When pray­ing, I find lec­tio div­ina—”spir­i­tu­al read­ing” — a won­der­ful help. We should not think of spir­i­tu­al read­ing” as read­ing in the nor­mal sense in the same way we should not think that allow­ing a mint to dis­solve in our mouth is eat­ing. Nor­mal­ly, we read quick­ly — the quick­er the bet­ter — to amass infor­ma­tion or under­stand some issue. But in spir­i­tu­al read­ing, we seek to turn our heart and mind and spir­it ever so gen­tly to the Divine Cen­ter. We seek to be uni­fied, focused, syn­op­tic. It is prayer­ful read­ing in which all of our exter­nal and inter­nal sens­es swing like a nee­dle to the pole star of the Spir­it. We become all ears” to God.

Prax­is

How is this done in prac­tice? You might want to begin with a brief Scrip­ture pas­sage or a small read­ing from one of the rec­og­nized mas­ters of Chris­t­ian devo­tion. Read slow­ly, qui­et­ly, prayer­ful­ly. Pause at any word or phrase where you feel the Spirit’s draw­ing. Sup­pose you come to Nehemiah’s won­der­ful state­ment, The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Stop and wait, yield­ed and still. Per­haps the Spir­it will plumb your own feel­ings of weak­ness and help­less­ness, expos­ing deep rea­sons for your lack of strength and giv­ing you intense long­ing for a strength not your own and not depen­dent upon the winds of circumstances.

You may begin pray­ing this Scrip­ture: Lord, let me receive your joy.… For­give my han­ker­ing to find joy in things that nev­er ful­ly sat­is­fy — food and triv­ial con­ver­sa­tion and oth­er friv­o­lous things. Let me soak in your joy.” The Spir­it may teach you about your inter­nal resis­tance to God’s joy. Per­haps song and dance come. Or joy-filled prayer in a lan­guage unknown to your con­scious mind. And more.

The Invis­i­ble God

Maybe you are med­i­tat­ing on Paul’s great con­fes­sion in 1 Tim­o­thy 1:17: Now unto the King eter­nal, immor­tal, invis­i­ble, the only wise God be hon­or and glo­ry for ever and ever. Amen.” Per­haps the word invis­i­ble” stands out in bold relief. Lord,” you pray, I have failed to appre­ci­ate this real­i­ty about you. I’ve want­ed a god I can ver­i­fy with sci­en­tif­ic tools so I can be cer­tain you exist. But you are invis­i­ble, pure Spir­it not con­trolled by human real­i­ties. In try­ing to get you down to man­age­able size, maybe I’ve cre­at­ed my own graven image. For­give me.”

I notice in Scrip­ture how those who were obsessed with your phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions were also trapped in a hope­less local­iza­tion of your pres­ence. How much bet­ter to know that time and space nev­er con­fine you. Thank you for being the God who is invisible.

Is your invis­i­ble­ness’ tied close­ly to your omnipres­ence? What if you weren’t invis­i­ble, and I awoke every morn­ing, star­ing into your face. It would prob­a­bly kill me! Moses was near­ly done in by mere­ly glimps­ing the back­side of your glo­ry. Thank you for being the God who is invisible.”

A Paean of Praise

Per­haps you are drawn toward the great prayer St. Fran­cis gave to Broth­er Leo. You are holy, Lord, the only God, and your deeds are won­der­ful. You are strong. You are great. You are the Most High. You are Almighty. You are love. You are wis­dom. You are humil­i­ty. You are endurance. You are rest. You are peace. You are joy and glad­ness. You are jus­tice and mod­er­a­tion. You are beau­ty. You are gen­tle­ness. You are our courage. You are our haven and our hope. You are our faith, our great con­so­la­tion. You are our eter­nal life, great and won­der­ful Lord, God almighty, mer­ci­ful Sav­ior.” You may want to take one attribute a day and set­tle into it.

You are jus­tice and mod­er­a­tion” may cause you to con­sid­er this unique com­bi­na­tion of attrib­ut­es; how jus­tice leads to mod­er­a­tion and how mod­er­a­tion makes jus­tice pos­si­ble. Con­tem­plat­ing on You are gen­tle­ness” may bring you to expe­ri­ence God’s gen­tle­ness, who, Jesus says, is like a moth­er hen gath­er­ing chicks under her wing. Then, you may bring these insights to bear while med­i­tat­ing on You are strong” on anoth­er day.

Lec­tio div­ina is a rich mine for prayer. You are free to dig up its trea­sures to your heart’s delight.

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