Starting today I will look at some specific ways to pray. Today I will look at an ancient practice called Lectio Divina, or the Sacred Reading. This is a way to intentionally use the Bible for prayer especially to facilitate deeper listening to God. The method goes back to at least the third century, and its goal is not deep academic study but to foster communion with God.
Traditionally the practice has four steps, though I would add that it is important to start Lectio with a prayer. The First is lectio, or reading. You pick a certain passage from the bible and read it slowly, usually many times. You might choose to use the gospel of the day or the first reading. You read it over and over again to see if there is a word or phrase that jumps out at you.
The second step is meditatio, or meditate. Imagine yourself in the scene, or spend time with the words or phrases that arose in the previous step. The goal is to determine what it is that God may be trying to say to you. How is it that this reading of the bible is an encounter with God? What is it that God needs you to hear? This is why beginning with prayer is so important. All of this is meant by design to bring you into deeper relationship with Jesus. You are seeking to find a deeper relationship with God and you are doing so by delving into the text not from the outside, but as someone who is deeply engrossed in the text itself as a participant.
The third step is oratio, or prayer. What does this deep mediation lead you God to say to you in this prayer? And what do you say to God in return? This is your time, having focused on how God speaks to you in the text through your deep efforts at reading and meditating to make your response to God. The goal is to engage in a deep and beneficial relationship with God.
Lastly, there is contemplatio, or contemplation. Remember that yesterday we indicated that communion with God is a type of prayer, and at this stage you are encouraged to do just that. Spend time in communion with God, encountering his word as a mystery. Now you are simply basking in God because you are in his presence, experiencing his love for you.
Some days this practice will come easy while other days maybe not so much. But remember that you are seeking to be in God’s presence. Some days you will fully encounter the presence of God. At other times you might be unable to see the presence of God. The most mystical saints, those who had deep and powerful relationships with God often themselves had periods where they did not experience the presence of God.
Their faith though was not in the reward of feeling elated every day but rather they remained faithful because their minds, hearts and souls had become convicted of God’s powerful love for them. They knew of that love, and because of that love they knew their deep relationship with him was intact regardless of whether or not they had the direct experience of his love. It is not unlike those times when even though we know a friend loves us, or our spouse loves us, we might go through periods where we feel distant.
What this type of prayer does is that it brings us more deeply into silence, which today is not always an easy thing for us to embrace. It forces us to slow down. It helps us to see the bible as an action of the spirit, words living and alive. It reminds us that we were made for deep communion with God.
Tomorrow we will examine devotional prayer, which is another way for us to enter more fully into the presence of God.