From God's fullness we have all received, grace upon grace
“Praying with three questions”

“Praying with three questions”

April is the month of Holy Week and Eastertide, full of liturgy, scripture, symbolism, homilies and sermons, music. It can be overwhelming – everything everywhere all at once.

One approach is simply to go with the flow and let it carry you. Another might be to immerse yourself, heart and soul and mind and strength, and let it overwhelm you. Or you could decide, decide in advance of each service, or reading within a service, to be alert for one thing that rings true for you, and then to focus on that one thing so that it becomes a spring welling up within you continuing to bring you life as you go through the rest of the day and week.

You can also use this method as you read or listen to scripture, any spiritual writing or podcast. As you read, one saying or word might strike you. Stop at this point, and write it out long-hand. Then ask yourself three questions:

  1. How have I experienced or how am I experiencing this?
  2. If I were to say it, how would I say this?
  3. What is this asking of me?

Your answers are whatever is true to you at that time. They might be blank: “Right now, I don’t know how I would say that.”

Try experimenting with how you lay out your answers on the page: the usual list, one by one; or maybe in columns; or as a mind map, with the sentence in the middle of the page, and the questions and any answers radiating out around it.

You could also write out the phrase and keep it with you during the day. Ponder it, keep it close to your heart, and touch it whenever you need to remember it.

Then the next day in your reading you might be struck by another word, phrase or sentence. Alternatively… whatever you are reading might be so rich that you wish to apply this technique sentence by sentence through a whole paragraph, chapter or even book. And when you have finished, start at the beginning again. Slow reading, savouring as you go, can be a counter to the modern temptation to consume books. (Confession: this is not my practice!)

Either way, gradually, if you take time over it, you might start to connect the dots between your texts, notice a story emerging or some progression (however labyrinthine; see March’s News). Later material may explain earlier material. You’ll start to absorb the texts and internalize them in your life.

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

Psalm 119.103

With prayer for a blessed Holy Week and Easter


This is one of a series of articles appearing in Exeter Cathedral’s monthly news, complementing the material I contributed to the “Explore Prayer” section of the Cathedral website. I hope you find them helpful.