Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Lectio Divina - Reading Scripture with Deeper Eyes:  I've been revisiting an old and favorite prayer practice lately, that of lectio divina. If you're not familiar with it, lectio divina means "sacred reading." A new small group that I'm a part of is studying lectio divina for a few weeks, so I have submerged myself willingly into God's Word in the pages of the Holy Bible in order to discern what He/She is saying to me personally. Yes, personally! God will speak to you through the pages of scripture, for the Bible is not just words on the page, but a living communication from the Divine. Don't believe it? Try it out for yourself. Read about the four stages of the prayer, then follow the steps at the bottom.

Basically, there are four steps to lectio divina: lectio, meditatio, contemplatio and oratio.  Some people do the first three steps and omit the last.  Do as the Spirit guides you.  When doing lectio divina, the four steps flow naturally into one another, and not always in the order which is presented here.  The Holy Spirit is responsible for and leads you through the steps of lectio divina.

Lectio – reading & listening
To begin, you read from Holy Scripture, picking a passage, which speaks to you in a personal way. Not ordinary reading, like a magazine or book; but, taking in the Word and pondering it in your heart, memorizing it while gently repeating it to yourself, reading and listening at the same time, with your whole being.  Read slowly with great attentiveness to each word and phrase.

Meditatio – meditation

In Meditatio, you reflect on the Word of God by memorizing a brief phrase or passage from the longer text that was read, some part of it that spoke to you directly.  Think of ruminating, or “chewing the cud” of this phrase; taking it into yourself, deeply.  Once you have it memorized, repeat it again and again, and then enter into the picture that you create in your mind.  Let yourself be in the crowd as Jesus gives His Sermon on the Mount, if that is your passage.  Hear His words directed at you, when He says, “Blessed are you.” (Matt 5:11)  Feel what that experience does to you.  Take the text and use it to enter into relationship with Him, and learn.  Let His Words teach you directly, now, in your heart.

Contemplatio – contemplation
 At this point, you will find words and images drying up, as you silently contemplate God.  This part of the process happens to you; you cannot make it happen, and you have no control over it.  Let yourself simply rest in God’s presence now, because you find that no thoughts or words are adequate to describe what you are feeling.  When this happens, relax and flow with it.  Rest in God and be at peace.  Nothing is required of you at this point; just accept the loving embrace of the One Who loves you as His child. 

Oratio – spontaneous prayer
 This is the spontaneous prayer that arises from you as you meditate on the Word of God.  As you are touched by the text’s deeper meaning for you, your heart opens in response to your new understanding, and a rush of feeling overflows in an outpouring of verbal prayer, tears or wordless praise.

Here are the steps for you to follow:

 1.             Choose a short passage from Scripture.  Keep the passage short; just a sentence or two, and no more than a paragraph. (Suggestions are below.)

2.             Read that passage slowly and meditatively, over and over again.  Ruminate on this passage until it is committed to memory.

3.             Visualize the passage.  Feel your way into the passage.  Put yourself in the action, and let yourself experience the realities that the passage points to.  Really become fully involved in what is happening as you listen to and interact with Jesus.

4.             After a time, your visualization will come to an end of its own accord.  When this happens, just rest in contemplation for a while.  Simply sit in stillness and silence and be open to the loving Presence of God.  Relax and just “be.”

5.             When your contemplation comes to an end, offer up to God the spontaneous prayer from your heart, and your gratitude for this gift.  Then you may end your period of meditation by gently bringing your awareness back to yourself and opening your eyes.

  Suggested scripture passages:

Matthew 13:44     “The reign of God is like a buried treasure which a man found in a field.  He hid it again, and rejoicing at his find went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

Jeremiah 1:5        “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

Matthew 28:20     “Know that I am with you until the end of time.”

Micah 6:8             “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Romans 8:38-39   “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels... nor things present, nor things to come… nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.”

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