Pope Benedict XVI encouraged us to go deeper in our prayer life by using a classical method--Lectio Divina. The retired Pontiff strongly exhorted followers of Christ to utilize the Word of God as fertile ground for delving into the depths of prayer.
Our intention in this short article is to offer the steps the Holy Father suggests and a touch more to motivate us to never tire in growing in our union with God through a deeper prayer life.
Prayer has no limits given that prayer is union with an eternal and infinite God! Here are the steps…..
1. Lectio— Take in your hands the text you have chosen to meditate upon and then read it. However, before reading invite the Holy Spirit, known as the Interior Master, to help you in prayer. Then the prayer of the young Samuel can be yours: “Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening.” What a privilege you have—that God now wants to speak to your heart!
2. Meditatio-- Now we want to apply the use of our memory and understanding to understand what God is trying to say to us though this text. Rejoice in the fact that God right now has a special message He wants to communicate to you through this reading and meditation! Be open to God; think and pray. Be bold enough to ask the Lord: “Lord God, exactly what is the message you want to communicate to my heart and life right now?” The Holy Spirit hears you and will respond!
3. Contemplatio-— Now utilize another mental faculty that God has endowed you with and that is the use of your IMAGINATION! We all have an imagination—maybe a very vivid imagination. However, the imagination is like a two-edged sword; it can be used for good or for evil. For evil, as a married person, it could happen day-dreaming about a past girl-friend, thereby committing adultery of the mind, leading to adultery of the heart. The imagination used for good might be to imagine walking side by side with the Good Shepherd (Psalm 23/John 10) and contemplating the loving gaze of the Good Shepherd peering into your eyes, hearing His gentle and reassuring voice, and experiencing His strong but loving embrace around your weary shoulder. In sum, our imagination must be trained for the pursuit of good.
4. Oracio-— Now we have arrived at the very heart of the essence and purpose of Lectio Divina and prayer itself--oracio, meaning prayer. When the mind or imagination sparks an idea that descends to the heart, it is time to open up in prayer. This means, now open up your heart and talk to the Lord in the most simple, trusting and intimate way. Our Lord is a great God, but He is never too busy for us and always ready and willing to listen to us whenever we decide to talk to Him. This conversation with the Lord can be a few minutes, a half an hour, an hour— whatever length the good Lord inspires in the depths of your heart.
5. Accio-— Authentic prayer must be brought into the reality of our lives. The woman Doctor of prayer, Saint Teresa of Avila, made this acute observation. The acid test to prove that prayer is indeed authentic is by the manifestation of how prayer has affected our lives. Jesus Himself reminds us that we can tell the tree by its fruits. A good tree will bring forth good fruit; a bad tree will bring forth bad fruit. A person who is truly praying with sincerity, honesty, rectitude of intention, and love for God will bring forth fruits or virtues in his/her life.
From the tree of his life will blossom and flourish the following: faith, hope, love, humility, purity, meekness, patience, obedience, self-control, mortification, and fortitude. Our Lady is our example at all times. In the Annunciation we contemplate Mary in prayer as a contemplative. In the Visitation, after Mary finishes her prayer, she hurries to bring the fruits of her prayer in service to her cousin Elizabeth! May Our Lady’s example motivate us to be “Contemplatives in action.”
6. Transformacio-- There is a saying: “Tell me with whom you associate and I will tell you who you are.” Another one of those timely proverbs of the past hammers it home: “Birds of the flock stick together.” Our aim should be to implement the words of the great Apostle Saint Paul:“It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” This is the ultimate goal of Lectio Divina and all authentic prayer— the imitation of Jesus Christ, the following in His footsteps, and the transformation into His very essence and being.
Choose your text, read, meditate, contemplate, pray, live out and allow God, through the working of the Holy Spirit, to transform you into the saint that God has made you to be!