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 (Lectio Divina) is time-honored, and consists of four necessary steps or stages. 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, the analogy of ordering food at a restaurant is most helpful, and surprising accurate. 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 essential 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 right now, today. 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.
[A podcast version of this is available in the Podcast section of this website]