A new feature of Annual Convention 2017 was workshops. In total, 8 workshops were presented. Below is how one Lay Delegate experienced and responded to his experience in one of the workshops he attended. Look for more opportunities like this to be added to future conventions.
By. Dr. Eric Potter
At the diocesan convention, I attended the workshop, “Deepening Our Prayer Life through Meditation,” led by Rev. Steve Palmer. He began by reminding participants of the Old Testament emphasis on hearing the word of God, and reminded us that knowing God begins with listening to His revelation of Himself. That basic understanding led to the central idea of the workshop: meditating on Scripture can be a gateway to deeper prayer.
He developed that idea by offering several insights. First, prayer is responsive. As children of a Father, we respond to what God has said to us. Rather than seeing prayer as emptying our minds and asking God to show us things, Palmer suggested that we listen to Scripture (what God has already said to us) and answer back. Second, keeping God’s word central in our prayers can reassure us that we are responding to God and not just to thoughts in our own minds. Third, meditation follows the example of the psalmist who meditates on God’s law day and night. Palmer suggested a sequence of reading, meditating, and then responding to God in prayer. That middle stage of meditating “warms up our hearts,” making them flexible and supple. Fourth, meditation involves applying our life to the Bible and not vice versa. We should go to the Bible not to extract principles that we can plug into our life plans but in order to see ourselves in “light of God’s cosmic story.” And fifth, meditation works in an ordinary way with the possibility of the extraordinary. As with the ordinary eating and digesting by which our bodies are sustained and grow, so meditating on Scripture and praying are the ordinary means which sustain our spiritual life and growth. That said, at times we may experience amazing insights into the glory of God.
As a good workshop should, this one did not stop at teaching but provided opportunity to practice these principles. Taking Ephesians 2:7-10 as the focal text, Palmer first modeled understanding a verse through word-by-word meditation. Then he had participants form small groups and assigned a verse to each group, encouraging members to look at each word and discuss shades of meaning. After we shared insights from our meditation, he instructed us to apply our hearts to the word by answering three questions about the passage: what in it leads us to worship or give thanks to God, what leads us to confess a particular sin or sins, and what leads us to ask God for a need.
I left the seminar having been reminded of the way scripture emphasizes meditating on the word, challenged to let meditation warm up my heart for prayer, encouraged to approach prayer via meditation, and provided with an approach and a set of questions to help develop that practice.
About the author: Dr. Eric Potter was a Lay Delegate to Annual Convention, representing Grace Anglican Church in Grove City, PA He is also a Professor of English at Grove City College.