The booklet you have in your hands teaches a method of prayer called “lectio divina” (pronounced “lekseeo dyveena”). What you will get to know is a very simplified version of this method, though it keeps to all the essential elements.
The method is very simple, but especially fruitful. You will discover this if you not only read this booklet but begin to put into practice what it suggests.
Don’t read this booklet all at once. Rather concentrate on task and return to the next chapter after a few days.
A few introductory remarks
First, a few words about ‘time and place’ in the form of question and answer.
Where am I to pray?
The ideal place is in church or a chapel where there is exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. We won’t always be able to manage such a location. In practice it can be any place, where you find even a little quiet. Most often it will be in your own home.
How much time will it take?
Why take? Treat this rather as an investment, thanks to which everything else you do during that day you will achieve more quickly and more effectively (there’s nothing like a spiritual foundation).
The method itself you have to repeat a few times – a least four times. It’s good if it takes a long time. The time of day is not important, what is important is that we are conscious and don’t fall asleep.
For one this time is early in the morning, for another in the middle of the night – there are no rules here.
Must I kneel?
You don’t have to. The “golden rule” that defines what position it should be says: expedient and convenient. You can therefore during prayer kneel, you can sit on a small bench, you can also sit as usual in a comfortable chair.
Do I need a prayer book?
Yes and no. You will not need to use a classic prayer book, but you will need the text of Holy Scripture – it will be your “prayer book”.
+ EXERCISE +
Take your Bible. If you don’t have one, you can access it here: https://www.biblegateway.com/
Every modern translation is suitable.
Find the passage Matthew 7:24-27 and read it. This passage of the Gospel of Matthew (the first book of the New Testament), the seventh chapter (before the colon it is always the chapter), verses 24 to 27 (after the colon it always the verses).
The essence of the method
I hope that your appetite for prayer using “lectio divina” has not yet passed.
Let’s go immediately to what I want to tell you.
The essence of this method is divided into:
1. reading (lectio)
2. meditation (meditatio)
3. prayer (oratio)
All of it in a time of quiet, focus, and inviting the guidance of the Holy Spirit for good fruits. At the end thank God together with reflecting on your prayer – how you felt, what was good in the prayer, and what needs to be corrected in the future.
Now a few words on the subject of each of the essential points.
Read – Lectio
For a reading (lectio) select a long passage of text – at least one chapter. Don’t assume that you will read it in its entirety. It may happen the first verse may be the passage at which you should pause. It may also be that you read for a good few minutes. In reading, the aim is to find a passage (usually one verse) which moves you. This can have a variety of characters. It could be curiosity, confusion, comfort, beauty, uneasiness. Being moved acts as a sort of signal from God that this verse is important for you.
Finding such a text is a sign that the end of the stage of “lectio” has come.
Repeat - Meditatio
The original the meaning of the Latin word was ‘repetition’. In this part concentrate on the finding discovered. Read it many times, once, twice, trice, four times . . . slowly, so as to taste the whole verse or passage.
In reading you may accentuate different parts and words of the verse.
Reading it many times will lead to you recalling it from memory. And that's good. You can then repeat it from memory once, twice, trice, four times . . .
Speak, pray - Oratio
At a certain stage meditation moves into talking. It will have a spontaneous character. Sometimes it can be activity, but we can also be “snatched” by Divine inspiration. Then prayer becomes more the action of God in us than our action. It is difficult to predict what the prayer will bring, exactly what character and direction it will take. It could either be a conciliation, a petition, or a thanksgiving and adoration.
The simplest definition of prayer says it is “a conversation with God.” Therefore, in this stage, you are simply talking with Him.
+ EXERCISE +
Read the description of the method once more . . . simply pray in this way. Do it over a few days:
1. read until (LECTIO) something moves you,
2. at this, whatever moves you, stop and go over it (MEDITATIO) until it enters your thoughts and heart,
3. begin to pray (ORATIO), talk about it all with God.
I suggest for a start you take the fiftieth (and following) chapter of the Gospel according to John (this is the fourth book of the New Testament).
Treat it as your union with Christ – just as the branch is grafted onto the vine.
A few details
I am really curious how it went. Do you have behind you your first rehearsal of prayer in the method “lectio divina”?
Today a few details, which I didn’t give earlier so as not to cloud the matter.
There are no rules about how much time each stage of the method should take. There is also no rule about how long the whole process should take. This means that at the end of the cycle, if you have time you can repeat it. Continue with the reading from the next verse, begin another meditation and another prayer.
Again, I repeat: how long a cycle takes is an individual matter. One person may be a choleric another a phlegmatic, each will need a different time – that’s clear. A quarter of an hour can equally be one or three cycles. It’s only important that to each stage you enter with due attention and honesty.
+ EXERCISE +
Read on in the Gospel according to John or begin reading the First Letter of John. Use, of course, the method you now know. Remember to read faithful to the method. It is not about how quickly you read this book – on the contrary – read slowly and “delight” in the words.
Become faithful to daily prayer. Pray in this way every day.
Through using this method you can prepare yourself for the Sunday Eucharist. On www.universalis.com/mass you can find the readings for the liturgy.
For the discouraged
This lesson is dedicated especially for those who suffer from distraction, who are disheartened because they get nothing out of it, they remember nothing, nothing comes from meditation . . .
A long time ago in Egypt there lives a hermit. He had many disciples, one of them came one day to his master and complained: “I want to read the Bible, and I read it, but I don’t understand any of it, I can’t memorize anything, I get nothing out of it. I am going to stop meditating, I’m discouraged, I’m leaving.”
The master did not reply straight away. He told the disciple to take an old wicker basket, go with it to the Nile and bring him some water. The disciple was astonished at such a request, but went to fulfil the request. He went to the Nile, dipped the basket in it and brought to the master. Of course, the basket was empty.
The master however told him to repeat the effort a second, a third, a fourth, and a fifth time.
Then after the fifth time he said: “I sent you for water, you scooped the water of the Nile a basket of holes and you brought me nothing – that’s true. However, look at the basket. It was dirty! Now it is clean and shiny. It was due to that water which you scooped up. You didn’t keep hold of it, but it cleaned up the basket.”
It is the same with our meditation. What is most important is faithful to it. You won’t be able to comprehend it all. However, meditation will ALWAYS give you a CLEAN UP.
PERSIST in it.
Do you now know what to do if you remember nothing?
+ EXERCISE +
And how can it be? Read and carry on meditating!
Pass it on
If you have used this method and appreciate its value then help it to be achieved by others. Suggest this booklet to them (or give it) or show them somewhere on the internet where they can try it in a virtual way.
+ EXERCISE +
Read and meditate further!
And win over others to this form of prayer.