Lectio Divina Part 3: Commit to God in Prayer
Before you begin reading Scripture, set aside a quiet, sacred space that is conducive to prayer and contemplation. It’s important to eliminate all distractions, including extraneous noises (background noise, phones or digital devices, etc.), and to shut yourself off from the world for a brief period. God speaks to us in the sanctuaries of our hearts, to paraphrase St. Alphosus Liguori. Allow Him that space to be present to you in a powerful way. Let’s begin.
Read the entire passage below aloud to yourself – slowly, deliberately. Be open to any words or phrases that stand out to you or jolt your heart a bit. This is the way the Holy Spirit is personally speaking to you. Spend a few moments of silence, allowing those words and phrases to nestle in your heart.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wildflowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil” (Matthew 6:25-34).
Go back and read the passage again out loud to yourself, making note of the words and phrases that initially struck you. Spend more time with the Lord, inviting Him to share with you what it is He wants you to understand and learn.
You’re among the crowd of disciples who followed Jesus up to the Mount of Beatitudes in northern Israel on a hot, sunny, cloudless afternoon. You’re weary from walking, and your mind has become exhausted from trying to keep up with all the wisdom Jesus is imparting.
As you reach the apex of the hill, you realize you’re one of the few who is near the front of the pack, able to see Jesus clearly and to hear His words without straining. A gentle breeze sweeps in, which offers cool refreshment from the day’s heat. Jesus pierces you with His eyes as He scans the masses gathered with Him. He knows you are tired, hungry, and poor. Yet you are there with Him, thirsting for all He has to give you.
The top of the mountain is a vast meadow filled with delicate wildflowers, all in bloom. Some are white, some purple, some varying shades of yellow. The grass, too, is unusually verdant for the desert climate. It’s as if you suddenly reached the pinnacle of Heaven.
Then Jesus speaks. You’ve been making mental notes all day about what He’s told you, but this occasion seems to be particularly important. “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life,” he begins. Instantly, your heart is stilled with the serenity that only God can provide. You have been worrying about food and clothes and water because they are scarce. Some days you wonder if you and your family will survive.
As Jesus continues with, “look at the birds in the sky,” a juvenile swallow swoops in and grazes His shoulder. Jesus points to the bird as He explains, “They do not sow or reap; they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more important than they?” You’re beginning to realize that Jesus wants you to trust Him, to know that if you remain faithful to God, then all your needs will be taken care of.
Similarly, as another breeze glides through the meadow, you hear a rustling of the wildflowers. Jesus points to them and even gently plucks one to demonstrate His next point. “Learn from the way the wildflowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?”
The simplicity of nature surrounds you, immerses you like you’ve never noticed before. Everywhere you look are signs and symbols of God’s providence. It all makes sense to you now – even the most fragile of creation flourishes when it fulfills its purpose. You, therefore, don’t have to worry about withering as long as you remain focused on “seeking first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness,” for “all these things will be given to you besides.”
You find your mind wandering to tomorrow when Jesus concludes with, “Don’t worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”
The peace that settled upon you remains. And your confidence in Jesus has soared like the little swallow high above the sky. Life isn’t about the regrets of the past, nor the uncertainties of the future. Instead, you realize, it is about the beauty and grandeur of this moment, here and now.
Jesus, I get so caught up in the flurry of modern life. Sometimes I wish I were with you, following you as you gave your sermons and imparted peace among the crowds. But I know I am here today for a specific purpose, one that I may never fully understand until my death.
And that’s part of what frightens me – the future, my death, and all the things I can’t control. I try my best to keep life organized, to even carve time out of my schedule for prayer, but I still feel restless. I find my mind and heart wandering to a time and place that has either come and gone or not yet arrived.
Sometimes I get stuck on the unfinished projects, conversations, or bills that keep piling up without resolution. Life, no matter how much I attempt to grasp it, is beyond my control. It’s in your hands alone.
My fear tells me you might ask something grand of me, something I am too small to do. In my littleness, though, I remember the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. Their littleness glorifies you in spectacular ways. I can, too, I realize. I have done all that I can do provide for myself and my family, but the details are truly in your hands.
Jesus, I surrender my life to you. Take care of everything. I trust you wholeheartedly.
Spend some time to just sit with the Lord. You don’t have to say anything, and certainly there’s no need to keep track of time. This is where you allow that carefree timelessness of the present moment to absorb you. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). It is all He asks of you, all He desires of you – to simply be together, heart to heart, in a moment of shared love.
Incarnatio (Living your contemplation):
At some point, you will find a natural conclusion to your lectio session. As contemplation fades, make a commitment to the Lord based on your prayerful experience here. What is the main truth He has imparted to you through the Scripture and meditation? What is He asking you to do? Resolve, in practical and attainable ways, to grow toward the changes God is gently beckoning you to make in your life – today.