Acts 8:26-40 Do you understand what you are reading?

ACTS 8:26-40

26Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
33  In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”
34The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” [37And Phillip said,“If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] 38He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

  • Light a candle to remember Christ’s presence with you.
  • Sit five to fifteen minutes in silence paying attention to the deep breath.
  • Who has proclaimed to you the good news about Jesus?
  • How have the scriptures been opened for you?
  • What study has been most meaningful for you?
  • What led to your baptism in Christ?
  • Did anything prevent you from being baptized?
  • As you search your heart today, what is preventing you from living your baptism fully?
  • The Living Water is present.
  • What do you need to repent to turn back fully to Christ?
  • Feel the cleansing of the water as you let go of anything keeping you from Christ.
  • Savor this moment of peace.
  • As you go about your day living your baptism as fully a possible, tap into this place of peace and love.
  • What is God’s message for you?
  • Give thanks to God for this time in prayer and for any new insights you have received.
  • Share as you feel led in the reply box below.

Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, May 6, 2012, the Fifth Sunday of Easter Year B

Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 22:25-31
1 John 4:7-21
John 15:1-8

If you use these prayers in other groups, please give credit to author. Permission to use in not-for-profit settings The Rev. Lil Smith, M.Div., DASD.

Journaling with the Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd always walks in front
Gently leading the way,
Never behind driving or pushing,
But lovingly guiding each day;
And when a sheep wanders away
From the security of this place,
The Shepherd corrects the wayward one
In love, mercy, and grace.
He protects from harm and fear
All that follow His lead,
His rod and staff guard and comfort,
And His hand meets every need;
He provides beautiful green pastures –
Rest for the weary and weak,
Revival, strength and vigor…
Peace and joy to reap.
He sets a table in the wilderness
With manna from on high,
And leads beside the still waters
That refresh and satisfy.
Oh, what love and tender care,
Such blessings God bestows
Upon the sheep that closely follow
The way The Shepherd goes.

by Connie C Bratcher

Jesus said: “I am the good Shepherd, and know my sheep,
and am known of mine.”
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”
(John 10:14, 27)

  • Light a candle to remember Christ’s presence with you.
  • Sit five to fifteen minutes in silent meditation paying attention to the deep breath.
  • Today I invite you to journal with the Good Shepherd.
  • Journaling in prayer is an art that allows you to pray in a new way with your body.  It allows a stream of consciousness and prayer to be captured in your writing.
  • Use the photo or the poem to begin your prayer with the Good Shepherd.
  • Consider some of the following questions, or ask your own.
  • As you write, do not pick up the pen.  Allow the words to flow with no respect to grammar or spelling.  Allow yourself to be fully present to God in writing.
  • Come Holy Spirit, come.
  • Remember an experience when you know the Good Shepherd was leading you beside still waters.
  • What tempted you to leave the stillness?
  • How did the Good Shepherd protect you?
  • How did the Good Shepherd heal you?
  • How did the Good Shepherd feed you?
  • How did you respond to the Good Shepherd?
  • How do you need the Good Shepherd to lead you today?
  • As you finish your written thoughts and prayers, read back over them.
  • What theme or focus captures you?
  • What is God’s message for you?
  • Give thanks to God for the Good Shepherd, for this time in prayer and for any new insights you have received.
  • Share as you feel led in the reply box below.

Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, April 29, 2012, the Fourth Sunday of Easter Year B

Acts 4:5-12
Psalm 23:1-6
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18

If you use these prayers in other groups, please give credit to author. Permission to use in not-for-profit settings The Rev. Lil Smith, M.Div., DASD.

Praying with art: The Good Shepherd

  • Light a candle to remember Christ’s presence with you.
  • Sit five to fifteen minutes in silent meditation paying close attention to the deep breath.
  • Begin to open yourself to the painting of the Good Shepherd.
  • What captures your attention?
  • Focus on that which captures your attention.
  • Imagine now you are entering the painting.
  • Look around.  Notice the details.
  • Who are you as you become part of the painting?  A sheep?  A passerby?  A villager?
  • As you come closer to that which captures your attention, what do you notice?
  • What else to you see?
  • What do you hear?
  • Who else is with you?
  • How does Jesus call his sheep?
  • What do you recognize in Jesus’ voice?
  • What feelings arise?
  • Are there any surprises?
  • Hear Jesus call you.
  • What do you hear?
  • What do you feel?
  • How do you respond?
  • What is God’s message for you today?
  • Give thanks to God for the Good Shepherd, this time in prayer and for any new insights you have received.
  • Share as you feel led in the reply box below.

