Entering Into the Heart

As we traverse the landscape of Lent, we seek to enter into the life of Jesus in a deeper and more personal way. We seek to unite ourselves, through him into the Oneness of God.

We seek to strengthen our prayer life as a means to this end. I am, as I’ve noted, engaging in Centering Prayer, but there are other methods that are thoroughly Christian, yet in their practice resemble, in the doing, traditions that are recognizable as Eastern in their essence.

One of these is the practice of lectio divina. Although it has been associated with Catholic practice,  it is done by Episcopalians and I assume others who have found it to be a wonderful way of entering into scripture more fully.

It consists of four stages (not steps as Cynthia Bourgeault points out so clearly. *) The first is to select a passage of scripture, shorter rather than longer. (lectio) Read it prayerfully, aloud if possible. Perhaps a second reading. Second, bring your mind and feelings into the passage (meditatio). Ask questions, delve into the characters, identify what “grabs” you.

The third stage is prayer, inviting your feelings into a word or phrase until it begins to speak to you. (oratio) What is God saying to you? Allow insights to come, as scripture moves from your head to your heart. You move deeper into the phrase, as scripture comes alive in new meaning.

The fourth stage is a “resting in God” . Suspend the mind and emotions and remain quiet. (contemplatio).  The Word joins the silence and is fully integrated.

This form of practice can be thrilling. We are cautioned that each day is different. We may move from stage 1 to 3, back to 2, or something different. We can spend more or less time at any stage. It can be a profound method with benefits that are numberous. We see into the scripture more fully, into ourselves more deeply and we connect in that unitive way with the divine. We come away with calmness, and connectiveness.

Give it a try, perhaps using portions of the Lenten readings of the day.

Amen.

*Cynthia Bourgeault says we should not consider lectio divina  as a series of steps, because that creates a ladder in our minds, and tend to focus on the climb. Rather she suggests, we should consider it a wheel of stages, each entered into as long as needed or desired, moving fluidly to any other stage, perhaps returning, or not to any stage. There are no rules essentially.

**Taken from Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, by Cynthia Bourgeault, (Chicago: Cowley Publications) 2004

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tim
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 17:33:27

    Oh, Sherry–another gem! Thank you. One of the things that often stalls my prayer life is finding the most effective method to–for lack of a better description–match my mood/mindset. As a youth, I was well trained in how best to approach intercession, expressions of gratitude and praise, and conversational dialogue with God, i.e., improvisational prayer. What went missing, though, was the type of structured, reflective prayer you describe here and in your post on centering prayer. (My upbringing’s tradition pooh-poohed such genres as formulaic and, thus, insincere–to which I now say, “Hah!”)

    Very recently, on the recommendation of a friend, I added the Ignatian Daily Examen to my repertoire and it’s become one the most illuminating prayer experiences of my life. I imagine you’re already familiar with it. If not, there’s a terrific explanation here: http://ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/ Closing each day with time to reflect where and when God’s presence was most real, where and when it was not, and consider how best to invite God’s presence into the gaps puts a perfect button on the day for me.

    Now you’ve given me another method that beautifully marries prayer and Scripture in a united, contemplative effort. I’ll add it to my toolkit and use it often, I’m sure. Thanks again.

    Blessings and much gratitude,
    Tim

    Reply

    • Sherry
      Mar 25, 2011 @ 14:02:38

      Indeed Tim I am familar with the Ignatian Daily Examen. I think that perhaps we gather all of these ways, and some days one works better than another.. we are attuned a bit differently and we resonate with one or another at different times. I’m not sure that’s the best way to practice, but I know that I find myself drawn to one or another. Lectio can be a really powerful experience.

      Blessings this day.

      Reply

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