You don’t have time to join a prayer group. Daily Mass at your parish is held right when you have to drop the kids at school and get to work. And despite your promise to pray more, you haven’t really started that either.
Take heart. If you’re serious about giving your prayer life a jump-start, we have a method that doesn’t require anything besides time in your own home and a Bible.
Slow and thoughtful reading of the scriptures has been part of Catholic tradition for centuries. The traditional Catholic practice of prayer and scriptural reading called lectio divina (pronounced lex-ee-oh di-vee-nuh—and don’t be scared off by the Latin, which just means “sacred reading”) is a way of praying with scripture that allows you to study, ponder, listen and, finally, pray and rejoice using God’s word.
If you’re feeling skeptical—“Hey, I’ve tried to read the Bible, it doesn’t work for me”—it may be because you tried to read too much at a time, with too little reflection. The Bible can’t be read like a thriller, or even like a nonfiction self-help book. Rather, the Bible is best approached in small, bite-sized segments, with ample time to make connections to your own life. So let’s get started.
Choose the passage you wish to pray. This can be done before your “official” time to pray begins. Perhaps after Mass on Sunday, you’d choose two passages and make it your goal to pray twice before the next Sunday. A whole chapter is too much. Better to start with a psalm or a story from the gospels.
Decide on a time and place: Don’t wait until you “have time to pray.” It’s less likely to happen. Rather, look at your schedule for the week and set aside two 20-minute time periods when the kids are away, asleep, or otherwise unable to ask you to help them find their baseball mitt or tap shoes.
Once you have the passage and the time and place, you’re set to begin. Lectio divina has four phases
1. Lectio: Reading
What does the text say?
Read the text slowly and gently. Savor it. Listen for the small, still voice of a particular word or phrase that says, “I am for you today.”
2. Meditatio: Meditation
What does this text say to me about something going on in my life right now?
Allow the text to interact with your inner world of worries, joys, plans, or stresses. Re-read it, perhaps out loud. Let your imagination engage the text. Consider symbolism within the text and analogies between something you are going through and what the text is speaking of.
3. Oratio: Prayer
What does God say to me, and what do I say to God through this text?
Ask God for the grace to be changed by what you have read and to become more fully the person God wants you to be. Ask God to help you apply the moral teaching of the text to your own life. Pray in whatever way you are moved to pray.
4. Contemplatio: Contemplation
Rest in the presence of God.
Let go of words and images and simply be in the presence of God. Relish this time you have set aside.
Re-engaging: After your time of lectio divina is over and you prepare to resume your normal activities, thank God for meeting you during this time. If possible, structure your period of prayer so that you are not immediately inundated with requests from your children when you finish. A cushion of time after prayer, but before “real life” starts up again, will allow you to better integrate the message of your prayer time into your life.
—by Annemarie Scobey from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2010 and 2011 General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association. Here’s a sample issue.
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