John 10:11-18 – Celebrate the Good Shepherd

JOHN 10:11-18

11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away — and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

  • Light a candle to remember Christ’s presence with you.
  • Sit five to fifteen minutes in silent meditation paying attention to the deep breath.
  • The Good Shepherd is calling the flock to follow.
  • What do you hear?
  • How do you follow?
  • How does Jesus know you?
  • How do you know Jesus’ voice?
  • What sheep not currently in the fold will Jesus bring in?
  • How will they know his voice?
  • What part of you needs to be brought into the fold?
  • What do you need to hear from your Good Shepherd?
  • Believe that Jesus has the power to help his sheep.
  • Jesus wants to help you.
  • Give thanks to God for the Good Shepherd, for this time in prayer and for any new insights you have received.
  • Share as you feel led in the reply box below.

Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, April 29, 2012, the Fourth Sunday of Easter Year B

Acts 4:5-12
Psalm 23:1-6
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18

If you use these prayers in other groups, please give credit to author. Permission to use in not-for-profit settings The Rev. Lil Smith, M.Div., DASD.

1 John 3:16-24 – Let us love in truth and action…

1 JOHN 3:16-24

16We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us — and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

18Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

23And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

  • Light a candle to remember Christ’s presence with you.
  • Sit five to fifteen minutes in silent meditation paying close attention to the deep breath.
  • Breathe intentionally a deep belly breath.  Relax your shoulders.  Let your belly button extend toward the far wall.  Then let go and push out anything you need to let go.  Continue to breathe this deeply.
  • Inhale love………….Exhale hatred.
  • Inhale peace………..Exhale fracture.
  • Inhale hope………….Exhale disbelief.
  • Continue to breathe and accept God’s love.
  • Remember a time someone gave their life for you.
  • Go back to that time and place.  Reenter the experience as much as you can.  What do you see? hear? smell? taste? feel?
  • What did you need?
  • How did this person give you life?
  • How did this person give you love?
  • What was your response?
  • From this side of the experience, where did you see Christ?
  • What is God’s message for you?
  • As you go about your day and see a brother or sister in need of love, will you give life?  Or will you refuse?
  • Be open to those who need life and love.
  • Give thanks to God for this time in prayer and for any new insights you have received.
  • Share as you feel led in the reply box below.

Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, April 29, 2012, the Fourth Sunday of Easter Year B

Acts 4:5-12
Psalm 23:1-6
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18

If you use these prayers in other groups, please give credit to author. Permission to use in not-for-profit settings The Rev. Lil Smith, M.Div., DASD.

Psalm 23 – He leads me beside still waters

PSALM 23:1-6

1   The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2        He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3        he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

4   Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff —
they comfort me.

5   You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6   Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
my whole life long.

  • Light a candle to remember Christ’s presence with you.
  • Sit five to fifteen minutes in silent meditation paying attention to the deep breath.
  • Come and sit by the water.
  • Sit in Christ’s presence.
  • Set other cares aside so that you can sit and be with the Lord.
  • Notice what it feels like to sit and be with the Lord.
  • From this place of love, let the Lord lead you.
  • From this place of gentleness, let the Lord lead you.
  • From this place of peace, let the Lord lead you.
  • From this place of surrender, let the Lord lead you.
  • From this place of goodness, let the Lord lead you.
  • From this place of mercy, let the Lord lead you.
  • Hold this place of love, gentleness, peace, surrender, goodness, and mercy.  Breathe in this place where you dwell with the Lord.  Carry it with you today.
  • Breathe in this place before you make decisions.
  • Breathe in this place before you speak.
  • Breathe in this place before you act.
  • Let Christ lead your day.
  • Take time to reflect at the end of the day.  Where did Christ lead you?
  • What is God’s message for you?
  • Give thanks to God for this time in prayer and for any new insights you have received. Share as you feel led in the reply box below.

Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, April 29, 2012, the Fourth Sunday of Easter Year B

Acts 4:5-12
Psalm 23:1-6
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18

If you use these prayers in other groups, please give credit to author. Permission to use in not-for-profit settings The Rev. Lil Smith, M.Div., DASD.

Acts 4:5-12 – The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone

ACTS 4:5-12

5The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, 6with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. 11This Jesus is 
     ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; 
          it has become the cornerstone.’ 
12There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”

  • Light a candle to remember Christ’s presence with you.
  • Sit five to fifteen minutes in silent meditation paying attention to the deep breath.
  • Who is holding you prisoner today for something you have done in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth?
  • How long have you been imprisoned?
  • Do you need to spend more time there?  Or are you ready to be released?
  • To be released you must face the local rulers.
  • During an inquiry of local rulers, what will your response be?
  • What cornerstone will you draw upon?
  • What truth do you need to share with the local rulers?
  • What risk do you perceive?
  • What strength do you need to take this risk?
  • What is the consequence?
  • What is the reward?
  • What is God’s message for you?
  • Give thanks to God for this time in prayer and for any new insights you have received.
  • Share as you feel led in the reply box below.

Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, April 29, 2012, the Fourth Sunday of Easter Year B

Acts 4:5-12
Psalm 23:1-6
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18

If you use these prayers in other groups, please give credit to author. Permission to use in not-for-profit settings The Rev. Lil Smith, M.Div., DASD.

Praying with Art: “Roses, Last Summer” by Mary Oliver


If I had another life

I would want to spend it all on some
unstinting happiness.

I would be a fox, or a tree
full of waving branches.
I wouldn’t mind being a rose
in a field full of roses.

Fear has not yet occurred to them, nor ambition.
Reason they have not yet thought of.
Neither do they ask how long they must be roses, and then what.
Or any other foolish question.

-Mary Oliver, from “Roses, Late Summer”

  • Light a candle to remember Christ’s presence with you.
  • Sit five to fifteen minutes in silent meditation paying attention to the deep breath.
  • What word or phrase captures your attention in this poetry?
  • Allow this word or phase to grow in you as you focus on it.
  • Read the excerpt of this poetry once again.
  • In light of the word or phrase earlier, what would you become?
  • Allow a picture of this to form in your mind and in your heart.
  • As you embody this picture, scan your body to see if any fear is lingering.
  • As fear arises, allow the picture to erase the fear and any other questions that arise.
  • Allow this invitation to new life in Christ to set your fears aside so that you may live fully in Christ.
  • Savor this time to set aside fear and question.  Become like a little child who can live fully in Christ.  Remember this feeling and the path to this place.
  • Give thanks to God for this time in prayer and for any new insights you have received. Share as you feel led in the reply box below.

Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, April 22, 2012, the Third Sunday of Easter Year B

Acts 3:12-19
Psalm 4:1-8
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

If you use these prayers in other groups, please give credit to author. Permission to use in not-for-profit settings The Rev. Lil Smith, M.Div., DASD.

Praying with Art: Back on the Emmaus Road

The Disciples of Emmaus by Jesus Mafa

Light a candle to remember Christ’s presence with you.

  • Sit five to fifteen minutes in silent meditation paying close attention to the deep breath.
  • As you pay attention to your breath, pay attention to any doubt arising in you that might keep you from Christ.
  • Set this doubt aside so that you will be fully open to God.
  • As you pay attention to your breath, become engaged with this painting depicting the disciples of Emmaus.
  • Step into the setting.
  • Where do you linger?
  • What do you hear?
  • Who is with you?
  • What journey do you carry with you?
  • How does Jesus reveal himself to you?
  • What is burning in your heart?
  • Who do you tell?
  • How does Jesus appear to you again?
  • What peace do you know in this appearance?
  • What is God’s message for you?
  • Give thanks to God for this time in prayer and for any new insights you have received.
  • Share as you feel led in the reply box below.

Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, April 22, 2012, the Third Sunday of Easter Year B

Acts 3:12-19
Psalm 4:1-8
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

If you use these prayers in other groups, please give credit to author. Permission to use in not-for-profit settings The Rev. Lil Smith, M.Div., DASD

Luke 24:36b-48 – Why do doubts arise in your heart?

LUKE 24:36B-48

“Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.

44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you — that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.”

  • Light a candle to remember Christ’s presence with you.
  • Sit five to fifteen minutes in silent meditation paying close attention to the deep breath.
  • As you pay attention to your breath, pay attention to any doubt arising in you that might keep you from Christ.
  • Instead of setting this aside,  identify where this doubt resides in your body.
  • Allow your breath to reach this place of doubt in your body.
  • Continue to breathe to this place, allowing the breath of God heal this place of doubt.
  • Be open to healing and possibility in this place.
  • Let go of any hatred or fear.
  • Are there other doubts in you that need to be addressed.
  • Continue this exercise until you are as free and open as you can be to listen to God.
  • As you rest in this place of openness and freedom, consider what words have been spoken that must be fulfilled.
  • The Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day.
  • Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in the name of Jesus.
  • You are witnesses of these things.
  • How have you witnessed these things in the world around you?
  • How have you witnessed these things in your neighbor?
  • How have you witnessed these things in you?
  • What is God’s message for you in this witness that you have encountered?
  • Give thanks to God for this time in prayer and for any new insights you have received.
  • Share as you feel led in the reply box below.

Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, April 22, 2012, the Third Sunday of Easter Year B

Acts 3:12-19
Psalm 4:1-8
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

If you use these prayers in other groups, please give credit to author. Permission to use in not-for-profit settings The Rev. Lil Smith, M.Div., DASD