Listening to Scripture as Prayer

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
Colossians 3:16

One way to pray by listening is to listen to Scripture using a simple approach known as lectio divina, which simply means divine reading. It is a way of reading Scripture that allows the Spirit to use the words of the text to speak directly and deeply into our hearts and lives. In this way of reading, we slow down our reading and we bring ourselves to the text. We invite the Spirit to use the words we read to speak to us in whatever way the Spirit might choose.

There are many different ways to practice lectio divina. All of them involve inviting the Spirit to open our hearts and minds to whatever we need to receive and hear. This is typically followed by reading a short portion of Scripture and then sitting quietly for three or more minutes with an openness to what has just been read. This reading and then sitting quietly to experience the text is usually repeated four times.

One approach to these four readings of the same short text involves reading the text, then sitting quietly, noticing what might stand out from the text. This is followed by a second reading and a time of quiet reflection on the text. The third reading is followed by a time of responding to the text by talking to God about it. And, finally, the fourth reading is followed by a time of simply resting in God’s presence.

Another approach involves reading a short text four times with pauses of three or four minutes between readings during which one simply rests and allows the Spirit to speak through the words of the text during each of the times of quiet.

Another approach involves the reading of a short narrative text several times, often from the gospels, and each time putting oneself in the story as a different character in the story. This often allows the story to come to life and provides an opportunity to experience various points of view in the story.

Combining Scripture reading with meditative prayer in this way can open us up to the voice of the Spirit in new ways. Lectio divina is a way of allowing the Spirit to use the words of Scripture to speak to us directly in ways that challenge, heal and bless us. It is a way of reading Scripture that allows for a direct encounter with the text and with the Spirit.

As we practice the prayer of listening to Scripture, the word of Christ comes to dwell in our hearts more richly. In the inner sanctuary of our hearts, we take in the words of Scripture like bread for our souls. We are fed by God’s Spirit with spiritual food. We are nourished, so that our spirits grow stronger in the reality of the love and grace of God.

Give me ears to hear
and a heart to receive
whatever you desire
to show me today.
Open my heart
to the words of Scripture.
May your word
come to dwell
in me
richly.

Prayer suggestion

Ask God’s Spirit to open your heart to receive the word God has for you today. Read a short portion of Scripture. Sit quietly with it for three minutes. Gently notice what comes to your mind and heart. Read it again, and again sit in silence with it for three minutes, reflecting on it. Read it again and let yourself respond by talking to God about it as you feel moved. Read it one more time, followed by sitting in silence for three minutes. This time simply rest in God’s loving presence as you take in whatever has moved you as you have reflected on the text.

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