A few years ago I went to a gathering at the Changing Church Forum at Prince of Peace in Minneapolis. One evening, we experienced a form of contemplative worship. We entered the candle-lit sanctuary one at a time, a minute apart and moved from one station to another while a woman played classical music on a grand piano.
One station had a large globe and invited us to pray for the world or for a particular place or people as the Spirit led. Another station had an statue of an Old Testament figure where we meditated for a few minutes on the story of that character. Another station offered communion, another had a pastor who would pray with you. At another station we knelt before a stained glass window and prayed to images of the Lord’s Prayer, with the first petition at the bottom, leading your gaze to move slowly upward to the ending image of the Glory of God in Heaven.
I was moved in a deep way by this contemplative worship. When I returned home, I looked for images of the Lord’s Prayer for my own reflection and meditation. For images, I called my friend, Dr. Pat Graham, who heads up the Pitts Theological Library at Emory University. I know Pat through my friend Richard Kessler, who created and endowed the largest collection of Reformation Works in the United States. Pat also is the curator of the Kessler Reformation Collection. Pat has led a years-long project to capture digital images from all the rare books in the collection. The image database is searchable by scripture verse and by story name or character name. Find the Digital Image Archive here.
I picked up a copy of a magazine named Conversations: a forum for Authentic Transformation. I am enjoying reading the articles, but was taken by the back cover advertisement for a book, Juliet Benner’s Contemplative Vision. While working as a docent in an art gallery, Benner began showing people how to meditate on Christian art works that are rooted in a passage of scripture. From that work came this book. I called Pat Graham and talked with him yesterday. He affirmed a long tradition of books of this genre. The Kessler collection has a number of what he called Emblem Books. They used images associated with scripture verses much in the same way as Contemplative Vision invites us into a deeper understanding of scripture. By incorporating images, we are utilizing different areas of the brain. Pat explained to me that the authors were "arming the reader spiritually."
So, as we move through Lent towards Easter, let me arm you spiritually with a visual representation of the Lord’s prayer that comes from the Kessler Collection.
God is depicted in the clouds with cherubs at feet. The halo as rendered as a triangle, symbolizing the Trinity. This illustrates the petition "Our Father who art in heaven" from the Lord's Prayer.
The divine name is depicted in light as God is worshiped on heaven and earth. This illustrates the petition "Hallowed be thy name" in the Lord's Prayer.
i had never before been able to visualize what Hallowed be thy name meant. What a wonderful image. Already, the Lord’s prayer is becoming richer and deeper.
The Holy Spirit descends upon a person with hands raised as putti hold varies symbols of Christ. This illustrates the petition "Thy Kingdom Come" from the Lord's Prayer.
An angel writes down God’s Word on a scroll as a depiction of "Thy will be done" from the Lord's Prayer.
Here we are invited into God’s word so that we might become obedient servants bringing God’s will to our homes, our neighbors, our churches, our communities. In doing so, the Kingdom of God breaks into our present life.
An angel and two putti pour out food upon the earth as a rendering of the petition "Give us this day our daily bread" from the Lord's Prayer.
An angel forgives a man's debts as a rendering of the petition "Forgive us our debts" from the Lord's Prayer.
Note the size of the debts the Angel is forgiving, and the size of the debt the man is forgiving.
God delivering a man from the nude adulteress as others partake in sex in the backgroud. The devil is rendered as a serpent on the left. This illustrates the petition "Lead us not into temptation" from the Lord's Prayer.
I've got to admit this is my favorite. Where else can I meditate on an image of a nude woman and call it prayer. OK, something is wrong with this picture, or is it me?
An angel hands a prisoner of Satan the keys to his shackles as a rendering of the petition "Deliver us from evil" from the Lord's Prayer.
Notice we can only be delivered by the power of the Spirit. It is the Spirit who empowers us to turn from our sinful desires. Pray this day for the strength to turn from sin and believe more deeply.
The Latin Regnum (king) hovers over a depiction of the creation surrounded with the heavenly host. This illustrates the final petition of the Lord's Prayer, "For thine is the kingdom, power, and glory forever".
I have friends who consider themselves ‘quiet evangelists’ who hope to bring witness with their deeds and the example of their life, and not with their words. I want to ask them, when we do acts of loving kindness, and do not name Jesus as the author of our good works, to whom are we bringing glory? How is God glorified if we do not attribute any goodness in our lives to him.
I pray that you find this meditation helpful, and that you will go searching for other images for your favorite scripture so you can enter more deeply into the story using imagery. May the Spirit touch you deeply this season of Lent.
Find the original images here: