One of the most efficacious ways of praying is a recollected reading of the Bible, an exercise which is called “Sacred Reading” (lectio divina). I give you here some notes that can help you get started. There are many learned studies of the Bible. These are helpful, but many people have the notion that the Bible is “ over their head.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Here is a summary of one of the approaches to the Bible. The basis of my outline is a treatise by Guigo the Carthusian, a Carthusian Prior of the 13th century.
The Four Aspects of Reading the Scriptures
Guigo the Carthusian
- Find a quiet place, turn your heart and mind over to God and ask the Holy Spirit to help you.
- Read slowly, asking yourself questions: this is not like any other kind of reading.
- You might try copying out the text itself in order to help you pay attention.
- Stop when something touches your heart. Write out a few reflections. Continue to pray and ask for enlightenment.
- Use a Bible with cross references and good footnotes. (The Bible of Jerusalem 1966 edition – still available on line- or some other help).
- Take notes on your reflections and questions; note down terms you want to study and look them up later (examples: “The Holy Spirit,” “The Blood,” “Covenant,” “Glory,” etc.) (The best reference for this is Xavier Léon Dufour (ed.), Dictionary of Biblical Theology)
- Take your time and think things over, applying them to your own life.
- Talk to the Lord about what you are reading; remember that it is He who can give you an experience of the power of the Word.
- Ask Him to speak with you and listen quietly. If something comes to your heart, resolve to remember it or write it out at once.
- Gaze quietly at the words on the page of your Bible, and wait.
- Enter the temple: Psalm 63:1-2: "O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory."
- The heart is purified by the word (John 15:3: "You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you") and by the gift of tears.
- The role of desire to bring about purification: “A pure heart create for me O God, put a steadfast spirit within me.” Ps 51:12.