Lectio Divina is the most traditional way of cultivating friendship with Christ. It is a way of listening to the texts of scripture as if we were in conversation with Christ and he were suggesting the topics of conversation. The daily encounter with Christ and reflection on his word leads beyond mere acquaintanceship to an attitude of friendship, trust and love. Conversation simplifies and gives way to communing, or as Gregory the Great (6th century), summarizing the Christian contemplative tradition, put it, “resting in God.” This was the classical meaning of contemplative prayer for the first sixteen centuries.
PRAYER AS RELATIONSHIP
“Lectio Divine is letting our Divine Friend speak to us through his inspired and inspiring Word. It includes our response to that Word. It is meeting with a Friend, a very special Friend who is God; listening to him, really listening; and responding, in intimate prayer and in the way we take that Word with us and let it shape our lives.” Basil Pennington
Read: Listening with the heart through the Holy Spirit.
Reflect: Allowing the Word of God to form ad shape us.
Pray: Response to God’s Word e.g. thanksgiving, praise, petition, repentance, adoration.
Rest: Resting in God beyond thoughts, words and images.
Dispositions for Prayer:
Faith: A firm belief that God is truly present to us through his word.
Humility: Acceptance of our lack of understanding regarding God and the realization that only he can satisfy the hunger in us.
Openness: To God’s Word and where it might lead us and the letting go of prejudices and preconceived ideas.
Faithfulness: Getting to know the Divine Lover requires time and faithfulness to prayer. Eventually we see ourselves through God’s eyes.
“God himself through the Holy Spirit will enable us to grow
in our inner self, so that Christ may live in our hearts
through faith, and planted in love and built on love,
we will have the strength to grasp the breadth
and the length, the height and the depth,
then knowing the love Christ, which
is beyond knowing we will be
filled with the utter fullnessof God.” Eph. 3:16-19
Contemplative Prayer is the normal development of the grace of baptism and the regular practice of Lecio Divina. We may think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words. But this is only one expression. Contemplative Prayer is the opening of mind and heart – our whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words, and emotions. We open our awareness to God whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing – a closer than consciousness itself. Contemplative Prayer is a process of interior purification leading, if we consent, to divine union.
The Method of Centering Prayer
Centering Prayer is a method designed to facilitate the development of contemplative prayer by preparing our faculties to cooperate with this gift. It is an attempt to present the teaching of earlier time (e.g., The Cloud of Unknowing) in an updated form and to put a certain order and regularity into it. It is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer; it simply puts other kinds of prayer into a new and fuller perspective. During the time of prayer we consent to God’s presence and action within. At other times our attention moves outward to discover God’s presence everywhere.
Explanation of the Guidelines
I. “Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.” (cf. Open Mind, Open Heart, chap. 5)
II. “Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.”
1. By “sitting comfortably” is meant relatively comfortably; not so comfortably that we encourage sleep, but sitting comfortably enough to avoid thinking about the discomfort of our bodies during the time of prayer.
2. Whatever sitting position we choose, we keep the back straight.
3. If we fall asleep, we continue the prayer for a few minutes upon awakening if we can spare the time.
4. Praying in this way after a main meal encourages drowsiness. Better to wait an hour at least before Centering Prayer. Praying in this way just before retiring may disturb one’s sleep pattern.
5. We close our eyes to let go of what is going on around and within us.
6. We introduce the sacred word inwardly and as gently as laying a feather on a piece of absorbent cotton.
III. "When you become aware of thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.”
IV. “At the end of prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.”