Lectio Divina – How to Listen for God

January 12, 2008


God Speaks To Us First
This fundamental truth makes it possible for us to pray. God has been concerned for each of us long before we became concerned for ourselves.

God desires communication with us and does so in many different ways:

  • through God’s own word made flesh in Jesus;
  • because we are joined together in Christ Jesus, God speaks to us through others (the church, wisdom of the ages, etc.);
  • creation took place in the Word (Jn 1:1) and is another form of God’s self-revelation;
  • through the events and experiences of our lives;
  • through the scriptures, a real form of God’s presence

The use of scripture in prayer is the mode of communication that we are concerned with here. Since God invites us to listen. Our response to God’s initial move is to listen to what is said. This is the basic attitude of prayer.

How To Go About Listening
What you do immediately before prayer is very important. Normally, it is something you do not rush right into. Spend a few moments quieting yourself and relaxing, settling yourself into a prayerful and comfortable position. In listening to anyone, you try to tune out everything except what the person is saying to you.

In prayer this can be done best in silence and solitude. Select a short passage from scripture. Read it through a few times to familiarize yourself with it. Put a marker in the page. Try to find a quiet place where you can be alone and uninhibited in your response to God’s presence. Try to quiet yourself interiorly. Jesus would often go up to a mountain alone to pray with his Abba. In an age of noise, activity, and tensions like our own, it is not always easy or necessary to forget our cares and commitments, the noise and excitement of our environment. Never feel constrained to blot out all distractions. Anxiety in this regard could get between ourselves and God. Rather, realize that the word did become flesh — that God speaks to us in the noise and confusion of our day.

Sometimes in preparing for prayer, relax and listen to the sounds around you. God’s presence is as real as they are. Be conscious of your sensations and living experiences of feeling, thinking, hoping, loving, wondering, desiring, etc. Then, conscious of God’s unselfish, loving presence in you, address God simply and admit: “Yes, you do love life and feeling into me. You do love a share of your personal life into me. You are present to me. You live in me. Yes, you do.”

God is present in you through the Spirit, who speaks to you now in scripture, and who prays in you and for you. Ask for the grace to listen to what God says. Begin reading Scripture slowly and attentively. Do not hurry to cover much material.

If it recounts an event of Jesus’ life, be there in the mystery of it. Share with the persons involved, e.g., a blind man being cured. Share their attitude. Respond to what Jesus is saying. Some words or phrases carry special meaning for you. Savour those words, turning them over in your heart.

When something strikes you, e.g.,

  • you feel a new way of being with Jesus or he comes to you in a new way ( e.g., as healing or accepting you in a way different than other times);
  • you are happy and content just to be in God’s presence;
  • you are struggling with or disturbed by what the words are saying;
  • you experience new meaning;
  • you are moved to do something loving.

This is the time to … p a u s e.

This is God speaking directly to you in the words of Scripture.

  • Do not hurry to move on.
  • Wait until you are no longer moved by the experience. Don’t get discouraged if nothing seems to be happening. Sometimes God lets us feel dry and empty in order to let us realize it is not in our own power to communicate or to experience consolation. God is sometimes very close to us in seeming absence (Ps 139:7-8). God is for us entirely, in a selfless way, accepting us as we are, with all our limitations — even with our seeming inability to pray. A humble attitude of listening is a sign of love for God, and a real prayer from the heart. At these times remember the words of Paul, “The Spirit, too, comes to help us in our weakness, for when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, it is the Spirit who expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words” (Rom 8:26-27).

Relax in prayer. Remember, God will speak to you in God’s own way. “Yes, as the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do” (Is 55:10-11).

Spend time in your prayer just being conscious of God’s presence in and around you. If you want to, speak about the things you are interested in or wish to thank God for, your joys, sorrows, aspirations, and so forth.


Summary — 5 `P’s’. 1 `R’.

Passage of Scripture
— Pick one and have it marked and ready.

— Where you are alone and uninhibited in your response to God’s presence.

— Relaxed and peaceful. A harmony of body with spirit.

Presence of God
— Be aware of it and acknowledge and respond to it. When you are ready turn to the …

— Read it very slowly aloud and listen carefully and peacefully to it … pause
Listen with your heart as you would a love-letter. Read aloud or whisper with pauses and repetitions when and where you are drawn. Don’t be anxious, don’t try to look for implications or lessons or profound thoughts or conclusions. Be content to be like a child who climbs into a caring person’s lap and listens to a story. During the prayer exercise and, certainly just before closing, it is helpful to carry on a conversation with God or with Jesus or some safe wisdom figure concerning what you hear.

Review — After the period of prayer is over reflect upon the experience of prayer just finished. This review will help you notice what God is doing in your experience.