Scripture is meant to be prayed as well as read. You can open yourself to the inspired words of God and let them address you; you can and must respond to Scripture, so as to enter into a kind of dialogue with God through the medium of the Bible. Such an activity has been going on daily for more than fifteen hundred years in monastic communities all across the world. Praying the Scriptures is an immensely popular and effective way of getting into touch with God, and giving God the opportunity to get into touch with you, sometimes literally. You can pray the Scriptures on your own, or in a prayer group; though to gain full spiritual understanding and maturity, both individual and corporate forms of prayer will prove essential.
The process of praying the Scriptures is time-honored, and consists of four necessary steps or stages. Note that these stages are more cyclical more than linear; you can and will find yourself going back and forth during a session of praying the Scriptures. The Process:
1. Reading: Reading a passage, hopefully not too long a passage. Maybe even reading it aloud, should you be in a place where you can do so. Truly listen and become fully present to the text. What is the text saying? Read it again, after a brief break to let it sink in. You may repeat reading the text a few times, if and as it feels right to do so. Trust your heart here.
2. Meditation: Reflecting, ruminating, chewing. What verse or verses of the text especially grab you? What is the text saying to you; what does it mean to you at this moment?
3. Prayer: Reacting, praying. What does your heart want to say to God? The prayer stage also includes your waiting on the Lord, awaiting God’s sensed presence.
4. Contemplation: Receiving God’s response; letting go and letting God. What is God doing in and with you? It might simply be a calming sense of God’s presence, or a peace-bringing resting in God’s Spirit. To enter fully into contemplation, you must first consent to God’s presence and action within you.
To better understand this fourfold process of praying the Scriptures, I will use the analogy of ordering food at a restaurant. First of all, you have to be hungry for food – just as you must have a desire for God. So how do you order off a menu? Through these four simple steps:
1. Reading: you first have to read what’s on the menu. What is there and available?
2. Meditation: You find something of interest and you begin to ruminate on how it might taste and whether that speaks the most to you at that given moment.
3. Prayer: You have to have a brief conversation with a wait person to order that item.
4. Contemplation: This commences once the food arrives and you begin to ingest it.
To pray the Scriptures means to read them with God, with Christ as Partner; it means to open your mind and heart to the presence, power and purpose of God’s word for you. To pray the Scriptures means to read, then listen; to wait, then sense; to sense, then take in; to take in, then, finally, to do. When you pray the Scriptures read slowly, repetitively, reverently and prayerfully, open to that Scripture’s significance, to what God might be saying to you in it, and to the spontaneous response of your soul as you read the words.
Finally, to get you started, I suggest these four Scripture passages to pray:
“Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and go good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act” (Psalm 37:1-5).
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:9-11).
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7),