Being a Disciple means allowing yourself to be transformed by the daily encounter with Jesus Christ.
Jesus is alive and He walks with us every day of our lives. We have to keep our eyes open if we want to see Jesus. Prayer is one of the primary ways that disciples encounter the Master. Unfortunately, we are often not open to meeting Jesus face to face in prayer. We want to "say our prayers" and get on with our day. And when we do open up to the possibility of encountering Him, it can be very frustrating that we seem to get little back. How can we turn prayer into a conversation?
One of the best ways to encounter Jesus is through the Word of God. There is an ancient prayer form called Lectio Divina ("Divine Reading") that uses Scripture as a conversation starter to a deeper relationship with Jesus. It has four steps, known by their Latin names:
Lectio (read): Pick a Scripture passage, usually just a few verses. Read it through once, then again more slowly, then a third time even more slowly. Notice the words, thoughts or ideas that jump out at you.
Meditatio (think): Turn over what you are reading in your mind. How is it speaking to you? What thoughts, feelings, or desires are coming up in your heart? Don't worry about the passage means, but rather what it says to you. The ancients compare this to a cow chewing it's cud.
Oratio (talk): Here your attention shifts to God. Talk to Him about what you've read and what you are thinking about. It's only a conversation, an encounter, if you open up to the Other. Direct your attention to God and relate what is on your heart.
Contemplatio (listen): Some authors refer to this as "resting". Essentially, though, you are now shutting up and being open to what comes back from God. It's not a conversation if you do all the talking. Notice your thoughts, feelings and desires now from within this relationship of trust and love.
I find it very helpful to journal the content of the prayer. I also like to conclude the prayer with final conversation (Ignatius calls it a "colloquy") where I try to talk with God about what happened in the prayer time today. Lectio Divina isn't magic. The secret is the desire to encounter God through His word. Try it with this weekend's readings, Mark 10:17-22:
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother." He replied and said to him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Pause for a short while and consider how God our Lord looks upon you.
Read the passage once to become familiar with the text.
Slowly read the passage a second time.
Very, very slowly read the passage a third time.
Pay attention to which word, words, or phrases captures your attention or tugs at your heart.
Talk to God about what is on your heart... and listen.
Questions for journaling:
The "strongest" thought or feeling during my prayer was...
My heart "rested" when...
I sense the Lord was telling me...
I ended the prayer wanting...
(from the Oremus booklet)