This article is part of The Third Third of Life Toolkit—a collection of resources for ministry to and with people ages 55 and over, brought to you by two ministries of the Christian Reformed Church in North America: Disability Concerns and Faith Formation Ministries.
The later years of life often bring unique spiritual challenges. Here are some resources that are particularly helpful for people ages 55 and over.
- Fire in the Soul: A Prayer Book for the Later Years by Richard Lyon Morgan. This daily devotional guide offers prayers about the changes and challenges of aging. It focuses on issues such as listening for God’s call after retirement, mentoring others, and accepting problems that may come with aging.
- The Hope of Glory by Nancy Parker Brummett. A devotional guide for older adults or for people who are working with older adults in churches or care facilities. Written to encourage a sense of purpose and a hope for God’s glory during life’s final years.
- Living and Loving Life by Howard Vanderwell. This devotional book reflects on the richest and most satisfying ways in which to use the years God gives us.
- Miles Ahead: Devotions from Older Adults by Carol S. Pierskalla (editor). These inspiring devotions by third-thirders reflect on the joys and challenges of seniorhood.
- Proven Promises by Howard Vanderwell. From the perspective of his own battle with cancer, Vanderwell speaks about the fears, emotions, and weaknesses experienced by any Christian who suffers. He encourages people who are suffering and shares how he draws on the promises of God as his hope and source of strength.
- Sixty at Sixty: A Boomer Reflects on the Psalms by James C. Schaap. In this book of devotional readings, Schaap reflects on 60 passages from the book of Psalms in a way that will convince you again of God’s goodness.
- The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully. Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister acknowledges the burdens of aging but finds its blessings well worth pursuing in what she calls “the capstone years.” This is a book you will enjoy reading and reflecting on, one short chapter at a time.
Third-thirders have often enjoyed a devotional life for years. But sometimes a nudge in a new direction can enrich and deepen their walk with God. The following stories and resources, all rooted in ancient Christian practice, will challenge and guide adults in using some of these practices, including the Daily Office, lectio divina, and the Examen, among others.
- Second CRC in Grand Haven, Michigan, was part of Faith Formation Ministries’ “Emerging Leaders and Seasoned Saints” cohort. As they looked for ways to challenge the older members of their congregation, they spent time in prayer together, using the practice of lectio divina. They found this time so meaningful that they decided to offer prayer opportunities to the rest of the congregation by forming three groups (a total of 40 people) who used the Examen in small groups.
- When adults feel the need to be revived spiritually, sometimes it’s helpful to revisit ancient practices of Bible reading, prayer, meditation, and more. Experiencing these practices anew can help us meet God in new ways.
Articles about the Practices
- In Spiritual Disciplines 101, Phil Reinders suggests that in place of the formidable term spiritual disciplines we instead might talk about “spiritual practices.” He says the disciplines are actually “practices by which we pursue the God who has found us, catching the rhythm of the Christian life. We train ourselves to be godly (1 Tim. 4:7), because knowing God and living the gospel don’t come naturally.”
- The Science of Sabbath: How People Are Rediscovering Rest—and Claiming Its Benefits. This article by the Religious News Service explores the benefits of stepping out of our normal routine, totally unplugging from our rapid-paced society—in other words, following the ancient practice of Sabbath.
- What’s in a Phrase? Pausing Where the Scripture Gives You Pause is a review of a helpful book by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre on using lectio divina.
- In Embracing the Gift of God’s Word, Deb Koster challenges readers to discover the power of lectio divina, learning to rest in God’s Word and listen to its truths instead of just studying it.
Resources for Using the Practices
- Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation by Ruth Haley Barton. This is a great introductory guide to growing deeper in the life of the Spirit by using ancient spiritual practices. Through story and gentle reflection Barton explores topics such as praying with Scripture, solitude, self-examination, and Sabbath.
- In 50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Times, Teresa Blythe challenges readers to learn new ways to pray that invite us to draw closer to God. She stresses that prayer can be walked, talked, breathed, drawn, or even inferred from television and movies—that it is something for all hours of the day and in all locations. A leader’s guide is included at the back of the book for groups who want to learn and grow in their prayer life together.
- Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year by Phil Reinders. For hundreds of years, Christians have observed the daily office—prayers offered to God at regular times of the day. Seeking God's Face provides a simplified daily office with daily readings that include these elements:
- an opening prayer
- a psalm and Scripture reading
- suggestions for personal prayer
- a prayer based on a classic creed or confession
- a closing blessing
- The Divine Hours trilogy by Phyllis Tickle. These books focus on the daily office, laying out Scripture and fixed prayers for each day, a tradition common in the early church. Each of the books focuses on a season of the year.
- In A Simple Life-Changing Prayer, Jim Manney introduces readers to the Examen, a 500-year-old prayer practice that helps you examine your daily life through God’s eyes.
- Discovering Lectio Divina: Bringing Scripture into Everyday Life by James C. Wilhoit and Evan B. Howard. In this step-by-step approach to lectio divina, readers will discover new ways to read the Bible that will bring them closer to God.
- In Forty Days to a Closer Walk with God: The Practice of Centering Prayer, J. David Muyskens invites Christians to set aside time for God each day, praying and listening by using the ancient practice of centering prayer. Also see Sacred Breath: 40 Days of Centering Praying by the same author.
If you’re part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and you have questions about how to strengthen your church’s ministry to and with people in the third third of life, one of Faith Formation Ministries’ Regional Catalyzers would love to talk with you about ideas and strategies.