Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Praying with Scripture

We started our first Lectio Divina series in the parish recently. I am really excited about this, and I find myself moved by the experience. Have to remember that I have been doing this kind of prayer for nearly 20 years now, and so I reassure people at our sessions that it may not come easy. Be patient! The Lord will surely provide. What you really need to bring with you is the hunger for an encounter with God, and an openness to hear whatever God wishes to communicate to you.

This is where things get tricky. Because when we pray, we are used to saying prayers. In Lectio Divina, the main activity is listening.

Lectio Divina was started some 800 years ago, and there are a number of traditions within it. All have the same goal - to take you into an experience of the Scripture, where you can encounter God. Notably, where you can meet Jesus and actually dialogue with him. For this you need quiet and time. It is not just meditation about the passage. It is not Bible study. It is entering in.

There are four 'movements' in this kind of prayer: 1. Reading the passage, preferably out loud; 2, meditating on aspects of it (there are lots of written guides for this); 3, praying, as in asking God for the grace you wish to receive during this time; and 4, entering into stillness, to just be with Jesus, be with God.

I really like the way St. Ignatius Loyola approaches scripture through the use of imagining the scene. This is a great entry into the passage, and all you are interested in is looking around, seeing who is there,noticing the setting, and most especially, seeing Jesus. Listening to him. Maybe talking to the disciples or to Mary, or to a bystander.

Inevitably, when praying with the Gospels, I am a bystander, watching. Inevitably, I meet Jesus' gaze, and he calls me over. We talk, and it is beautiful. I know that he knows everything about me, but I am not scared by that. I can say what I feel, and he will respond, maybe with a reassurance, maybe with a challenge. But always, the experience lingers. A good idea is to write down the experience right away, so you can go back and see how it actually did move you.

I encourage everyone to learn about this prayer form. We do not get enough time at Mass to really have such an encounter with Jesus. And yet we know that Jesus is present not only in the Eucharist and in the assembly, but also in his word. How are we ever to meet him there? This is it. I promise you a powerful experience of prayer.

To learn more, just Google Lectio Divina. Lots of stuff on the Internet.

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