You know you should be praying. But do you ever wish someone would show you how? Fr. Mike starts by showing us how to pray with the Bible with a time-honored method called lectio divina. Typically it consists of five steps:
- Read a short snippet of Scripture, a few verses. (This is the “lectio” part.)
- Meditate on those verses. Think about what you read. Is there any hidden meaning, anything you didn’t notice at first?
- Pray about what you read. Talk with God about the passage.
- Meditate again and maybe read the passage again in light of what God spoke to you.
- Contemplate. Rest with what you just prayed about. Ask God what you should take away from the passage. Ask him what he’s telling you to do next.
Fr. Mike walks us through a Scripture passage involving John the Baptist where he employs the steps of lectio divina.
Now, Fr. Mike points out that when we pray with the Bible, it’s not always mind-blowing. But don’t be discouraged. Here’s his analogy.
Where Father is from in Minnesota, smooth rocks on the lakeshore are called “skippers” because the smoother the stone, the farther the skip. Sometimes when we’re walking along the lakeshore we find the perfect rock for skipping across the water. Other times we don’t, but we find a rock that’s good enough. Sometimes that’s how lectio divina works. Sometimes a verse really jumps out at you, but other times there may be a verse that’s just good enough. God will still speak to you through it if you use the “good enough” verse in your lectio divina. So don’t be discouraged if a verse doesn’t jump out at you.
My word . . . shall not return to me void. (Isaiah 55:11)
Have you ever been inside a greenhouse? Its transparent walls trap heat and humidity, creating a tropical atmosphere—even in the wintertime. The walls also keep out hungry herbivores. It’s no wonder a greenhouse is such a fertile environment!
This may be a good metaphor for the practice of lectio divina, an ancient, prayerful way of reading Scripture. In today’s first reading, we hear about the life-giving power of God’s word. It’s like rain that waters the earth and causes crops to grow and bear fruit. You could say that lectio divina is an especially fertile environment for growth.
In order to experience God’s written word through lectio divina, you need to “wall yourself off” from distractions for a time. This creates space for the four traditional stages of this practice: reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation.
Reading. Just as fertile soil helps plants grow, the words of Scripture are a rich medium in which we can experience God’s grace. So unhurried reading of a short passage is the first step of lectio divina. This stage usually ends as you pause at a phrase—even a word—that catches your attention.
Meditation. Remember the greenhouse’s clear walls that let in so much light? Similarly, you can invite the Holy Spirit to illuminate the truths in that phrase or word as you ponder it and turn it over in your mind.
Prayer. Next, bring your reflections before the Lord in the form of a prayerful conversation. Maybe you could thank him for a truth he has revealed. Or ask him whatever questions come into your heart. Then give him room to respond. At this point, the Lord may already be irrigating your soul with peace or joy.
Contemplation. Now be still and open. Allow anything God has said or done to soak in. Let his word take root within you—even if you don’t immediately “feel” anything happening.
And that’s it. But don’t be fooled. Even though it’s structured and simple, lectio divina contains living surprises, like any good greenhouse. You never know at which stage you may encounter the Lord walking through the garden.
“Lord, make your word come alive in my heart!”
Father of my soul,
Mother of my heart,
I know your love for me is limitless beyond imagining.
You care for me as a loving parent.
Through my smallest Lenten sacrifices,
help me to become less selfish
and more aware of your ways.
Fan the flame of my desire
to draw ever closer to you.
Guide me to seek your love
Choose any passage in the Bible and meditate for at least three minutes on it.