Listening with the Ears of the Heart
Come apart for a little while and seek the face of God.
Listening to God
In his book ‘The Proslogion’, St. Anselm urges us to “Come apart for a little while and seek the face of God.” He writes of God, “I will find you in seeking you, and seek you in finding you.” Lectio Divina is a means by which Christians have for centuries “Come apart to seek the voice of God.” In the words of St. Benedict, in the practice of Lectio Divina “we listen with the ears of the heart.”
This ancient form of bible study and prayer has been a mainstay of Christian life for over a thousand years. During the upheavals of the reformation, it became primarily a monastic practice, but it has been recovered by the general Christian population in the last 40 years.
The Four Fold method
Lectio Divina is a Latin term meaning literally “I read the Sacred”.
It is a four-step process:
- Lectio: reading a passage of scripture, or listening to a reader
about five minutes
- Meditatio: meditating on the scripture passage
about ten minutes
- Oratio: prayer leading from that passage of scripture
about five minutes
- Contemplatio: resting in God’s presence, being still
about ten minutes
If you need to spend more or less time, take the time you need.
The Practice of Lectio Divina
“Be still then, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
Be Still and Know that God is Present
To engage in Lectio Divina, you need to be in a quiet place. If you are to hear the voice of God speaking through scripture, you need to be silent and still. Choose a place in your home where you will not be distracted, so that you can concentrate on listening for the still, small voice that the prophet Elijah heard on the mountain.
Lectio (I Read)
Read the passage of scripture aloud, slowly and reverently. Allow the words to sink into your consciousness. Think of each word or phrase as a pebble cast into the pool of your heart and let each one ripple through you.
Meditatio (I Meditate)
Let the passage of scripture sink in. Allow memories or past experiences to bubble to the surface of your mind. Think about when you first heard this teaching, and what you understood from it then. What is this passage teaching you now? What do you recognize in this teaching that relates to your life, your experience?
Oratio (I Pray)
Let your thoughts about this passage lead you into prayer.
You may want to pray using the ACTS format:
Adoration– calling to mind the greatness and awesome mystery that is God;
Contrition – acknowledging before God those things which need amendation in your life;
Thanksgiving – give thanks to God for all your blessings; and
Supplication – praying for the needs of others and for your own needs.
Contemplatio (I Rest)
Now rest in the heart of God. Be still, relaxed and trusting. Let the Divine Presence seep into every nook and cranny of your being. Be at one with your Creator.
- Try to make this a daily practice, or at least a regular practice. Set aside the half-hour required (that’s approximate – sometimes, you may need more or less time, but 30 minutes is usual).
- Pick the time of day that is best for you. Some of us are at our best early in the day, others hit their peak in the afternoon or evening. (I prefer the early morning, before the busy-ness of the day overtakes me.)
- Do not engage in Lectio Divina when you are tired – you’ll fall asleep! – or when you are unwell – it’s too hard to concentrate when you are sick.
- Try to engage in Lectio Divina at the same time each day. This will help to make it a habit, and will also help to gauge the time needed for each section of the exercise.
- It is helpful to use a timer. Have a clock or a watch near at hand to time yourself. If you are practicing Lectio Divina in a group setting, appoint one member of the group to keep time and to give a signal – either verbally or with a small bell – to move the group from one phase to another.
- Use one of the many study guides available – the Daily Office lectionary in the Prayer Book or the BAS, ‘Forward Day by Day’. This is more useful than choosing scripture passages at random because such study guides tend to be themed to coincide with the liturgical seasons of the church.
- Don’t be disappointed if you don’t hear God’s still, small voice. In the words of St. Mark, sometimes it is enough just to read, mark, and inwardly digest the scriptures.