During this Year of Faith, let's resolve to grow closer to Christ -- to know Him, to listen to Him -- through prayer.
One particular form of prayer, lectio divina, can help. Lectio divina is an ancient way of prayer, a slow, careful reading of the Word of God or other holy writings. Sometimes prayer can seem like a one-way conversation in which we talk to God but He doesn't speak to us. In lectio divina, we patiently, silently listen to Him. The Scriptures truly become a living Word, speaking to our particular circumstances in our individual lives.
Much has been written about lectio divina in books and online. Like a lot of things in the spiritual life, it is simple yet deep. I offer an introduction and invite you to dive further. Investigate, too, how to use lectio divina as a family or group.
- Start with a simple prayer to Holy Spirit, asking Him to speak to you.
- Choose a text from Scripture or a spiritual writing. It could be from the daily Mass readings, a random text, or you could work your way through a particular book of the Bible. I try to use the daily readings and meditations in Magnificat, a monthly prayer publication. When reading the Bible, don't necessarily have a determined amount of text to plow through, one author cautions. Let God determine how much you are to read.
- Read the passage slowly and leisurely, listening for a word, a phrase that seems to stand out to you, that speaks to you. I keep a prayer journal and begin by writing the words that jump out at me.
- Be like Mary, ponder God's word. Reread. What is He trying to tell you? This part of the prayer might be awkward at first. When I first tried lectio divina, sometimes I wondered if I was putting my words in God's mouth. I just prayed that I would hear God's voice alone and learned to be at peace with what I thought He was saying to me. With practice it becomes easier to recognize His voice, not just in Scripture but in all aspects of life. Another author on lectio divina offered this additional advice: When praying and listening, distractions might not be distractions. God might be speaking to you about what is weighing on your mind. Let the events and experiences of your life intertwine with Scripture in God's unique message for you.
- Further the conversation. Speak to God and let Him speak back. Writing everything down somehow helps the words flow for me and keeps me from forgetting my little exchanges with the Almighty.
- Lastly, prayer isn't meant to be a formula. Keep true to the basic form but tweak it if necessary to fit into your relationship with God.
We might be tempted to be jealous of the saints who had extraordinary encounters with God. Adam and Eve visited with Him in the Garden of Eden; Moses spoke to Him in the burning bush and on Mount Horeb; Jacob wrestled with Him; the apostles walked the face of the earth with Him, saints like Margaret Mary and Faustina were given His instructions through visions. But we, too, can talk with our God and question Him, wrestle with Him, seek His face and be enlightened and led by Him -- through our attentive prayer.
Inspired by this Year of Faith we will be posting columns like this from Susan Szalewski about exploring and/or deepening our faith. Watch for it on Thursdays and see the Year of Faith Blog here.