Scripture and Prayer – Listening Prayer
“Speak Lord; your servant is listening” 1 Sam 3:10
God speaks to us in many ways: nature, people, and events… In listening to God in prayer, we focus on Scripture as God’s word to me here and now. What the text meant to the original writers/ hearers, to others throughout history, may be helpful – but it can also distract from what God is saying to me now. We are not trying to preach mental sermons to ourselves, nor discover insights that will be helpful to others.
In any relationship, there is a great difference between hearing the words and really listening. So being attentive in this form of prayer is essential. Inner quiet, relaxation, attentiveness, total honesty: “God I feel bored, angry, excited, scared…”
Use only a small passage of scripture. This is not drinking beer it is sipping a liqueur. Taste God’s goodness. Ignatius of Loyola called this form of prayer an “application of the senses”. If you wish, you can use the same passage again and again, simplifying, returning to and resting at that point where you met God. Where God spoke to you. Savouring one phrase, one word. Resting “like a child quieted at its mother’s breast” (Ps 131:2)
Scripture is food. It needs to be taken in, chewed over, tasted, to be nourishing.
PICK a passage, eg. Can have it ready the night before, go to sleep with it, wake up with it…
PLACE solitude, can be uninhibited about our response, maybe a “special place”, a “prayer corner”…
POSTURE relax, do a relaxation exercise, music, flowers…
PRESENCE of God. “God you are here, you love me into being, you love breath into me, you wish to speak to me …”
PRAY eg. Begin with the Collect for Purity; ask for God’s Spirit, for grace to listen, to hear God’s word to me now…
Use imagination, PICTURE the scene, become involved, with whom do I identify? “That person is me” (2 Sam 12:7)
Read very slowly. PONDER. Can read aloud. Repeat. Read, Ruminate (Reflect) Respond (PROMISE), Rest. If a word or phrase touches your heart, savour it, repeat it, rest in it, return to it in a later prayer period, carry it in your heart for the rest of the day – for the rest of your life. Don’t hurry. Don’t try to look for lessons or profound thoughts.
Some scriptures: Gods covenant with me Is 54, Is 55; Deut 7:7-11
God loves me and calls me Rom 8:28-30
The choice to respond to God’s love Deut 30:11-20
Any favourite passages, one that suddenly comes to mind, a gospel passage, a psalm, a prayer.
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
help us so to hear them,
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast
the hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Cranmer’s famous collect for Advent 2, this version from CofE’s Common Worship. Surprisingly there is no NZPB version.
The Carmelite Order (link off this site) a website with excellent resources for Lectio Divina * “by Bosco Peters (www.liturgy.co.nz)”.