I've blogged before about how much I've enjoyed the writings of spiritual director and psychologist David G. Benner, and with my recent interest in lectio divina it's no surprise that I greatly appreciated his 2010 book Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer. (It just took me a long time to get to it. Sorry, InterVarsity Press. The backlog of books I've been meaning to review on my blog is astonishing.)
This week in our four-week series on lectio divina, we hit oratio, stage 3. I think if I were to grossly oversimplify the four stages (Benner calls them "movements or dimensions" to avoid the linear hangups that people have with lectio) I would say that the first two turn inward, as we hear the God's words and ponder them in our hearts, while the next two turn outward, as we move forward with integrating those words into our lives. Oratio and the final dimention, contemplatio, are about wholistic integration of head and heart.
But one of the obstacles with oratio is always thinking of it as prayer. In Latin, ora means "speaking aloud" and has been traditionally associated with prayer (think of Benedict's motto of ora et labora here), so it's not like we're out in left field to think of this as the praying step. But Benner encourages us to broaden our definition of all the ways we might respond to God:
After pondering God's words, our hearts are touched and our wills are stirred. Oratio is our response to this stirring of our spirit. There are many forms that such response can take. It may be a worded response--what we often think of as prayer. But we may also prostrate ourselves in worship, light a candle, stand or sit in silence that makes space for gratitude, write our own psalm, paint a picture, sing, go for a walk, or many other things. What joy it is to learn not only to pray with words but also with our hands, feet and hearts! The word that we have received has now begun to touch our deepest self, and we respond from those depths. (p. 54)
So this week, as I ease into a deeper attempt at lectio, I'm going to orient myself toward responding in whatever way feels right. For me that is often singing. (I can basically guarantee you that for me it won't be liturgical dance, but other folks can knock themselves out.) I also like the idea of lighting candles and making this movement toward response more special and deliberate. Maybe some people would journal. At the retreat I led last month where we tried group lectio, a couple of people journaled about their experiences with the scriptures we read aloud.
Whatever we choose, may we do it in a spirit of responding to God with gratitude and joy.