Two Ways of Praying with Scripture
Praying in a new way is, on one level, a bit like learning other new skills, like learning to ride a bike or drive a car. It takes practice. If you struggle with the method at first, give it some time, to see if it is right for you.
The fact that a way of praying is challenging doesn’t mean it isn’t spiritually fruitful. Sometimes God has big challenges for us, to help us into a closer relationship. Sometimes God simply wants to offer us peace or consolation. But if there is no spiritual fruit from the method, don’t feel you have failed!
If a way of praying is right for you, in terms of bearing spiritual fruit, make sure you learn what sort of Biblical passages the method is suitable for. Then you can use it at other times in your prayer life. If a given method is not right for you now, just put it aside. But our prayer life grows and changes over the years and decades. At some time in the future, it could be fruitful to try that method again.
1. Gospel Contemplation - see below for more details
The first way of praying you are invited to pray is GOSPEL CONTEMPLATION.
This is a method of prayer particularly associated with the sixteenth century Spanish saint, Ignatius of Loyola, but it is widely used nowadays by Christians from many different denominations.
Gospel contemplation works best when you pray with stories about Jesus and the disciples, particularly stories with some action, and not huge screeds of talking by one person. So usually, they are passages from the Gospels. The idea is to enter into the scene in the Bible reading, allowing God to show you who you are in the scene. It is best not to try to predetermine who you are, as ‘discovering’ who you are in the scene may be part of what God wants to show you.
Some passages you could use for this way of praying during “Thy Kingdom Come”:
For Ascension Day Thursday 22 May: Luke 24: 36-49 or Luke 24: 50-52 or Acts 1: 6-11
For the 7th Sunday of Easter 24 May: Acts 1: 13-14
For Thursday 29 May: John 21: 15-18
For Friday 30 May: John 21: 20-22
For Pentecost: John 20: 19-23
2. Lectio Divina - see below for more details
The second way of praying you are invited to pray is LECTIO DIVINA. This method is particularly associated with the Italian sixth century saint, Benedict of Nursia.
Again, the details below tell you what you need to start using the method. And once again, it is a method widely used nowadays by Christians from many denominations.
Lectio Divina can be used fruitfully with any passage of Scripture. It’s important to remember with this method that the aim is not to get through a lot of Scripture, but to encounter God more deeply through the word or words that God has for you on any particular day. It’s a bit like a cow chewing the cud.
Before Your Prayer Time
Read your Scripture passage through two or three times. Let it wash over you. Allow yourself to be familiar with it. Let anything that really touches you, any word or phrase, hold your attention.
During Your Prayer Time
You may put your Bible aside or leave it open in front of you.
Sit or position yourself comfortably.
Quiet yourself, relax and be still. You may find it helpful to pay attention for a short time to your breathing, or the beat of your heart.
Ask God for a specific grace (eg, to be more deeply aware of God’s love for me.)
Place yourself in the Scripture scene. Be there. Be one of the characters or a spectator, but be really present. Allow yourself to take part in the scene – as one of the named characters or as somebody not named in the story. Observe the people, the event. Listen to the words being spoken. Converse, accompany, serve … . Do whatever you find yourself being led to do as part of the event. Lose yourself in it.
As you approach the end of the prayer time, if you haven’t already spoken to Jesus, speak to him. Let him respond.
After Your Prayer Time:
Review of Prayer
Now take a few minutes to review the prayer time. To mark the fact that this is a review of the prayer, rather than a continuation of the prayer, move to a different place to do this. Write up your reflections. These questions may help:
- Who was I in the prayer?
- How did I interact with the other characters?
- In particular, how did Jesus and I interact in the gospel scene?
If we talked, either in the scene or at the end of the prayer time, what was significant about the conversation?
- What did I feel as I was part of the gospel scene?
- Did the contemplation remind me of anything going on in my life?
What are the implications for my life and my relationship with Jesus, others and myself?
- To what extent did I receive the grace for which I prayed?
Lectio Divina (Latin for ‘Divine Reading’)
Find a position that you can maintain without moving during the prayer period. Often it is useful to sit upright with hands in an open and receptive position. Become still, perhaps by focusing on your breathing for a few minutes.
Become aware of the presence of God and ask for God’s guidance.
Lectio (Latin for ‘Reading’)
Read the passage several times slowly. Be attentive and discover which word or phrase particularly connects with you. Once you have found that word or phrase, there is no need to read further in the passage. Go back and read the passage again.
Meditatio (Latin for ‘Meditation’)
Slowly repeat the word or phrase from the Lectio several times. If you are alone, you can read the word or phrase aloud. Notice what images, concerns, memories, ideas, and feelings surface. Stay gently with these.
Oratio (Latin for ‘Prayer’)
Speak to God about whatever surfaced in the Meditatio.
Allow God to respond.
Contemplatio (Latin for “Contemplation’)
Simply rest in God’s presence, experiencing God’s love and joy and peace, tasting his goodness. You may be beyond words, but the word or phrase from Lectio may gently resurface.
Do not worry about whether your Lectio Divina was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Prayer methods generally flow more after practice, but every time we pray with a passage, we can expect the prayer to be different, because we are at a different stage in life. It can be very helpful to jot down in a prayer journal what came up in the prayer. Also note that what surfaces in Meditatio may be peaceful or joyful, but it could also be something quite challenging. Think about Jacob wrestling with God! It is usually helpful to persist with something challenging that surfaces, but if you think you can’t handle it, then don’t. However, if this occurs, please find somebody appropriate to discuss what has surfaced – Vicar, spiritual director, counsellor ….