Tips on Practice: Reading Aloud and Expanded Prayers

by Allen Watson

Reading Aloud

One very simple practice technique that I have found very effective from time to time is reading the lesson aloud. It's hard to explain what makes this different from simply reading silently, but it definitely is different. Just a few days ago, a friend with whom I was reviewing the daily lesson in the evening read it aloud, and then remarked afterward that the simple act of reading aloud had made the lesson even more meaningful to her than when she had read it that morning.

Perhaps what makes it different is that, in order to read with proper expression, it requires the mind to slow down a little and to pay even closer attention to what is being said. Reading aloud, you notice nuances of meaning and connections between sentences that you might miss in silent reading. Because I have read Workbook lessons aloud hundreds of times for study groups and in workshops, I can testify that often, as I read, I find myself understanding the lesson better, and often being emotionally moved by it in a way that silent reading does not accomplish.

Perhaps reading aloud brings the lesson to life because, in giving voice to the words of the lesson, we try to read with feeling. In order to read with feeling, you have to actually engage your feelings, which is something that is easy to bypass when reading silently.

A variation of reading aloud is reading the same sentence several times with different emphasis, bringing out various shades of meaning each time. For instance, there is a slightly different shade of meaning in the sentence "I am as God created me," when you read it with the emphasis on different words. Try reading the following aloud, with the emphasis on the italicized word:

I am as God created me.
I am as God created me.
I am as God created me.
I am as God created me.

This is a useful thing to do with the main thought of each lesson; it helps to fix the thought for the day in your mind, making it easier to recall during the day.

Expanded Prayers

Another variation on reading aloud is turning what you are reading into a spoken prayer. This is particularly applicable to the 140 lessons in the second part of the Workbook, because each lesson already contains a prayer. Instead of just reading that prayer aloud, pray the prayer. Take just a second or two to remember that you are actually addressing God, through the Holy Spirit. These are prayers that God has given to us to pray.

It seems a very subtle mental difference between simply reading a prayer aloud, and reading it as a prayer, but that little mental difference makes a great deal of difference in the impact that reading it has on your mind. Take the prayer in Lesson 252 for instance, which is quite short. The first line is "Father, You know my true Identity." Try saying that line aloud while holding the thought that you are speaking to God; it makes a great deal of difference in how that line affects you. When I do it, the first thing I notice is a feeling of deep gratitude and thankfulness arising in me. Something that God knows seems so very secure, so very certain.

The next line is "Reveal It now to me who am Your Son" (W-pII.252.2:2). As I pray that line, I become aware of just what it is I am asking for. I get in touch with a longing within myself to know my true Identity as God's Son.

Reading the prayers as prayers can be expanded upon even more. We can take the written words as a starting point, and use them to develop further words of prayer that are more personal, or more specific to our needs and to our understanding, adding in thoughts that come to mind from other parts of the Course, or simply from our own minds, guided by the Holy Spirit.

For instance, those two words: "Reveal It." We might use some of the thoughts from the first paragraph of the lesson to make the prayer more specific, for example:

"Father, reveal to me the holiness of the Self that I am; let me catch a fuller glimpse of that holiness. Help me to see beyond the limited conceptions of holiness I have now. Reveal to me the shimmering and perfect purity that my Self possesses. Reveal to me the limitless love of my Self; let me see that love holding all things within it. Father, I want to know the calm of quiet certainty in this love. I want to know its strength. I open my heart and my mind to You, Father. Reveal It now to me."

Robert's article on Lesson 232, elsewhere in this issue, is another good example of expanding on the prayers of the Workbook.

Actually, this technique of turning the words of the Course into prayers need not be limited to just the prayers in the Workbook. It can be applied to any part of the Course. The words from the Text can become prayers quite easily. As an example, we might read the line, "Walk you in the gentle way, and you will fear no evil and no shadows in the night" (T-27.I.1:3), and turn it into prayer:

"Father, I desire to walk in the gentle way. Holy Spirit, be my Guide; show me the gentle way in this situation [perhaps naming a specific situation you are involved in]. Help me to walk without fear of evil and shadows in the night."

Simply reading aloud will add new layers of meaning to what you read. Turning the words into prayer personalizes those words, and applies them to the events of your life. By using the technique of turning the words of the Course into prayers, you can transform every part of the Course into a sourcebook for spiritual practice. These techniques may seem very simple, yet they are powerful. You will only realize how powerful they can be by trying them; so, why not give them a try? Let us know how they work for you, too.

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