PRAYER: Private Lectio Divina by M. Basil Pennington
From An Invitation to Centering Prayer
Choose a text of the scriptures that you wish to pray. Many Christians use in their daily lectio Divina one of the readings from the Eucharistic liturgy for the day; others prefer to slowly work through a particular book of the Bible. It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as one has no set goal of “covering” a certain amount of text: the amount of text “covered” is in God’s hands, not yours.
Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Some Christians focus for a few moments on their breathing; others have a beloved “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” they gently recite in order to become interiorly silent. For some Centering Prayer makes a good, brief introduction to lectio Divina. Use whatever method is best for you and allow yourself to enjoy silence for a few moments.
Then turn to the text and read it slowly, gently. Savor each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow says, “I am for you today.” Do not expect lightening or ecstasies. In lectio Divina God is teaching us to listen to God, to seek God in silence. God does not reach out and grab us; rather, God softly, gently invites us ever more deeply into God’s presence.
Next take the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories, and ideas. Do not be afraid of “distractions.” Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself which, when they rise up during lectio Divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self. Allow this inner pondering, this rumination, to invite you into dialogue with God.
Then, speak to God. Whether you use words or ideas or images or all three is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. And give to God what you have discovered in yourself during your experience of meditatio. Experience yourself as the priest that you are. Experience God using the word or phrase that God has given you as a means of blessing, of transforming the ideas and memories, which your pondering on the Word has awakened. Give to God what you have found within your heart.
Finally, simply rest in God’s embrace. And when God invites you to return to your pondering of the Word or to your inner dialogue with God, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they are no longer necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you both in words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.
Sometimes in lectio Divina one will return several times to the printed text, either to savor the literary context of the word or phrase that God has given, or to seek a new word or phrase to ponder. At other times only a single word or phrase will fill the whole time set aside for lectio Divina. It is not necessary to anxiously assess the quality of one’s lectio Divina as if one were “performing” or seeking some goal: lectio Divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the scriptures.
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