Psalm 41:13: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and amen.
Blessed Lord God, You teach us that the days and destinies of every living thing come and go at Your good pleasure and under Your watchful eye. Thank You for establishing Your Word and Your will as never-ending, effective, and trustworthy. We confess that we have sought stability in the things of men and the ways of this world rather than assenting to Your voice. Bid us rejoice and delight with those around us as brothers and sisters in all the blessings You promise and provide to those who trust the grace and name of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.