Praying with Scripture
We are the captains of our soul — we have a will, and we can choose. We can’t ask people to all be wealthy or successful, but we can ask them to be master of themselves. Prayer is the strength of man, and the weakness of God. (See CCC 2567)
“As God gradually reveals himself, prayer appears as a reciprocal call.”
Man is a stargazer
Man has become a master of matter and an expert of engineering — I propose he has lost the art of being a good human being. Appreciation for beauty, adventure, and so on. Have we become less able to do what is most human?
Anthropos — literally one who looks into the heights. Man alone, out of all living creatures, gazes up at the heights. [The etymology of ἄνθρωπος is uncertain/disputed, but the point stands regardless.]
Looking down at a paycheck or smart-something… it’s not the same. Seeking instead stimulation and gratification. Lonely for lack of real connection. (This is the consequence of an overly scientific and technological society.)
Impurity — breaking the commandments — is the misdirection of love. A commitment to the interior life is needed. In the context of Song of Songs — the inner cellar of wine, where we can become inebriated in love of God. We can only love what we know.
Prayer is no more about saying words than fasting is about eating less.
We are all stargazers and romantics. Everyone must speak the language of prayer.
It is the foundation — the first of which is Mass, the height of the human experience. The second is meditating on scripture.
Which leads neatly into…
Since the Enlightenment, lectio divina has fallen from being “the prayer” into great disuse.
“If God doesn’t talk to me, He must not love me.”
We go to the church to pray… and sit in quiet… then get distracted, thinking of other things… and so it goes. We conclude from this (incorrectly) that we just aren’t “good at” prayer.
St. Theresa of Avila writes of how she brought — and used — a book during her times of prayer, and how it was of great benefit to her. God does speak from the mountain, as to St. Paul, but seldom.
The saints are very much like us. This is possible. We can have a relationship with God like they did — reading scripture is of great benefit in this.
When we pray, we talk to God. When we take up the scriptures, we listen, and God speaks through them. It’s no wonder we think prayer is boring if it is just reduced to our own monologue.
When you go to pray, go prepared. Bring a book — or especially a Bible.
How do we do this? Four rungs of a ladder:
Lectio — read. Open the word/text to give God the space to speak. Place the content in your presence.
Meditatio — like the way a cow eats: chew, digest, chew the cud again. Chew on the text; mull it over. Let it become a part of you. Consider it throughout the day.
Oratio — prayer. Talking to God. The conversation. A personal interchange — now we have something to talk about, because He has spoken to us.
To really get to know a person, we have to meet them. Learning facts about them only gets us so far. Meeting them lets them speak to us, to tell us what they like and what they hope for. They can share what’s on the inside of them.
Contemplatio — contemplation. Prayer of the child of God; forgiven sinner responding to the love of God. Contemplation is a fruit of love; love is, above all, an act of the will.
Prayer strengthens our will, and our will strengthens our prayer. It takes an act of will to go to prayer — but that prayer makes the will stronger, increasing the desire and ability to pray.
Defeat is the seed of victory: The giving of our will is the beginning of receiving all out will ever sought.
There is only one thing in the world that is fully mine: my will.
Prayer leads to building a relationship. Being a Christian is not an idea or ideology or following a set of rules, but an encounter. Our love is the response to the love God has poured out on us.
“When God is forgotten, the creature itself becomes unintelligible.” — Gaudiem et Spes
It’s not about swimming across the ocean, but enjoying (and exploring) the expanse of water.
Prepar for the encounter — it’s not instant, like opening a newspaper. It should have a privileged place in the day.
The book is there for distraction. When you get distracted, get the Bible back out and re-read or read a little further.