Sunday's call to pray is an opportunity to try something new
by Sister Ann Rehrauer
St. Francis of Assisi was familiar with today’s Gospel, and incorporated its message into his Third Order Rule, #9: “With all that we are, let us adore God because ‘we should pray always and not lose heart.'”
Today’s first reading and Gospel focus on the importance of persistence in prayer, while the second reading from St. Paul to Timothy speaks of the value of praying the Scriptures before preaching and teaching.
Recently, many people bring these two aspects together and use a method of prayerful reflection called Lectio Divina, a simple 4-step method that can be used with any passage from the Bible.
The first step is reading (and listening) -- read the passage you want to pray about and listen for words that stand out for you. Let’s take the story of the persistent widow of the Gospel. Perhaps, as you read, you are struck by her constant badgering of the just judge; maybe she’s annoying, but also effective at getting what she needs; or you notice that the judge (who was unjust and probably waiting for a bribe) finally gave in. Maybe you sense that it’s the just cause that makes the woman come back again and again. Whatever comes to you – hold that thought.
The second step (meditating) is reading the passage again and thinking about how that passage applies to your life. Perhaps you sense that you aren’t always as faithful to prayer as you want to be, and think about how you could make more time for prayer. Or God’s answers to some of your prayers come to mind – and you feel grateful. Constant prayer is not about wearing God down – but a consistent expression of faith that we believe God will answer and give what we need. Or maybe there is something you are being inspired to do -- and you’ve resisted responding to the “just request,” -- and you realize you need to reconsider and respond.
After you’ve thought about the meaning of the passage for you, move to the third step which is oratio (prayer – talking directly to God). Read the passage for the third time and speak to God about what has come to mind for you – asking the grace to be more faithful to prayer, expressing gratitude for God’s response to your prayer, or even an awareness of people you know who need your prayer – and you intercede for them, asking God for whatever they need.
The fourth step is contemplation. You read the passage a fourth time and simply sit in quiet and just “be” in the presence of God. God may speak to our heart at this point, or this may just be a time of us “being there.” There is no need to come up with pious thoughts – just be in God’s presence and be available.
Lectio Divina is a method anyone can do – and the more we do it, the easier it becomes. Most of us have our own way of praying Scripture. This is just a thought about another way to pray. Whatever method we use, it’s the time we set aside for God that’s more important than any method or words we use.
“With all that we are, let us adore God because ‘we should pray always and not lose heart.'” TOR Rule #9.
Further resources are available on the internet (just search for “Lectio Divina”) or at the USCCB website.