Praying with Psalm 131 (Lectio Divina Series – An Example)

In this reflection, I want to write about my own experience with Lectio Divina, praying with Psalm 131. I want to show you that this process can be very personal. Because it is personal, my meditations here won’t be the same as you would have. That is exactly the point. Lectio Divina is a way to listen to God speaking to YOU, personally. I chose this particular Psalm to share with you because God used it to lead me on a bit of a roller coaster ride.

Reading (Lectio)

Psalm 131 is extremely short. I read through it very slowly and still finished it quickly. So, I read through it several times. Even though it is only a few verses long, three images really leapt out at me. They were all from the first two verses, while the last verse didn’t seem to impact me at all. In this session of reading prayerfully, I just left it as an afterthought and never returned to it.

The first image was this strong declaration from the writer, David, that his heart isn’t proud. This declaration drives to a second declaration that he doesn’t concern himself with things beyond his understanding. He just leaves them alone. Third, he uses the vivid image of a child, just past the stage of nursing, content to be in his mother’s arms. For David, this image of God as a mother, gently holding him, hit me somewhere deeply inside.

Ponder (Meditatio)

I started to ponder this passage and ended up having a bit of a spiritual crisis. It came from the second part of verse 1, where David reflects, “I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.” I found that verse emotionally compelling. As I read it, I felt that I wanted to be in the same place that David was, spiritually. But, as I read, I realized I wasn’t even close.

It hit me that I actually live my whole life “concerning myself with great matters.” This is what I am all about. I am driven to seek out answers to hard questions. As I ponder, I am never satisfied with simple resolutions. I spend huge amounts of time wrestling with big questions like, Who is God? Why is there suffering in the world? Which religion is true? What do we really mean by atonement? What is true justice? This is not just a drive. Indeed, I love having conversations with people about big questions. I love reading and absorbing what people in the past have said. It fills me joy and energy and purpose. It is literally my favourite pastime.

This was my personal spiritual crisis: I felt the truth of what David was writing, but I also felt that God has called me to be a thinker and writer. I genuinely believe that this is my vocation.

Prayer (Oratio)

As I brought my dilemma to God, I prayed: How do I put them together!? The way forward was beyond me. Then, praying with Psalm 131 gave me an insight. I saw the irony: this is exactly what David was talking about. I believe that God spoke to me that day through this realization. Of course I couldn’t put it together, because there are “great matters” that are beyond me.

I didn’t feel that God was forcing me to an answer to the dilemma. He was just revealing it to me. The answer wasn’t so much a solution as an invitation to continue to ponder and pray. As I prayed, I would grow. But I needed to trust God even when I couldn’t see the way forward. This pondering led me into silent rest in God.

Silent Prayer (Contemplatio)

I realized deeply in my soul that, although I love the act of thinking and wrestling with big questions, ultimately all of that points beyond itself to God. I don’t have to have all those answers just to sit and love God. In fact, my calling can also be my idolatry. Sometimes I need to set them aside and be with God. As my praying with Psalm 131 led me to silent contemplation, I imagined myself as this weaned child just resting in the arms of his mother, and that was enough.

Over to You

Obviously, Lectio Divina doesn’t always lead to a spiritual crisis. As we pray, we often just discover insights about ourselves and our relationship with God. But because we each come to God with our own concerns, this way of praying through Scripture can be very personal. God is speaking to your questions, your situation, your joys, your fears. Our task is to listen, not to know the answers. As we said at the beginning of this series, ‘listening’ is one of the most important spiritual skills we can develop.

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