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Reading prayer is an ancient art. In Latin, the technique is known as lectio divina. It is a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures that enables the Bible, the Word of God, to penetrate us, and to become a means of union with God.
Time set aside for lectio divina enables us to discover in our daily life an underlying spiritual rhythm. Lectio divina, reading prayer, gives us an increasing ability to offer more of ourselves to the Father, and to accept the embrace that God extends to us in Jesus Christ.
The art of lectio divina begins with cultivating the ability to pay attention to what we are reading. When we read the Scriptures, we should try to imitate the prophet Elijah. We listen for the still, small voice of God (I Kings 19:12), the "faint murmuring sound" which is God's word for us. This gentle listening is an attunement to the presence of God in that special part of God's creation, which is the Scriptures. The cry of the prophets to ancient Israel was the joy-filled command to "Listen!" "Sh'ma Israel: Hear, O Israel!" In reading prayer, we, too, heed that command and turn to the Scriptures, knowing that we must "hear" the voice of God, which often speaks softly. In order to hear someone speaking softly we must learn to be silent. We silence ourselves to all other voices and focus only on what we are reading.
So, the first step in reading prayer is just to read. This reading, however, is different from the speed-reading, which modern Christians apply, to newspapers, books, and even to the Bible. It is reading combined with reverential listening. We are listening for the still, small voice of God that will speak to us not loudly, but intimately. We read slowly, attentively, gently listening to hear a word or phrase that is God's word for us this day.
Once we have found a word or a passage in the Scriptures that speaks to us in a personal way, we must ponder it. We find a scriptural invitation to reading prayer in the example of the Virgin Mary "pondering in her heart" what she saw and heard of Christ (Luke 2:19). This is the way we come to scripture in reading prayer. We repeat it, and allow it to interact with our thoughts, our hopes, and our memories. This is the second step in reading prayer. We meditate on the word. Through this meditation, we allow God's word to become His word for us, a word that touches us and affects us at our deepest levels.
The third step in reading prayer is prayer. This is prayer as a loving conversation with the One invites us into His embrace. This is also our prayer of consecration to God. In this consecration prayer, we allow Godís word to touch those parts of ourselves that we have previously refused to give to God; we even allow the word to touch those parts of ourselves that we thought God did not want. We allow our real selves to be changed by the word of God.
Finally, we simply rest in the presence of God. Speaking words to God is no longer the most important part of our prayer. It is enough just to be in Godís presence.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
Copyright 2000 York Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Last Modified: 03/23/04