So far we've learned that God speaks and how to be quiet enough on the inside to hear it. Now we get down to the brass tacks of different ways we can "tune in" the voice of God. One of the most reliable ways is through scripture. Yes, we can read the written words and learn, but scripture operates on a deeper level, too. The Bible is the Written Word that does not change. It is the result of faithful disciples throughout the ages who have experienced God in a variety of ways from the dramatic to the very subtle and shared with others what they have seen and heard. Every time we put our eyes on the page and dwell in silence over the scriptures, Jesus the Living Word speaks by the Spirit through the Written Word. That is one of the reasons you can read the same scriptures year after year and discover something new. It is through these "fresh whispers" of God that we can hear God. That means that every time we read the scriptures it is a form of prayer. So you may be asking, "Is there anything I can do to increase the likelihood that I will hear these fresh whispers?" I'm glad you asked.
All around us, all the time, God is constantly communicating His thoughts and desires for us. We just need a little help tuning God in. Roman Catholic author M. Basil Pennington explains it beautifully. He observes that at this exact second, the air around us is filled with all kinds of voices and music. They are radio waves that, because they can't be heard by human ears, require a radio to tune them in to a frequency we can hear and understand. It is the same with the Voice of God. God can miraculously speak in a tangible voice that all can hear, but day to day God is speaking in a different frequency…a spiritual frequency. There is no radio on earth that can tune in the voice of God. But it can be done by allowing the Living Word to speak through the Written Word of God. Every time we open the scriptures we are having an encounter with God. We practice a prayerful way of reading the Bible that allows us to experience what God is doing right now, live and in person. It is an ancient practice known as Lectio Divina (LEK-tee-oh Dih-VEEN-uh) which is Latin for "sacred reading." It is not difficult and employs only four simple steps.
The first step is called "lectio" or simply reading. After you choose a passage of scripture, one story or one section of teaching you just read it. Read the passage slowly and reflectively. Think about what you are reading. Imagine it. Hear the sounds, see the sights, smell the scents, feel the warmth or the cold. You may want to read it two or three times, reading more slowly each time.
The second stage is meditatio, or reflection. During this stage you identify an image, word or phrase and think deeply upon it. Ponder it and turn it over again and again in your mind.
Refer to our discussion above about "meditation," or thinking about the things of God. You allow that image, word or phrase to interact with your thoughts, dreams, or desires. Focus on whatever captures your attention, a word, a question, a character in the story. Whatever grabs you, stay with and mull it over.
The third stage is oratio or response. During this stage you allow your heart to speak to God.
Whatever you are thinking or feeling about this scripture, tell it to God. Ask your questions. Share your insights. Talk it over and enjoy it together with God.
When you've finally talked yourself out in prayer it is time for the fourth step: contemplatio or rest. During this stage, you allow yourself to let go of thoughts, ideas, and words. It’s a time where you can just sit and rest in God’s presence.
READ: Read the selection through several times.
THINK: Meditate upon whatever caught your mind and imagination.
PRAY: Talk to God about your thoughts and questions.
REST: Rest in God's silence.
That's it: READ, THINK, PRAY, REST. Doing this, we tune in the voice of God allowing God to guide us and shape us. There are other ways. We will take those up tomorrow.