I continued reading Dallas Willard's Hearing God, Developing a Conversational Relationship with God last night and it was timely that I came to the section on a Lectio Divina, or Divine Reading.
I needed it because of a challenge I'm currently facing. The passage was exactly what I needed. It was on 2 Kings 6:11-17, where the king of Syria was at war with Israel at the time of prophet Elisha.
Lectio Divina is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditating and prayer, to have a close communion with God. It has four parts to it: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), oratio (prayer) and contemplatio (contemplation).
I found this article helpful: Step by Step Through Lectio Divina, although it's Catholic in context. I will be using some of the material from here and from Willard's:
Firstly, I prepare myself in a quiet place free from distraction. I become quiet before God. I still my heart and place myself in the loving presence of Jesus. I commend to him all my worries, obligations and hassles of the day. They will still be there when I finish, or they will be resolved.
I read the passage attentively, reverently, slowly. I patiently wait for God to reveal himself. His divine mystery cannot be contained or controlled by me. I let myself be taken in by his word and be drawn to him. I will not rush. I take my time, with patience and perseverance. I will allow myself to be immersed in the situation, because “those who lived through those experiences felt very much as we would have if we had been in their place”. I will listen with the ear of my heart for a word or phrase, a detail of the story that shimmers or stands out to me. I will see where I find myself in the passage: as one of the people in the passage, or a thing or even a fly on the wall watching it all happen. I do not choose this myself. I let the Spirit bring it to me.
The section that shimmers to me from the reading was v.12, where the king asked his servant if there was a spy in his army. The servants replied, "None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom." And the I find myself as Elisha's servant in v.16-17 when he found an army with chariots and horses all around the city. Elisha said to him, "Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see." So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
This is my human response to God in his word. I ponder and ruminate what I have just read. I quietly savor the word and meditate on it in expectation. I consciously open myself to him and let him touch my heart. I will engage my thought, imagination, emotion and desire. I reflect and consider the word or phrase that stood out to me and ask: why do these words resonated with me? Who or what I found myself to be in the passage? How does it feel to be this person or object? What draws me? What am I thinking or feeling about God? I ponder awhile and then I ask God: how does this connect with my life today? What do I need to know or be or do?
The passage stands out for me because God is indeed all-present. Really, whom shall I fear? And as the servant of Elisha, I felt I was in awe of God who is all-powerful and able to protect me and save me, no matter what happens.
This is the prayer of my heart: unique, personal, honest and spontaneous, specific to the experience of encountering God in his word. I pray whatever I need to pray. I thank God for something or ask God for something.
I thank God for revealing himself to me, for showing me I need not be afraid because I have a sovereign and loving God who will not leave me or forsake me.
This stage is God's response to me, totally beyond my control. I cannot create contemplation by myself. It is his divine gift. I do as I am led. I'm totally passive, held by the mystery of God. I will wait on him or simply be with him. I sit in the companionship of God, the one who showed up and can be seen. It's God's gaze on me and my gaze of faith back at him. I become focused on the Lord. It can be deep, intimate, intense and somstones tearful, often too deep for words. It's childlike, a surrender to the loving will of my Father in an even deeper union with his beloved Son. His gaze purifies my heart, illuminates my eyes with the eyes of Jesus, and teaches me compassion. I allow the Holy Spirit to shape me in the form of my Savior.
I nestled into the presence of God and enjoyed his peaceful and complete presence. I then fall into a deep peaceful slumber trusting in his love and righteousness.
I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of God.
~ St. Margaret Mary Alacoque