Lectio Divina: Praying with Scripture
I love praying with scripture. Since my teenage years, I have enjoyed and appreciated the power and beauty of scripture. Certain parables, Psalms, and other verses have spoken right to my heart and now live in me. As many of you perhaps, I can recall some by memory and experience a variety of feelings these words can evoke in me like peace, joy, gratitude, and compassion.
I would like to share with you this invitation to experience scripture as a living word that enkindles and deepens intimacy with God. In a line from the Gospel of John, chapter 15, we read: “Make your home in me, as I make my home in you.” Other translations could be: “Live in me as I live in you.” Or “Remain in me as I remain in you.” “Abide in me as I abide in you.”
Feel the intimacy that is invited — the Holy One, loving and living within us, closer than we could imagine, the indwelling of God. This is a relationship that is already present, given, offered, and we have only to receive and respond and nurture that union.
In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, we read: “Mary pondered all these words in her heart.” Perhaps “ponder” could be savoring, leisurely lingering, living with, ruminating, resonating. This is a particular way of being with the scripture. It is quite different from thinking things through, figuring out, analyzing or even understanding.
Also in the Gospel of Luke, we hear of two disciples on the road to Emmaus reflecting on their conversation with the risen Christ: “Weren’t our hearts burning inside us as this one talked to us on the road and explained the scripture to us?” Here the word is described as burning, like fire; it is a word that can challenge and transform. This word can change things, shake everything up, cause us to see with new eyes and hear with new ears.
Even familiar words or passages of scripture can speak again and again to us with a new depth and power. There is always more, for the Holy One is beyond our wildest imaginings, infinite and deep. Through scripture, the Beloved One can reveal more of this immense love, longing for us, boundless compassion, and ongoing challenge.
Lectio divina is a way of being with scripture that is slow, reverent, and spacious. It could be described as four movements on the circumference of a circle: lectio – reading; meditatio –reflecting; oratio – responding; contemplatio – resting. The intention of lectio divina is to move us into spaciousness, resting in God’s presence – just Being.
The Desert Mothers and Fathers have a saying that corresponds to these four movements:
I take the word – reading; I chew the word – reflecting; I digest the word – responding; I become the word – being.
How would we practice lectio divina if we did this in order – knowing that it might unfold in a different pattern? Step one would be to read the passage and listen with the “ear of the heart.” What word or phrase stands out or speaks to you? Step two, read the passage again and reflect on the word or phrase that speaks to you or simply choose a word for your meditation. Notice what touches you through that word. Step three, read the passage again and see if any response is invited by the word or phrase, particularly any prayer that may rise in you. Step four, read the passage a final time and rest in spaciousness. Let go of any words. Just BE.
You can extend this practice into your day, by taking the word or phrase with you. You could repeat it prayerfully through the day, allowing it to become part of you.
Once again, this is not a linear process. It could be that you would hear a passage of scripture and your heart would leap in response and move you into stillness, a spacious silence or a feeling of joy or gratitude.
As any contemplative practice, it is not about mastering the practice or getting it right; the practice nurtures an opening for God and a wide expansive willingness for the Beloved.