“God speaks to each of us through sacred Scripture and has a message for each of us. We shouldn’t read sacred Scripture as a word from the past, but rather as the word of God addressed even to us, and we must try to understand what the Lord is telling us.”
— Pope Benedict XVI, 11/7/2007 General Audience
God wants to speak to you in his Word
Do you want to hear him, but don’t know how?
Sometimes we have trouble hearing God in the Bible because we approach it like a history book, or a guide to moral living. Certainly it is those things, but it also has a lot in with the boxes of letters and memorabilia I have from my grandparents. They are full of cultural and historic details that anyone might find interesting. But when I read the letters, those things are just a backdrop. In those letters, I don’t read about a family. I hear from them. I can hear their voices, see each face and feel their presence.Click here to expand
That’s the difference between reading the Bible “as literature” or for its historic value, or even studying it to learn theology, and reading it personally as a letter from God. One of the best ways I know to do that is using the age-old, tried-and-true practice of lectio divina—“the divine reading.” We read and study Scripture to learn about God. We do lectio divina to draw close to him; to hear his voice and talk with him.
When we read the Bible to hear from God, he meets us with love and speaks to us. When we meditate on it he writes his truth on our hearts, speaking in fresh ways to each generation and personal situation. Pope Benedict XVI wrote to us in his recent apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini that the Word of God is “an openness to our problems, a response to our questions, a broadening of our values, and the fulfillment of our aspirations… All Scripture…challenges our life and constantly calls us to conversion.”
That is why it is so important to make the prayerful reading of Scripture a regular part of our lives. It draws us into intimate communion with the Lord, into a place where he can talk personally to us. And by doing that, it bridges the gap between what we know here [head] and what we do [hands and feet]. How? By planting God’s word inside us where it can grow.
As St. John Chrysostom said, “The Holy Scriptures were not given to us that we should enclose them in books, but that we should engrave them upon our hearts.” In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a parable in which he compares the word sown in our hearts to seeds scattered along a path. It’s the seed that falls on good soil, that’s pressed in and allowed to take root, that grows and bears fruit.
When you begin praying with Scripture using lectio divina, the ears of your heart will open to hear God’s still, small voice. You’ll be more receptive to what you hear, and that word will start to penetrate your heart. It will become implanted like a seed and start to grow, transforming you from the inside out with the life of God. And if you nourish it, that seed will grow and bear fruit in the world. You yourself will be a kind of sacrament of the Word, an incarnation of love.
As with so many things, Mary is our model. God’s word came to her through the Angel Gabriel: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!”
Mary listened; even though the words troubled her, she considered what they might mean. “…behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son …” “How shall this be?” “The Holy Spirit will come upon you … the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
She heard what must have seemed an impossible word – and received it. She gave herself to God, to write in her what he willed. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
And the word become flesh through her, and dwelt among us.
Even after his birth, Mary must have often wondered about this Word that had been born to her. Again and again we read of her response: “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” She listened. She allowed God to plant his word in her. She pondered, she responded. She gave birth to the Word; and in the end she became the mother of all the church.
That is our pattern with lectio divina: listen to the word, receive the word, ponder the word. Respond to the word, abide in the word. And if you do so, you—like Mary—will bear the word to the world.
© 2015 Sarah Christmyer.
Lectio Divina & Praying the Seven Penitential Psalms: Podcast and Prayer Journal
In this Thriving in the Trenches podcast, I talk with Megan Schrieber and Becky Traylor Carter about lectio divina, why hanging out with God in Scripture is so important to me and how I came to value the penitential side of Lent (plus a simple how-to for praying with Scripture using lectio divina).
Pour Your Heart Out in this Lenten Prayer Journal
Create in Me a Clean Heart, one of my Lectio Prayer Journals, will help you learn to pray with Scripture as you focus on a single psalm each week, returning to it daily with fresh insight. Originally designed for use during Lent, it can easily be used at any time.
- Learn first-hand how lectio divina—a time-tested method of praying with Scripture—can help you converse with God
- Record the fruits of your meditation
- Allow Scripture to “read” your heart and move you to ongoing conversion
Click here to find out more on Amazon. This –like my other lectio journal, Lord, Make Haste to Help Me: Seven Psalms to Pray in Time of Need – is available there as a small paperback or as an e-book from Kindle.
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Not into keeping a journal? Download my instructions for praying with the Penitential Psalms alone or with intentions related to the seven deadly sins:
“Flourishing in Drought”
4-part series on finding nourishment in God’s word
“As Catholics, we are used to nourishing ourselves with the Word made flesh and given to us in the Eucharist. But the Word comes to us in other ways as well, and we must be careful not to neglect Scripture. For in the pages of the Bible, our loving Father meets with us and speaks to us…” from “Flourishing in Drought: Part 1”
Learn more about Lectio Divina: free downloads
Related blog posts
See the Come Into the Word blog for more reflections on Scripture and topics like forgiveness, God’s love, Mary and the saints, trials and temptations, and more.