Oftentimes our Wikipedia-mindset has taught us to read like robots. It’s one thing to read a text looking to obtain information, it’s another looking to undergo transformation. “Reading” the Bible isn’t meant to merely offer certain ideas or reflections, it is meant to be an encounter, through the Holy Spirit, with the living Word who is Jesus.
Praying with Holy Scripture can help you to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit by stirring inside your heart and inviting you to hear God, who speaks through the words of the Bible. As Catholics, we accept the Bible as the Word of God to His people, the Church. It is important to remember that “the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book”. Christianity is the religion of the “Word” of God, “not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living”. If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, “open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures.” [Catechism, 108]
For this, there is an ancient practice called “lectio divina”. This means “divine reading”. It is a method of reading and praying on Scripture. It has had many forms in the Church’s history. God will knock and wait. With “lectio” we open the door of our selfhood and give God space in our hearts.
This is one very practical way to practice it. It has several “moments” or “acts and movements”. We shall outline them now:
Place. Find a quiet time and place to pray. You can pray alone, or have a group “lectio”. Now, we will explain the latter. In any case, when you pray alone you can follow the same steps excluding those which demand sharing with others.
Posture. Be relaxed and comfortable, but avoid any posture favorable to sleep.
Select a passage. Before you begin, select a theme and a passage from Holy Scripture related to it. It is usually better to read short passages, in other words, to choose only some verses. As a Catholic, you read the Bible with the Church. We all realize that Holy Scripture was written in a certain context and culture and that it is to be approached with this in mind. Try to read some of the commentaries from the Fathers of the Church or the Popes to better understand the passage you have selected.
There are many parts to Lectio Divina; they are outlined here. When praying Lectio there is no need to introduce each prayer by its title (for example, “Faith in Gods presence: Lord, we truly….” just begin from “Lord, we truly…”). When you become more comfortable with this type of prayer, it is recommended that you still use the same format, but for each prayer, you may like to make your own personal prayer. For example, when praying Faith in God’s presence, that you would make your own prayer for this rather than use the one provided. It is important that we do everything we can to enter into prayer and one particular way is to think of how we can pray Lectio in our own words.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
– Faith in God’s presence: Lord, we truly believe that you are present among us, and we want to ask You to help us open our minds and hearts, to understand and to welcome Your word into our lives.
– Hope in God’s mercy: Dear Lord, in your presence, we humbly recognize our faults and lack of faithfulness to You. And for this reason, we entrust ourselves to your merciful love, so that we may approach You with pure hearts.
– Act of Love
To the Lord Jesus: Lord Jesus, You know our hearts, and how much we love You. Teach us to love You more, and to love the Plan that the Father has for each one of us.
To Our Mother Mary: Dear Mother, we want to show you all our love, because we know that you always guide us toward your Son, the Lord Jesus, and we want to love you with the same love He has for you.
“Reading” is the first movement after the beginning acts of the “lectio”. One begins by the slow and mindful reading of the passage from Scripture. Try to concentrate on the message. What is God telling me in this passage? As you read, be alert to any word or phrase that seems to “come forward” for you.
– Explanation of the passage (one or several from the group).
– Moment of silence
This is the moment for personal meditation. After trying to understand the Bible’s message, you think about how the reading applies to your own life. We pause to have time to reflect and ask, “God, what do you want to tell me in this?” This movement implies spiritual listening, requires desire and an intentional openness of heart.
You can relate to the others participating in the joint prayer experience with whatever you wish to share. You can also ask for help in order to better understand the passage from Scripture or apply it to yourself. It is a moment of freedom. No one is obliged to express his secret thoughts or experiences. But it is a beautiful opportunity to allow others to use your insights or enjoy something that you possess, sharing the gifts you have received with others. It is a moment of prudence. Speak what you think may help others.
3. Concrete resolutions
Take a few moments in silence to formulate some very concrete personal resolutions, keeping them to yourself. “God, why do I focus on my shortcomings? I want to trust your call and your gifts in my life”. It is a moment to be humble and committed, that is to take seriously your resolutions and to let yourself be bound by them. Only God and you know them.
4. Final Prayer
Once you become aware of God’s message and have shared with your community of the “lectio” group, it is time for another moment of prayer. This is called “strong prayer moment” since all the “lectio” is a continuous prayer.
– Thanksgiving to the Lord Jesus: Lord Jesus, we want to thank you for your presence in our prayer, and we want to ask you to teach us to be faithful to God’s Plan in every circumstance of our life.
– Thanksgiving to Holy Mary: Dear Mother, we want to thank you for being with us during this prayer, and we ask you to help us to accomplish our concrete resolutions.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Feel free to revisit this page as many times as you need to. Lectio Divina is a particular prayer and takes some time to learn. Finally here are some words from Pope Benedict XVI given at the international congress on “Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church” in 2005:
“I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of “Lectio divina”: “the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart” (cf. “Dei Verbum,” n. 25). If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church — I am convinced of it — a new spiritual springtime.
As a strong point of biblical ministry, “Lectio Divina” should, therefore, be increasingly encouraged, also through the use of new methods, carefully thought through and in step with the times. It should never be forgotten that the Word of God is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (cf. Psalm 119:105).
Two videos that could be useful:
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