Under the eye of God - Lenten Ramblings 3-22-17

1 Thessalonians 5:17

 This verse from has been variously translated: 
 Pray without ceasing.
 Never stop praying.  
 Pray constantly. 
 Pray at all times.

Gloria Dei is focusing on the topic of prayer for Lent. I ditched the lectionary and will spend my six Wednesday blog reflections with thoughts on prayer.

Lectio Divina is Latin for Sacred Reading, or reading the word to listen to the Word. Richard Foster mentions it in the portion of his book (Chapter 13 in Prayer: Finding the Hearts True Home) we are discussing at Gloria Dei this week.

On the surface, it might look more like a bible study method than a means of prayer…. I mean, we are reading a passage of the Bible, right? But the intention is to listen to the scripture, or more accurately, listen for God in the scripture. Prayer is communication between you and God; this is your turn to listen.

There are lots of sites on the web that describe the steps of this method of prayer. The description that I have adapted below is from “Accepting the Embrace of God: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina,” by Father Luke Dysinger, O.S.B.37. There is also a glorious book, Tree Full of Angels by Macrina Wiederkehr (Harper Collins, 1988) from which I have added the comments in italics.

For a lot of folks, including me, it is hard to get rolling in this method because, first, you have to pick a scripture passage. A short passage is most helpful in this process. Other than that, there really isn’t much guidance out there. To help you get started, here are 4 passages: Mark 4:35-41; Matthew 5:13-16; Romans 12:9-12; 1 John 4:7-11. The book of Psalms is a pretty great source. Just start flipping pages or scrolling down your screen until a verse or two grabs you. Jesus’ parables are possibilities as are stories about Jesus in the Gospel of John. I suspect a part of the process begins as you seek which passage to use.

In A Tree Full of Angels Macrina Wiederkehr also uses the process on other readings from books or poems or letters she has received (remember this is 1988; now it would be emails or texts or postings or memes).

So here are the steps of Sacred Reading: 
reading – meditation – prayer –contemplation. 

A monk from some time and place (sorry, I couldn’t verify the source), poetically put it this way: 
Read under the eye of God
until your heart is touched
then give yourself up to love.

1. Quiet yourself. Sometimes it is helpful to pay attention to your breathing and let it help you relax. Approach the reading expecting to be blessed.  

2. Read the passage slowly. Read the Scriptures with reverence, giving up the lie that you do not have the time. Read as one who has nothing but time. As you read, listen for a word, phrase, or short segment that attracts you. Read under the eye of God.

3. After you settle on a word or phrase, spend several minutes reflecting on it. Read until your heart is touched. Meditation is a process in which you struggle with the Word of God that has entered in your heart. If this Word wants to be a guest in your heart, go forth to meet it. Welcome it, try to understand it, walk with it. Wrestle with it. Ask it questions. Receive its blessings.

4. Read the passage again, asking yourself, “Where does the content of this reading touch my life today?” Prayer is a response to God and life. It comes from a heart that has been touched. How does a touched heart pray? ...sometimes in pure gratitude it simply stands in awe...sometimes it weeps...sometimes it sings.... sometimes it screams out in anger...sometimes it kneels with outstretched hands... Then just say it to God, using words or ideas or images.

In the first three steps, we are active: reading, meditating, and praying. Now is the time for receiving, to be quiet and open to God. This final step may be hard; we aren't well-trained on letting go. It may take practice...or not.

5. Return to your word or phrase and simply rest in God's embrace – image a baby asleep in a parent’s arms. Giving yourself up to love is melting into God. Let go of dependency on thoughts, words, and images. Just rest in God.

Lent is the perfect time to try out a new practice. Or, if this is old hat, then a perfect time to listen for God.

Comments and questions always welcome.

How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245