Praying with Scripture (Lectio Divina Series – “Oratio”)

Christian spirituality is always a response to what God is doing. Having received from God, we respond, first in prayer and then in action. In the first two movements of Lectio Divina, we have been learning how to open our hearts so that we can receive the word that God wants to speak to us today. This prayerful preparation comes in slow reading and intentional meditation on what we hear. All of this is a way of praying with Scripture and trying to listen deeply.

Word-Filled Prayer (Oratio)

After we have meditated on God’s word, we turn to prayer. The tradition calls this Oratio (Prayer), which is word-filled prayer. Oratio transitions organically into praying with minimal words. We call this transition to wordless prayer Contemplatio (Contemplation). In this reflection, I will look at word-filled prayer, and in the next reflection I will turn to contemplative prayer. 

Prayer is Responding to God

From meditation, we turn to prayer. Prayer is a wonderful gift from God. It is an amazing opportunity to be in dialogue and conversation with God. In Lectio Divina, we are prayerfully responding to any insights that emerge from our meditation. There is a constant pattern of hearing God’s word in Scripture and then responding in prayer.

Praying with Scripture: A Personal Example

For example, when I was reading Scripture devotionally the other day, I was working through the letter of Paul to the Philippians, Chapter 3. In this passage, Paul describes all of the advantages he had as a Jewish Pharisee. He was well born, had a great education, was well known for his commitment to the law, and blameless in his observance. Many people would have been jealous of the advantages he had. And yet, he considers all those advantages as rubbish compared to knowing Christ. The love and grace of Jesus Christ is worth far more than any of his privilege. He sings about the joy he feels in knowing Christ, and his willingness to trade everything else for it. He writes, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection…”

When I read those words, my heart jumped. I thought, “I want to know Christ like that too! I want to know the power of Christ’s love like Paul did. That’s what I really want.” So in my reading, I meditated on those passionate lines from Paul: what would this look like for me? Then I turned to my time of prayer, and this is what I brought to God. Using Paul’s words, I prayed, “I too want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection! Please, Lord, let me know this tremendous gift that Jesus has given us.” I just took the words from Paul’s letter and I MADE THEM MY OWN.

Bringing the Prayers of Our Hearts

This time of prayer is obviously whatever you make it. The structure of Lectio Divina is extremely flexible. It is only meant to be an opportunity to bring the prayers of our hearts to our loving Father.

Perhaps there is something in the reading that confused you, or that you didn’t like. Make that the content of your prayer. Maybe you just felt a strong emotion when reading something in the passage. Make that the content of your prayer. Ask God about it. Long after the prayer is over, you may find insight into what is going on spiritually within you. Maybe something in the reading encouraged you. Voice that to God. Maybe the reading spoke to a bad habit you are struggling with. Make that the content of your prayer. As we pray with Scripture, nothing is out of bounds.

I hope you see the profound flexibility of this way of coming to God. Lectio Divina only lays down a framework. You get to make it your own. There is only one real requirement for growth in the spiritual life. Just keep showing up, every day you can.  

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