Monday, November 15, 2010

Soaking in Scripture: Spiritual Formation through Lectio Divina, part 3

Meditation on Scripture leads naturally into the third rhythm of lectio divina: “oratio”--prayer.

3. Praying Scripture
As our hearts and minds become saturated with God’s Word we spontaneously begin to pray that passage back to our heavenly Father. “Lord, give me the tenacity of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.” “Develop that kind of daring faith in me.” “Show me what obstacles I need to press through in order to get closer to Jesus.” “Please heal the places where I am bleeding inside.”

In prayer our hearts become fully engaged in God’s Word. Often when we simply read a portion of Scripture, we remain rather detached. But as we meditate on it—and particularly as we pray it back to the Lord—our hearts engage in the process.

The prayer portion of lectio divina should remain focused on the verses at hand. This is not the time for going through our prayer list or interceding for others. While petition and intercession are valuable forms of prayer, they can be done at a separate time. Instead, during the time of lectio divina, our prayer centers on what God is speaking to us through his Word and what he wants to do in our lives. We submit ourselves to the Creator of the universe and give him our undivided attention.

Too often when we read the Bible we know the Lord is addressing things in our lives, but we run off before we have taken God’s message to heart. However, when we make the effort to meditate on what God is saying and then take time to pray about it, God’s Word sticks in our minds, sinks into our hearts, and bears fruit in our attitudes and actions.

By praying God’s Word back to him, we pull together 1) our Bible reading, 2) our prayer and 3) our daily existence. So often we keep these three facets of life quite compartmentalized from each other. Lectio divina is a gentle structure that integrates all aspects of our lives. It is holistic.

Various Prayer Responses

When I honestly open myself to God through his Word, I am time and again convicted of sin in my life—ways I have hurt others, bad attitudes I have harbored, hurtful words I have said, good words and actions I have failed to do. I have trespassed against God in “thought, word and deed; by what I have done and what I have left undone.” When Scripture shines light on a hidden sin in my life, I need to respond with a prayer of confession. In addition, I’ll ask the Lord to fully reveal my fallen actions or attitudes. Then I pray that he would pull it out of my life by the roots—no matter how painful that process might be or how long it may take.

Other mornings, Scripture causes me to see God’s blessings in my life as never before. My prayer time then focuses on expressing thanks. It might turn into a time of worship and praise for God’s goodness to me and faithfulness in my life.

At other times God’s Word sheds new light on his love for me and I begin to realize how cherished I am. As well as thanking the Lord for his lovingkindness, my prayer might flow right into a time of basking in God’s goodness and love for me, which is contemplation, the fourth step of lectio divina.

There is a logical progression through the rhythms of lectio divina. We begin by reading a passage of Scripture several times to get it into our minds. Then we meditate on it, reflecting on it from different angles. This naturally leads into praying the passage back to the Lord.

In day-to-day practice, however, we may not always proceed from one step to the next in such a linear fashion. As we meditate on the passage, we often go back to reread it in order to clarify what it says. After we have prayed in response, we might go back to meditation to see how God’s Word further applies to us. Then we return to prayer, asking the Lord to work that into our lives.

Thus we glide back and forth among the various rhythms of lectio divina. That is good because lectio divina is not a formula or method; rather it is a willingness to be teachable and an attitude of receptivity. It is an integrative approach to soaking in God’s Word and God’s presence. Lectio divina is a mindset of allowing God’s Word to address whatever he desires in our lives and to shape us as he pleases. So long as we are becoming steeped in Scripture, and transformed by it, our time is a success!

In my own practice of soaking in God’s Word, these three steps of reading, meditation and prayer often take place with the aid of pen and journal. As part of my lectio/reading, I’ll write out the verse or verses that I’m focusing on. Like reading aloud, the process of writing slows me down and helps me to see each word in my passage. Writing out the verses is also helpful if I’m going to memorize a portion of Scripture. Next, I record some reflections on the passage. Sometimes this is in paragraph form; other times it is simply bullet points. Such meditation on God’s Word often flows seamlessly into prayer. Finally, I often write out my prayer response to the Lord. Here I commit my situation to him, ask for help, and surrender my will to his plan.

Personal Practice
As you read and meditate on God’s Word this week, try praying the Scripture back to God. Some might realize that they have been doing this all along. Others will find this a bit awkward—or a bit intimidating. As you make prayer a natural part of your time in God’s Word, however, it will become more and more spontaneous for you.

Because lectio divina takes longer than many Christians are used to spending in their daily devotions, you may find that you need to set more time aside for the Lord. On a practical level, you may decide to do lectio divina one or two days each week and on the other days keep the Bible reading plan that you are already on. Find what works for you. The goal is not fitting our lives into a new method; rather, it is soaking in Scripture so that our heads, hearts and hands become saturated with God’s Word.

© 2010 Glenn E. Myers

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