Unlock the Power of Lectio Divina
In the past series of blogs, you have been introduced to the “Lectio Divina” or divine reading method of prayer. The goal of this post is to provide you with tips to help you unlock the power of Lectio and provide an example you can follow.
One method of Lectio Divina consists of what can be referred to as the “three reading method.” In this method, we will taste, chew, and swallow the word of God by employing our imagination (taste), intellect (chew), and will (swallow).
Our favorite method for tasting, chewing, and swallowing the word of God is the WRAP method. The method as described below can be found in the book WRAP Yourself in Scripture: A guide to Lectio Divina by Karen and Larry Dwyer.
WRAP is an acronym which stands for write, reflect, apply, and pray. WRAP is a four step approach to unwrapping (pun intended) the truths of scripture. As we explain the steps, the words in italic are our own reflection.
How to Do It
Begin by selecting a scripture verse and creating a template on your paper (see Wrap Yourself in Scripture: A guide to Lectio Divina) in which you create a section for writing out each of the 4 steps:
We will pick Mark 6:1-6 (the Gospel reading for Sunday, July 8)
Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.”
W Is for Write
Next, read the scripture verse twice slowly. As you do so, notice if there are particular words which speak to you. Does a particular line fill your heart with joy? Does it challenge you? Perhaps, it causes you to draw back, not wanting to be changed. Write these words within the W section of your paper.
I picked “many who heard him were astonished” and “He was amazed at their lack of faith.”
R Is for Reflect (Taste and Chew)
Next, reflect. The reflection helps put the reading in context. Spend a few minutes in this process. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Don’t let you mind instantly jump to what does this mean for me. You will do this in the next section. Rather, begin by reading the verse another time. Taste the scene and employ the imagination. If Jesus is speaking to someone, imagine his facial expressions. What is the tone of his voice? How do they respond? What are their reactions? Are they happy? Sad? Etc.
Chew on the passage. Use your intellect to ask questions such as: What is the principle that is being taught? What universal truth is being communicated? Why would Jesus, or Paul, or the author of scripture need to teach this? Who is the audience? What are their biases? How do they respond? Why do they respond that way?
Write the answers to these questions in the R section of your paper.
Taste with the Imagination: Returning home, I can see a packed synagogue. Jesus, our small town hero has returned! What stories we have heard! Great healings are reported. Has he changed or is he still the same boy we knew and watched grow?
Then as Jesus stands the crowd becomes silent. He reads these words of Isaiah as reported in Luke’s Gospel, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…” and then rolling up the scroll in the midst of the silence forcefully exclaims, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:18 and 21)
The silence continues for a moment. Faces are initially filled with joy and smiles. How astonishing, our Jesus, our king, our long awaited messiah has arrived. But slowly this wonder turns into resentment. The resentment starts with a whisper. Gradually, the whisper turns into a murmur, and then full-fledged shouting. Who do you think you are? We know you! You are no better than us!
Chew with the Intellect: This passage contains an interesting contrast between the reaction of the people and Jesus. Two similar adjectives are used: “astonished” and “amazed.” The people, however, turn quickly from wonder to disbelief. They begin to place limits on Jesus. How can he say this? He is just another one of us! Surely, God cannot work his wonders through him? Perhaps, this is the natural result of being unable to experience wonder at the ordinary. It is also the result of their preconceived biases. Putting God in a box. Expecting God to work on their terms and making God in their own image.
How sad must have been the gaze of Jesus. Their lack of faith and self-limiting of God led to a lack of blessing as Jesus was only able to cure “a few sick.”
A Is for Apply (Swallow)
In this section of the meditation we move from general to specific. Now we begin to probe our own hearts and ask personal questions. What is Jesus saying to me, today? What feelings does this passage invoke in me? Is there any part of me which seeks to resist this call?
This section should also move us to activity. We must identify concrete actions that can be performed this day in order to follow Jesus’ call and make a concrete daily resolution.
This step cannot be underestimated as it is the key to spiritual growth. Without it, the experience will be relegated to one of good feelings and consolation, but will not change us. These resolutions, should be specific, measurable, and time oriented toward a specific day, week, or month. One mistake we often make in the spiritual life is being too vague. For instance, sometimes I will make vague resolutions like “I need to be more loving toward my children.” This is a nice sentiment, but it is hardly specific, measurable, or time oriented. Recently, I have been attempting a more concrete resolution in that “I will not read on any of my electronic devices (phone, iPad, etc.) from the time I come home from work until my oldest two children go to bed” in order to be more present. It is easy for me to determine whether I have accomplished this each day during the specified time period and has made a difference in my ability to give my children my undivided attention.
Finally, be sure to write down your resolutions. Doing so will make you more likely to carry them out.
Swallow and move to action: In what ways do I lack faith in the power of God? For one, I often strive to be self-sufficient. I am often unwilling to commend my worries and my sufferings into the hands of God. Accepting these challenges as blessings or opportunities to grow in humility. Rather, I also want God to work on my terms. Solve problems in the manner I wish them to be solved.
In response, I am going to pray the morning offering this day and return to its theme of using my challenges for others good rather than simply wanting relief three times throughout the day.
Morning offering (http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/prayers/morning-offering.cfm)
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, for the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins, the reunion of all Christians, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father this month. Amen.
P Is for Pray
Pray back or praise. Having completed the first three sections, the mind is now truly predisposed to have a conversation with Jesus. I like to begin by writing a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the insight the Lord has provided. After having been focused in this way on the fact that He is God and I am not, I bring my concerns. My hopes, my worries, and my needs before God. I speak to him in a personal way and simply try to rest in his presence.
Lord Jesus, thank you for the insight you have provided in this Scripture. Please help me be more humble and open to your will in my life. Help me to be more fully your child, and give me the strength to follow through my resolution…
How and When to Use This Method
We love this method because it is incredibly flexible. It can be done alone or with a group. When done with a group, we stop for sharing after each phase followed by a short time of silent prayer for the next phase. For example, each group member will share with the group the line upon which they are contemplating. Then we reflect silently for a few minutes followed by the sharing of our reflection with the group. Next, we silently meditate on the application which is then shared with the group. Sharing our concrete resolutions out loud with the group has the added benefit of making us more accountable. Finally, we end by praying back and praising God silently. This part of the meditation is not shared with the group and becomes a moment of intimate contact with Jesus in which two friends share the private communication of their hearts.
It also works well for all ages. Our 5 year old follows along with our group prayer and shares each part of the meditation. He loves it because he gets to talk and share with the adults and we love that he is learning how to pray.
While the WRAP is specifically designed for journaling, it can also be done with no writing at all. Simply work through the 4 steps mentally. You can also use it with other types of spiritual reading, for example the lives and the teachings of the saints.