While preparing to preach on the 23rd Psalm in recent days, I was inspired to create this litany. Even when praying through the litany on my own in solitude, it helps me to become more deeply available to the beautiful nuances of the Psalmist’s proclamation about the goodness of our Shepherding God.
A Prayer of Centering (based upon Psalm 23)
Leader: The Lord is my Shepherd.
People: No, wait! “Shepherd” is no longer an image that works for us! It is an outdated reference to a bygone vocation.
Leader: The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.
People: We don’t want to hear about shepherding. We are proud and self-sufficient people, not pathetic and needy sheep.
Leader: He maketh me to lie down in green pastures and leadeth me beside still waters.
People: Perhaps we are too arrogantly fixated on our own agendas to be led and fed by One who dares to claim the authority of a Shepherd over us.
Leader: He restoreth my soul.
People: Now you’re getting personal! Our souls are broken, weary, stained, and scarred. We long for a restoration that we, on our own, cannot generate.
Leader: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
People: Hold on! We much prefer the smoothly paved roads of convenience to the often-rugged and dauntingly-demanding paths of righteousness.
Leader: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me.
People: The shadow of death is all around us. We cannot seem to escape it. The shadow makes its presence known in the evening news, in shattered lives, and in our private lamentations. Bring to us a renewed sense of conviction that, because of your steadfast presence, the evil of this shadow will never hold dominion over us, nor will it ever be given the final word to speak.
Leader: Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
People: Although we desperately attempt to perpetuate the illusion of self-sufficiency, in our heart of hearts, we know that we are entirely dependent upon the sturdy rod of your guidance and the protective staff of your holistic grace.
Leader: Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.
People: This is too much for us! We like to define ourselves by the enemies that we make and keep. We want you to destroy our enemies, not entertain their presence. Equip us with new eyes, so that even our enemies will begin to look different to us.
Leader: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
People: We have grown weary of living under the anointing of the various oils that we have endeavored to place upon our own heads. The oil of upward mobility. The oil of personal achievement. The oil of self-righteousness. In these moments of stillness and worship, bring us under the anointing of your Holy Spirit, that the cup of our
life might overflow with the joy of being in right relationship with you.
Leader: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
People: Our life depends upon your goodness. Our hope depends upon your mercy. Overcome us now, and occupy us inwardly by your Spirit, that our entire life might become your home—a home in which we joyfully and abundantly dwell.