When we think of prayer, most of us think of praying as saying prayers, talking to God. When we think of prayer we think of the prayers we were made to memorize as a youth. We think of prayer as the prayers we say before bed, before meals or in church. These prayers are important and are very much helpful for our journey toward holiness. But there are different ways of prayer that require us to listen to God, rather than talk to God. These methods are called Meditation.
Many times we treat prayer as “listen Lord for your servant is speaking” rather than “speak Lord for your servant is listening”. We say that prayer is a dialogue between us and God, but to have a dialogue we have to be able to stop and listen to the other person in the conversation. It’s easy to have a conversation with a person who is physically present to us because we can hear their voice directly. But how do we listen to God? We listen to God through his Word. Reading God’s word is a way of listening to God speak directly to us. In prayer we talk to God and in reading we listen to God.
Pope Benedict XVI said about Lectio Divina and prayer, “Assiduous reading of sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer makes that intimate dialogue possible in which, through reading, one hears God speaking, and through prayer, one responds with a confident opening of the heart”.
Lectio Divina, or Divine Reading. Was something that was practiced by many early monastic leaders. St. Benedict, founder of the Benedictine Monks, dedicated at least 3 hours of the day to read; morning being the most conducive to Lectio divina. A few other Saints were also practitioners of the Lectio divina.
Lectio Divina is a great way to listen to God and hear where he is leading your heart. A few years ago, I took some time off from seminary for further discernment. Towards the time when I was supposed to return I was having second thoughts about returning. So I went to a church and there I prayed to God to show me what I should do. While praying I was prompted to pick up my bible and turn to a passage. I happened to turn to Sirach Chapter 2…(Read it), with that I felt that God was telling me that I was to return to seminary and prepare for what he had in store for me, which has been nothing but beauty, even in the midst of hardship. So, I prayed about it a few more times and finally made a decision to return.
At St. Joseph’s Seminary College, where I first entered seminary, we would gather every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for Lectio Divina.
How Lectio Divina Works…
To begin, first we must find a nice quiet place that will allow us to focus for at least 30 minutes in silence and without distraction. Turn off all distractions, in this particular spiritual exercise music of any kind is discouraged, since it will, God willing, become a dialogue between you and God.
Then pick a passage or chapter that we want to focus on. Many people have just begun reading and see what catches their attention, but I believe that to be too dangerous because it might tempt us to just read right through it. I would suggest a chapter or a few lines or even one of the readings of the day.
Pray to the Holy Spirit to enlighten you and begin to read.
Read until your heart catches a word or a phrase. Then chew on it. Keep repeating this in your heart and mind and allow yourself to acknowledge what is going on inside yourself as you repeat it.
Another important prayer of the church that we should all pray, is the rosary. Mother Mary is a loving Mother who will always point us in the right direction just as she pointed the people at the wedding feast of Canaan. The Rosary is a powerful prayer for anyone who is discerning their vocation because it allows for us to meditate upon the life of Christ at the same time asking for the intercession of our Lady in times of need.
I have found that praying the Rosary has helped me through some of the most difficult of challenges in life. Mother Mary has been very good to me and she will never lead you astray.
Praying with the Saints is of great importance to us. Thomas Merton wrote, “all that is necessary to be a saint it to want to be one”. Today many of us are embarrassed by our tradition of images and stories of saints. However, the Saints are of great importance to the Christian Catholic life. The Saints lived lives of great virtue on earth and continue to intercede for us in heaven before the throne of God. It is a good idea to foster a healthy relationship with a Saint or a few. The saints that I have a devotion to St. John Bosco, St. Therese of Liseux and St. Joseph.
Every time that I am going to work with youth or teach I pray that St. John Bosco intercedes for me and help me to do well, giving the youth what they need in their lives, working to give the light and love of Christ.
With St. Therese, I ask for her intercession when I am about to take on a task that might seem minute or burdensome or when dealing with difficult situations.
And St. Joseph, I ask him to intercede for me and help me with living out a life of holiness.
Meditating with the Saints helps me to remember that they have all been through life and understand it well. This conversation with them always leads me back to Christ.
Spend time in meditation, spend time in dialogue with God and with all of heaven. No one who has done this has ever regretted it.