"Be not forgetful of prayer. Every time you pray, if your prayer is sincere, there will be new feeling and new meaning in it, which will give you fresh courage, and you will understand that prayer is an education.... Every day and every hour, every minute, walk round yourself and watch yourself, and see that your image is a seemly one." - Father Zossima, The Brothers Karamazov
In our current series on Ephesians, we recently encountered Paul's instruction to his audience to "be careful how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise." Wise action requires careful self-reflection, which often seems impossible given the harried pace of our lives. Turning to guided forms of prayer and contemplation creates space for communion with Christ and reshapes our affections.
The Lectio Divina is an ancient form of prayer most notably practiced within the Benedictine Monastic tradition. The title of this prayer derives from the Latin words meaning reading and divine/holy. In Lectio Divina we seek to pray contemplatively using the Holy Scriptures as our guide. This form of prayer can be practiced by both individuals and in groups.
Practicing Lectio Divina Individually
Text: Begin by choosing a section of Scripture that you would like to read and pray. You can choose the text randomly or use a liturgical book, such as The Book of Common Prayer. Try not to set a goal for how much content you will cover; the goal is to listen for God and to experience his presence.
Preparation: Find a quiet place and a calm and tranquil state of mind. Take a few deep breaths and make sure you are comfortable. Sit quietly and in silence and invite the Holy Spirit to guide the reading of the Scripture that is to follow.
Reading/Listening: When you feel prepared, begin slowly reading your passage of scripture. As you read, pay attention to any words or phrases that catch your attention.
Meditation: Read the passage a second time and think deeply about the words, phrase or idea that captured your attention. Choose one or two insights and meditate on the following questions:
Adoration: How can I love and praise God on the basis of this? What do I see here that I can praise him for?
Repentance: How do I fail to realize this in my life? What wrong behavior, harmful emotions or attitudes result when I forget this?
Thanksgiving: How can I thank Jesus as the ultimate revelation of this attribute of God (reflected upon in #1) and the ultimate answer to this sin or need of mine (reflected upon in #2)?
Aspiration: How does this show me what I should or could be and do? How would I be different if this truth were powerfully real to me?
Prayer: Read the passage a third time. Now begin to speak to God. Tell God what word, phrase or idea captured your attention and what came to mind as you meditated upon it. How is God using this word, phrase or idea to bless and transform you? Tell God what you have been thinking and feeling as you’ve listened and meditated. Tell God how you hope this word, phrase or idea will change your heart to be more like His.
Contemplation: Finish by focusing your attention on God’s presence. If you feel you should continue to read or pray, do so. As you do, remember that you are in God’s presence.
Application: How can you apply this so that it affects your life today?
Practicing Lectio Divina As A Group
Leader and Text: Begin by identifying an individual to lead the process. This person will read the selected text three times. Each reading will be followed by a period of silence between one and five minutes.
First Reading: During the first reading, read the text aloud twice. The purpose of the first reading is for people in the group to hear the text and listen for a word, phrase or idea that captures their attention. Group members should listen focusing their attention upon what the Holy Spirit is speaking to them through the text.
Second reading: Read the text again. This time, listeners are to focus their attention on how the word, phrase, or idea speaks to their life that day. They should ask: How is Christ, the Word, speaking to me about my life through this text?
Third Reading: Read the text again. This time, listeners are to focus on what God is calling them to do or become. Experiencing God’s presence changes and challenges us. They should ask: What is God calling me to do as a result of this experience?
Sharing & Prayer: After the third reading, allow a period of silence, followed by an invitation for group members to share their insights from the Lectio. Finish the exercise by having everyone silently pray for the individual on his or her left.