“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” (Psalm 23:1 NIV)
The shepherd-king David wrote this verse to begin a beloved text (Psalm 23) that has endured for millennia. Its literary, theological, and spiritual influence is amazing.
Centuries later, born in David’s hometown, a young rabbi would emerge presenting himself as the long-awaited true heir to David’s rulership over God’s people–Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Anointed One. In a famous teaching, he would draw on the imagery of this very verse to help his hearers understand that he was a different kind of Lord and King.
““I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, 14-15 NIV)
Now to review some exercises for Christian formation.
1. Breath Prayer: A short verse or partial verse that may be repeated comfortably within one breath. Memorize and say throughout the day to stay connected to God in prayer and/or to practice a sort of casual yet prayerful contemplation of scriptural truth. Psalm 23:1 is an excellent breath prayer verse.
2. Prayer of Examen: A prayerful assessment of one’s spirit and walk with God. Psalm 139:23-24 provides the framework and the guidance for this prayer. Helps one name anxieties and confess sins, releasing them to God for healing, help, forgiveness, and renewal.
Workout Assignment: Practice one or both of these at some point this weekend. You could practice the Breath Prayer using Psalm 23:1 throughout the day today. Pick a “trigger”–an hourly chime on a watch, every time you get in and out of your car, etc. The Prayer of Examen can be practiced in as little as 10-15 minutes. It can last longer, of course, but does not have to. Remember, practice is what makes us better at something. Our spiritual formation in Christ is no different.