During Lent it may help to have a prayer in your pocket. One that you can pull out on a moment’s notice.
A prayer I keep close at hand, and “at heart” is Psalm 23, “A Prayer of David,” commonly called “The Good Shepherd Psalm.” This psalm can become a spiritual resource especially if it arises from the practice of lectio divina.
Lectio divina literally means divine or holy reading. This is a way of putting on the mind of God. By absorbing the Word of God we let the divine scripture penetrate deeply so that we may be transformed by divine grace…(Abbott Jerome Kodell, OSB) One can ponder the Christian meaning of this psalm from the perspective of John’s Gospel: the Good Shepherd who gives his life for his sheep. (John 10)
Lectio divina is associated with those who follow The Rule of St. Benedict. However, this practice of reading and praying the Word of God has begun to find a place in the spirituality of many people desirous of reading the Scripture in a reflective and prayerful way. Entire books are now written on the topic along with many articles in periodicals.
The practice of lectio divina is best done in an environment of silence. (It helps to turn off communication media.) The writings of the major religious traditions emphasize the necessity of silence for coming into communion with God, with the sacred and with oneself.
The desert was perhaps the earliest place of lectio divina. One can imagine St. Benedict in his cave with the sacred scriptures as his lectio. Today the monk’s cell could be the place. We need a space to listen attentively to the voice of God speaking to us through the divine word.
The first word of The Rule of St. Benedict is the command to listen. St. Benedict specifies and denotes times during the day for the practice of holy reading and the practice of listening to the Word of God. This reading and listening to the divine word has the formative effect of awakening in the heart the divine presence which can speak to a person at any moment and in any situation. (Abbot J Polan, OSB) After reflecting on a passage from scripture it is common for a person to have that portion or word of scripture return to the mind and heart during the day.
Part two of this article explains the “method” for lectio divina, along with my favorite translation of Psalm 23 the Good Shephard Psalm. Click here to read part two.
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