Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lent and Lectio Divina

During Lent many desire to deepen their prayer life. A Benedictine priest who has written on prayer was interviewed by the Peace Weekly on its proper place in living a Christian life. His wise words: "We have to learn how to pray and work at it continually until, unknowingly, prayer will come to us naturally."

For over 20 years he has made a study of Lectio Divina (Divine Reading) in  the early days of monasticism, and has written and lectured on the subject, enabling many to enter this world of prayer.

Asked what would be his definition of prayer, out of the many that we have, he said it would be dialogue, the interaction between God and ourselves, a lifting up of our hearts to God, completely, and preparing ourselves to hear the response. Solitude and silence, he says, are necessary for this encounter.

The interviewer mentioned that since there are steps and levels of prayer, how do we develop our prayer life? Many, the priest said, use a prayer book for their prayers and are at the level of asking for blessings. How can we go deeper? In the books on spirituality,he noted that nine steps are usually mentioned;  the journey begins with vocal prayer and ends with the prayer of transformitive union.  The higher the ascent the more God's activity is seen, and the more passive we become. God does the leading.

Contemplation, he says, is not reserved for a few but is for all. If we stay with the reading of Scripture and meditating, God will lead us to the higher levels.  Lectio Divina is reading the Scriptures with  our whole being, having it  become part of us. As St. Jerome said, if we do not know the Scriptures, we will not know Jesus.

If we divide life, as we usually do, into daily life and faith life, the interviewer asked, will prayer bring them together? The priest answered that life should not be compartmentalized into prayer life, service to others and everyday life.  It is all one. If we take the readings of Scripture that the Church gives us daily, and have them accompany us in our lives, our spiritual life will benefit greatly. We will have harmony, and all  will tend to unity.

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