Praying with Scripture
“The diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialog in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying responds to him with trusting openness of heart. If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church – I am convinced of it – a new spiritual springtime.” — Address of Benedict XVI to the International Congress commemorating the 40th anniversary of Dei Verbum.
Traditionally known as Lectio Divina, today the term is appearing again in Church documents and spiritual writing. It consists of four steps: 1) Sacred reading (Scriptura); 2) Meditation (Meditatio); 3) Prayer (Oratio — which has come to mean all kinds of prayers and devotions, divine office, etc.; 4) Contemplation (Contemplatio).
Five P’s, by Armand M Negro, S.J.
- Passage: from Scripture – have the passage picked and ready.
- Place: sit where you are alone and uninhibited in response to God’s presence.
- Posture: relaxed and peaceful.
- Presence of God: be aware of it and acknowledge and respond to it. If nothing happens, turn to the
- Passage from Scripture: read it aloud or whisper it very slowly and listen very carefully and peacefully to it.
Process begins with developing the ability to listen deeply, to hear “with the ears of our hearts,” as St. Benedict wrote.
- Select a passage of Scripture (may be from the day’s Liturgy). Slowly read it; read it several times allowing a word or phrase to attract you, trusting the Holy Spirit is with you in this sacred reading.
- Meditation – Once you have found a word or passage which speaks to you in a personal way, follow the example of Mary: “pondering in her heart” what she saw and heard of Christ (Lk: 2,19). Take and ponder, allowing the word or passage to interact with your thoughts, your life, experiences and desires. Through meditation you allow God’s word to touch and speak to you at your deepest level.
- Prayer – Enter into dialog with God, a loving conversation with God. Share with God your feelings, questioning of the Scripture you have pondered, expressing your joy, trust, reliance, gratitude or your fear, anger, disappointments – whatever God’s word has created within you.
- Contemplation – Simply rest in the presence of the Lord who has used His word as a means of inviting you to accept His grace-filled embrace. Wordless, rest quietly in the Presence within you. Again, become silent, letting go of your words and thoughts. Simply enjoy the experience of a Loving God asking you just to be.
Reading, meditating, praying and contemplating is universal in religion. Jesus came from the Judaic faith which to this day emphasizes “lectio divina.” Jesus himself prayed the same way, as can be noted in the Gospels. St. Benedict wrote this practice into his Rule in the 6th century, and the Church has practiced Sacred Reading as the foundation to Christian spiritual life for over a thousand years. In the recent Synod on Scripture, Pope Benedict XVI called Bishops to teach once again Lectio Divina to the entire world. “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” (St. Jerome, 4th century.)
You can find additional information about praying with Scripture by visiting the following websites and books:
- Living with Christ
- The Word Among Us
- God’s Word Today
- Sacred Reading: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina, by Michael Casey, (Liguori/Triumph, 1996.)
Examines the Western tradition of a spiritual and prayerful approach to reading the sacred texts in order to help readers expand their spiritual approach to living.
- Lectio Divina: Renewing the Ancient Practice of Praying Scripture, by Basil Pennington, (Crossroads Publishing, 1998)
M. Basil Pennington, the late priest, retreat master, and a prominent lecturer in the Centering Prayer movement, sets the process of praying the Scriptures in the context of meditation, contemplation, compassion, and action. He calls it “a way of friendship” wherein we pay attention to “the love letters from the Lord.”
- Reading with the Heart: Lectio Divina, the Cistercian Way of Prayer by Eleanor Campion (Messenger Publications, 2019)
A collection of essays on aspects of Lectio Divina or Sacred Reading, written by the men and women of the Cistercian order in Ireland, Britain, and Norway. Lectio Divina is a core value and practice for Cistercian monks and nuns. They have lived it, grown in it, and have much wisdom to share with the wider world.
Since the Second Vatican Council, various Scripture groups and Small Christian Communities have focused on Lectio Divina as their prayer form. Many follow the cycle of Sunday Scripture Readings. Join a Scriptural Prayer Group. Try one of the internet sites or prayer magazines listed above.