One way we can pray is to begin with a Bible passage. The words of Sacred Scripture were not written to remain a dead letter; rather, by praying with them, the Word of God goes to the heart and blossoms. The Catechism affirms that: “prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture so that a dialogue takes place between God and man” (n. 2653).
This experience happens to us all: a passage from Scripture, heard many times before, unexpectedly speaks to me one day, and enlightens a situation in my life. Suddenly that Bible verse, written centuries ago, was written for me too: it was written for each of us. But to experience this, it is necessary that I be present for that appointment with the Lord, listening to the Word.
Commenting on the parable of the sower, Pope Francis encourages spending time daily in prayer with scripture:
Every day God passes and sows a seed in the soil of our lives. We do not know whether today he will find dry ground, brambles, or good soil that will make that seed grow (cf. Mk 4: 3-9). That they become for us the living Word of God depends on us, on our prayer, on the open heart with which we approach the Scriptures. God passes continually through Scripture.
Through prayer with scripture a new incarnation of the Word takes place, God visits the world and we become “tabernacles” where the Word is welcomed and preserved. This is not a matter of memorizing scripture verses, rather it is approaching the Bible for an encounter. Knowing that these words were written by the Holy Spirit, a word or verse opens you and leads you to an encounter with the Lord.
As we read and pray with the Scriptures, it is also a grace to be able to recognize oneself in a passage, character, or situation. The Bible was not written for a generic humanity, but for a real person with a name. And when the Word of God is received by name and with an open heart, it changes us. This is the grace and the power of the Word of God.
One of the many rich traditions for experiencing and reflecting with Sacred Scripture is the method of “Lectio Divina” (divine reading).
- Read the biblical passage attentively: slowly reading a biblical passage I begin to understand what the text means in and of itself.
- Dialogue with the Scripture, so that those words become a source for meditation and prayer: spend a period of time meditating on the text in openness to the Holy Spirit, letting God speak to us through a particular word, phrase or image. This is not just subjective interpretation of “what I think it says.” Rather, while remaining faithful to the text, I begin to ask”what it says to me.”
- Contemplation occurs when those words and thoughts move us to love: we silently rest under the Father’s loving gaze. The biblical text remains like a mirror, an icon to be contemplated. It becomes a dialogue as between lovers for whom sometimes it is enough to just look at each other in silence.
In this way the Word of God is made flesh in those who receive it in prayer. As Pope Francis says,
Through prayer, the Word of God comes to abide in us and we abide in it. The Word inspires good intentions and sustains action; it gives us strength and serenity, and even when it challenges us, it gives us peace. On “bad” and confusing days, it guarantees to the heart a core of confidence and of love that protects it from the attacks of the evil one.
You are invited to meditate on the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13: 1–9, 18–23.
Since the Holy Spirit who inspired the writing of the sacred texts also dwells in the hearts of every believer, we are enabled, through our frequent and prayerful encounter with the revealed word, to enter more deeply into relationship with the Triune God. As a living word, the Scriptures speak to us in the here and now of our lives, illuminating new situations, offering fresh insights and often challenging our habitual way of thinking about and seeing the world. The Scriptures thus become an inexhaustible source of peace, wisdom and strength as we grow in faith and give it concrete expression in charity and service of others.