How to use your bulletin for daily prayer
“These words that I command you today shall be on you heart,” Moses said in Sunday’s Old Testament lesson. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6.6-7). This is a comprehensive calling from the Lord through His servant Moses; how can we keep the Word foremost in our hearts and minds?
There are many ways to answer that question, but let me get utterly practical for a moment. A great place to start is with the humble worship folder that you receive on Sunday morning. Before you toss it into the recycle bin, consider: you have a treasure trove of devotional tools in those few pages.
Let me point to 5 ways that you can use your folder as a devotional tool.
1. Weekly Catechism lesson
I mentioned this in Sunday’s sermon: the portion of the Small Catechism that is used for the children’s message, always included in the worship folder, is a natural entry point for dipping into the Catechism. Each day at breakfast, go over this with your kids (or by yourself), simply in the question-and-answer format that Martin Luther originally prescribed. We go through the entire Small Catechism in worship over the course of the calendar year, so if you review it each week it’s as though your Confirmation class is being continually renewed!
The liturgy is essentially Scripture set to music. There is so much richness in each section, from the Gloria in Excelsis to the Agnus Dei. As a further aid to God’s people, Scripture references for each part of the liturgy are contained in parentheses beside the heading. A neat study is to go through those verses and see the biblical basis for the different parts. Also, be sure to check out the “Kids in the Divine Service” feature at the back of the worship folder—there’s always cool insights into our worship life, and often practical tips for taking it home.
3. Praying the Propers
The “Propers” are the portions of the service that change from week to week: the Introit, the Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel readings, the Collect of the Day, hymns, and sermon. The Propers may be used devotionally throughout the week in the following manner:
|Introit||OT lesson||Epistle lesson||Gospel||Hymn of the Day||Next day’s readings|
You could pray the Collect of the Day each morning as well. Of course to review the Hymn of the Day you’ll also need a hymnal—but if you don’t have one, what are you waiting for?
4. Using the Daily Lectionary
Perhaps the most useful tool provided in the worship folder is the Daily Lectionary. Taken from the Lutheran Service Book (pp. 209-304), the Daily Lectionary gives you a manageable set of verses from both the Old and New Testaments to read each day. If you follow along with these readings for a year, you’ll get through the entire New Testament and about a third of the Old. Plus, it’s neat when you’re reading the same Scripture devotionally as your fellow parishioners and you can say, “Hey, what’s the deal with Elisha sending the she-bears to maul the kids?” For instance.
5. Memorize the Antiphon
The Antiphon is like the refrain for the Introit, the Psalm verses that we sing at the beginning of the service. Inasmuch as the Introit generally sounds the keynote for the service, the Antiphon is like the keynote’s keynote: in other words, in a verse you have an encapsulation of the Sunday’s theme. Sometimes it’s straightforward. For instance, for Christian Education Sunday this past weekend, it was from Psalm 34:
“Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”
Other times it will be more poetic and take some deeper reflection for how it connects with the day’s theme. You can find the Antiphon both in the Introit itself, as the bracketing verse(s), or it’s also printed at the top of the page that has the Daily Lectionary.
Surely there are more ways than just these 5. What are some other ways that you could use the worship folder as a devotional aid? Or what do you use in your devotions that you find helpful?