Over the next two months, I would like to share some prayer forms that I have recently learned in my studies. The first form is lectio divina and the second one is imaginative contemplation. Both prayer forms may be new and not what most people think of when they think of prayer. For many, prayer moves primarily in the direction from us to God, as we pour out our hearts to God. In the prayer forms of lectio divina and imaginative contemplation, the focus is more on listening to God speak to us through the Scriptures.
I’ll start this month with lectio divina which means, “Sacred Reading.” In lectio, we slowly read a passage of Scripture with the understanding that through the words of the Bible, God speaks to us the message that we need to hear as we are reading. Here is how lectio is organized: 1.Find a quiet place, free of distractions. Take in some deep breaths and allow yourself a few moments to be calm and at peace. In your own words, invite God into this moment to speak to your heart the word that you need to hear today. 2.Begin reading the passage of Scripture that you have chosen. Read it through once at a normal pace to familiarize yourself with the passage. Pause for a few moments and the read the passage again, but this time, read it slowly, and out loud if possible. Your focus is not to discern the meaning of the text, but to allow the text to speak to you. 3.During this second reading, if a particular sentence, phrase, or word from the text captures your attention, stop reading and hold that word or phrase in your thoughts. This is God’s word to you, and you can begin to meditate on this word or phrase. 4.Gently repeat this word or phrase in your heart and allow whatever thoughts or impressions, related to this word, to rise up in your mind. This word or phrase may have evoked a particular feeling or attitude. Now it is time to talk to God about this impression, or feeling, or attitude. 5.In your own words, tell God what this particular word or phrase has evoked in you. Perhaps you are feeling gratitude, or you suddenly have questions. Maybe this word or phrase has challenged you and you need God’s help in meeting that challenge. Talk with God about this word or phrase that God has brought to you today. 6.When you feel that your conversation with God has come to an end, you are invited to remain in loving silence in the presence of God, resting in God’s embrace. Then when you are ready, you can close your time with a prayer of thanksgiving, or by reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
This form of prayer can be applied to any passage of Scripture and is a wonderful way to meditatively pray through the books of the Bible, listening for all that God wants to teach us.