The BibleThe BibleMethods of Praying with the Scriptures
by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

There are many different ways of using the Bible in Christian prayer. Scriptural prayer does not follow a "one-size-fits-all" model.

The following are very brief introductions to the topic of prayer in general, and to some of the most common ways Christians have used the Bible for prayer throughout the centuries and today:

Biblical Meditation | Ignatian Contemplation | Taizé-Style Prayer | Centering Prayer | Lectio Divina


What Is Prayer? - A Brief Introduction

Prayer is basically RELATIONSHIP and COMMUNICATION with God:

Types of Prayer:

Terminology for Prayer: (caution: precise meanings vary from one spiritual tradition to another)

A Framework for Biblical Prayer:

All extended prayer experiences could be enhanced by a few simple steps of Preparation and Conclusion:

  1. Preparation
    1. Choose an appropriate time and place for your period of prayer.
    2. Become aware that you are always in the presence of a loving God.
    3. Thank God for creating you, loving you, adopting you as God's own child.
    4. Ask God for an increase in faith, hope, love, or any other grace you may need.
  2. Main Prayer Period
    1. Use whichever style or method you have chosen for your prayer: Lectio Divina, Meditation, Contemplation, Centering Prayer, etc.
    2. Keep in mind that prayer, at its core, is relationship and communication with God; so it involves both speaking and listening to God.
  3. Conclusion
    1. As you end your prayer period, reflect on what you have just experienced (key thoughts, feelings, interior movements).
    2. Thank God for giving you this time and opportunity to encounter and communicate with God, your loving Father.
    3. Speak aloud a short concluding prayer, such as the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, a prayer by your favorite saint, etc.
    4. Decide or recall when and where you will pray the next time, so you can look forward to another encounter with God.

Resources for Introductory Prayer:


A Brief Introduction to Biblical Meditation (using rational reflection):

This method is appropriate for any biblical text, especially teachings from the Epistles and other more theological texts.

  1. Begin: consider how God looks upon you and loves you; become aware of being in God’s presence;
    stand for a moment, bow if you wish, then be seated comfortably for your time of prayer.
  2. Preparatory Prayer: offer to God all your will and actions, especially in this time of prayer;
    ask God for a specific grace that you need and desire right now (peace, consolation, hope, etc.).
  3. Meditate on the Biblical Text that you have selected:
  4. Colloquy: enter into a short personal conversation with Jesus (or God the Father, or the Holy Spirit); speak heart-to-heart, as if conversing with a close friend.
  5. Closing Prayer: conclude by praying the Our Father, Hail Mary, or another familiar/favorite prayer;
    you might stand, kneel, bow, raise your hands, or adopt another posture to mark the end of your prayer.

Afterward, briefly review what you experienced during this time of prayer (maybe journal about what happened), and look forward to your next prayerful encounter with God (when? where? which biblical text will you use?).

Resources for Reflective Meditation:


A Brief Introduction to Ignatian Contemplation (using creative Imagination):

Ignatian Spirituality – Some Background:

Ignatian Contemplation – The Process:

This method is especially appropriate for scenes from the Gospels, but also possible with other biblical narratives.

  1. Begin: consider how God looks upon you and loves you; become aware of being in God’s presence;
    stand for a moment, bow if you wish, then be seated comfortably for your time of prayer
  2. Preparatory Prayer: offer to God all your will and actions, especially in this time of prayer;
    ask God for a specific grace that you need and desire right now (peace, consolation, hope, etc.).
  3. Contemplate the Biblical Story that you have selected:
  4. Colloquy: enter into a short personal conversation with Jesus (or God the Father, or the Holy Spirit); speak heart-to-heart, as if conversing with a close friend.
  5. Closing Prayer: conclude by praying the Our Father, Hail Mary, or another familiar/favorite prayer;
    you might stand, kneel, bow, raise your hands, or adopt another posture to mark the end of your prayer.

Afterward, briefly review what you experienced during this time of prayer (maybe journal about what happened),
and look forward to your next prayerful encounter with God (when? where? which biblical text will you use?).

Resources for Ignatian Contemplation:


A Brief Introduction to Taizé-style Prayer:

Monastery of Taizé, France:

Taizé Prayer – Introduction:

Taizé Prayer – Process: (this is just a suggested format, which can be lengthened or shortened)

Resources for Taizé Prayer:


A Brief Introduction to Centering Prayer :

Centering Prayer – Overview

Centering Prayer – Basic Steps

  1. Choose an appropriate time and place when you can devote 20-30 minutes to quiet prayer w/o being disturbed
  2. Choose a “sacred word” as a symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within
  3. Sit comfortably (chair or floor cushion), with back straight and eyes closed; settle briefly and breathe deeply
  4. Quietly introduce the sacred word into your mind as a symbol of God’s presence and action within
  5. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence for a few more minutes and/or slowly pray the Our Father

Resources for Centering Prayer:


A Brief Introduction to Lectio Divina:

Overview:

Lectio Divina Process: (flexibly adapt the following steps, as needed, for individuals and groups)

  1. Reading (lectio) – hearing God’s Word in the Bible as I/we read it aloud
  2. Meditation (meditatio) – reflecting on the meaning of the text that I/we have read
  3. Prayer (oratio) – speaking with God in praise, thanksgiving, contrition, and petition
  4. Contemplation (contemplatio) – listening to God more quietly in the silence of our hearts
  5. Action (actio) – letting the encounter concretely affect our daily life and work in the world

Resources:


Some Inspiring Quotations about the Scriptures:


 

Electronic New Testament Educational Resources

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This page was last updated on March 30, 2011
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