Prayer Thoughts - 17th May 2020

This week I want to share a method for praying with the Bible. It's an ancient way of reading and thinking and praying with the text that speaks to us afresh each time we set aside some time to do it. I have found this a way that offers insights and challenges and comfort too. I hope you may find it something worth trying.
Lectio Divina

1. Lectio – reading 2. Divina – holy  3. Also known as listening prayer

Introduction
Lectio Divina is a Latin phrase meaning ‘holy reading’. This is a form of meditation on the word of God that trains us to listen to His whisper speaking personally to our hearts, allowing His word to become one with us. Lectio Divina is a reflective and repetitive way to read the Bible, that is not so much focused on becoming informed by the text but rather being transformed by it. It does not replace the other types of Bible reading - rather Lectio Divina adds depth and value to all other forms of Bible reading, facilitating a movement from our hearts to more active ways of wrestling with scripture. Here we are reading purely in the devotional sense – reading for relationship with God more than a type of mental assent to learn more about God. We read the passage not so much as a student seeking to master the subject but as a child receiving a love-letter from a deeply committed and adoring Father. Lectio Divina is therefore rather feeding on what we already know. If we think of a cow chewing on the cud, we are as close to discovering the way of Lectio Divina as may get: meditating on the scripture, we salivate on a divine word or phrase, tasting and savouring, then regurgitating and savouring some more, before we swallow the word finally into our being, trusting the process of digestion will bring strength and nourishment to our bodies.

Stages of Lectio Divina
1.  Preparation - make time, find a place, settle down, pray.
2.  Lectio  (Reading)
Listen: What does the text say that everyone should understand?
3. Meditatio (Meditation)
Question: What does this text say to me, today, and to my life?
4. Oratio (Prayer)
Respond:  What can I say to the Lord in response to his word?
5. Contemplatio (Contemplation)
Let go: Rest in God's presence - be still.

Preparation
Make sure you are sitting comfortably. Breathe slowly and deeply. Take as long as you need to settle and focus.  Ask God to speak to you through the passage that you are about to read. This is a way of praying that starts with our silence. We often make the mistake of thinking prayer is about what we say to God. It is actually the other way round. God wants to speak to us. He will do this through the Scriptures. So don’t worry about what to say. Don’t worry if nothing jumps out at you at first. God is patient. He will wait for the opportunity to get in. He will give you a word and lead you to understand its meaning for you today. You might like to keep a notebook available to write down things you think of. Ask God to give you an openness to hear from the Spirit. You might like to offer one of these prayers :

Father, you spoke your word and the earth was birthed
Speak new life to me today
Jesus, you came to us as the Word of God
Speak new life to me today
Holy Spirit, you awaken us to the word of God
Speak new life to me today
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
welcome me now to your word of life

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle within us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who, by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of your faithful, grant that, by the same Spirit, we may be truly wise, and ever rejoice in God’s consolation. Amen.

Lectio
Read a passage of scripture. Keep the length of the passage reasonably short. Read slowly and attentively, read through a few times. You can read silently or out loud, whichever is most effective for you. Wait patiently for God to speak to you.

As you read the passage listen for a word or phrase that attracts you. Allow it to arise from the passage as if it is God’s word for you today. Sit in silence repeating the word or phrase in your head. Then say the word or phrase aloud.

Meditatio
Reflect on the word or phrase that you have been given.
Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire
•    What’s the word/phrase causing you to feel?
•    What’s the word/phrase causing you to think?
•    What is God saying to you through the word?
•    What is it in my life right now that needs to hear this word

Oratio
Talk to God about what is going on inside you. Tell Him how you feel: angry, sad, joyful, repentant, love…
Pay attention to any sense that God is inviting you to act or to respond in some way to the word you have heard.
Is there anything you want me to do, to say, to share, to change?

Contemplatio
Contemplation is inner quietness, it’s God gazing at us and us gazing at God, resting in God’s love. The goal is not to hear anything from God, but simply to be with God.

“For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword,
it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow;
it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.
Everything is uncovered and laid bare
before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
Heb. 4:12-13 NIV

“…it can go straight to the point
of what the human heart is thinking or intends to do.”
The Kingdom New Testament

What text?
Some possible passages of scripture -
•    Suggested on the Methodist church website:  Psalm 139:1-18;  Isaiah 43:1-3;  Romans 8:14-17, 28-39; 2 Timothy 1:6-10
•    or choose your own
•    or open the Bible and see what pops out?

What if nothing happens?
There is another possible conclusion to your prayer. Perhaps you have heard nothing. You may feel frustrated and angry because all you thought about during your prayer time was your shopping list or your job or something else seemingly unrelated to God. The server was down; the Internet crashed; all links were inactive. For those of us who have grown up in a society that places ultimate value on ‘getting things done,’ the experience of ‘nothing happening’ is maddening. However, from Benedict’s perspective, such ‘failure’ is a normal part of our fallen human condition. If encountering God’s Word were easy, there would be no need to practice prayer! Prayer is not a product; it is a relationship. Even if you did not experience the wonderful event you imagine, God knows your intention. You wanted to spend time with Jesus, and in some way, although exactly how is a mystery to you, you did. So express your frustration to God; ask for help and for the strength to try again. God does not require that we be successful, just faithful.

 


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