There is much talk these days about different forms of prayer. The term Lectio has become a buzzword in some Catholic circles. My youth director in high school introduced me to this simple "Divine Reading" method – or praying with scripture.
And what a wonderful way this is to pray, for St. Athanasius says of the scriptures: "These books are the fountains of salvation, so that he who thirsts may be satisfied." Furthermore, St. Teresa of Avila shares that "…mental prayer…is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us."
I've been praying with scripture ever since. It's such an essential part of my daily life, for as St. Teresa of Calcutta puts it, "To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it."
I have come to treasure my morning visits with Jesus, which use His Word as a conversation starter.
I usually use the scripture texts of the day's Mass. This is a beautiful preparation for hearing them again within the liturgy, bringing the scriptures more to life. Allow me to share my reflections on one powerful experience of this a few years ago:
This morning, Father approached the ambo, offered the customary greeting and announcement, and began to read the assigned gospel passage from Mark.
As I stood listening, it struck me: "I was here this morning."
The passage chronicled Jesus' call of Levi (Matthew) and subsequent dinner arrangements and proclamations, inferring that he is the physician sent to the sick of soul.
This was not the first time in recent memory that this account had been presented to me; I had used it less than four hours earlier for my morning meditation. In this passage, we were told of Levi's concrete, life-changing encounter with our Lord.
This morning, in my own time of quiet prayer, I, too, had encountered Jesus. Like Levi so long ago, I had met Him, present with me in the tabernacle of our chapel. Now I was meeting Him again as the scriptures were read aloud.
While not everyone has the invaluable privilege of praying before the Blessed Sacrament each morning, anyone can open the Bible and spend time with Christ who speaks to us in scripture!
Here is a simple outline that forms the basis for my morning visits, and which I think may be helpful to you:
Pick out a Scripture passage (the gospel of the day is a good choice.)
Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance. It is difficult to launch into prayer from the midst of a flurry of distracting occupations, so take a minute – Call to mind that Jesus is with you.
Read a small section of scripture that you've chosen slowly and prayerfully.
I really appreciate passages with concrete images and encounters, into which I can easily place myself. I have found them much more conducive to meditation than lofty, philosophical discourses. In recent years, I've gained a little more ability to use more abstract passages, though. Everyone is different, and what works for us can change at various stages of our lives.
Who is pictured here? What are they doing? What does it mean to me? How would it feel? What would it be like? Imagine what it would be like to be there. What would you do? And so on.
Begin to talk slowly to Christ, telling Him of your love for Him, your desire to serve Him, your willingness to do anything for Him. Adore Christ in the scene of the day's meditation; express your love for Him; thank Him for past gifts; ask Him for new favors in the future; When the conversation begins to falter, return briefly to the reading to get new thoughts for additional conversation with Christ.
This is entirely optional, but it may be of great value in making progress in prayer: Thank God for the graces received during the time of prayer now coming to a conclusion. Then, very briefly, one might examine his failings during the period and promise to get rid of these in the future. This determination to hold a better conversation with Christ gives a solid determination to make further strides along the road of prayer.
As you embark on this journey, don't be discouraged if you don't seem to 'hear' much. Be patient and listen! Even after many years of praying with scriptures daily, I still haven't mastered the art of listening. I still have to remind myself to be quiet long enough to let the Word speak to me. I'm not a person who often gets clear answers in prayer, but at least I'm trying. I'm showing up for the conversation. Maybe He's speaking to me so subtly that I don't even notice it.
I'd encourage you to "show up" to devote time each day to pray with scripture. It is not so much a matter of what you feel during your prayer but the mere fact that you "show up" and make an effort.
If you can sometimes pray before the Blessed Sacrament, I'd really encourage you to do so; it is a wonderful way to pray, with Jesus physically present in front of you. If that's not possible, you can still pray at home or in another conducive spot.
Sr. Christina is a Franciscan Sister serving at St. Anne's Living Center in Grand Forks, ND. Along with various work duties (from office work, direct care, to sacristy to PR/Communications), she also writes a blog for her Franciscan community, sharing thoughts, reflections, and stories from daily life. The link is ndfranciscans.org/fiat.