The Quiet Voice of God. God speaks to us in so many ways, in a beautiful sunset, the words and actions of others, praise and worship music, the sacraments of the Church, the brilliance of stained glass windows, and other sacred art, to name just a few. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that, “God never ceases to draw man to himself” because “man was created by God and for God.” A great saint of the Church, St. Augustine of Hippo, recognized man’s ultimate desire when he said, “our hearts are restless until they find rest” in You, oh God. But how do we come to know and rest in the Lord? Early Christians focused on three powerful ways: the sacraments (especially the Eucharist), oral tradition (stories), and God’s written revelation (Old and New Testaments). Please join me as we explore the latter and an ancient method of prayer called lectio divina, which opens the heart to the quiet voice of God found within His written Word.
Book Excerpt. Chapter Twenty-Five: The Words of Wisdom (The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. By: Karen Sheehy).
The distressed family of three, surrounded by the increasing shadows of darkness, did their best to walk towards the light. With two diagnoses added to their son’s growing medical portfolio, those of Attention Deficit and Bipolar Mental Disorders, the difficulties continued to mount. His advancement into middle school, and the growing demands which accompanied it, seemed insurmountable for the eleven-year old pre-teen. Unfortunately, the deep wounds, inflicted by in-utero chemical exposure and the anguish of mental illness, began to take its toll. Sensing his failure and growing isolation, the struggling boy acted out, at home and at school, in order to orchestrate his escape. All the while, his grieving mother cried out, “my God, my God, why have you abandoned us? Please, merciful Father, tell me how to reach my son!” Hearing no response, she turned to the living Word of God, contained within the pages of Sacred Scripture, for divine guidance, wisdom and support. This decision marked a profound change in her prayer life, for then she learned to hear the quiet voice of God in His written Word.
Lectio Divina is a method of prayer and scriptural reading intended to promote union with God and reveal His quiet voice to the eyes and ears of our soul. When we let go of our own agenda and open ourselves up to what God wants to say, we begin to grow in our relationship with Him. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI said, “I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of lectio divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart.” Additionally, Vatican Two urged all Catholics to read Scripture as a way of “learning the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ,” (Phil 3:8).
So what is this ancient form of Scriptural prayer? Utilized by many of the Church’s greatest early monastics, including Saints Pachomius, Augustine, Basil and Benedict, it is a slow reading of Sacred Scripture in order to hear the voice of God and allow it to transform our very lives. It usually begins with a time of quiet, designed to clear the mind and prepare the soul. Deep breathing and/or repetitive prayers can be helpful in this regard. Finally, a short prayer calling upon the Holy Spirit, to quiet the mind and open the heart to God’s Word, is highly recommended. The spiritual exercise itself consists of 4 basic steps: lectio (reading), meditato (mental reflection or meditation), oratio (prayer or the offering of our verbal response to God), and contemplatio (quieting ourselves to listen for the voice of God). The last step requires a complete letting go of self and a listening at the deepest level of the heart and soul, for there one finds intimacy with God.
Many people use lectio divina to reflect upon the Old and New Testament readings of the day. Others randomly select a passage for their daily meditation. No matter which method you choose, lectio divina will help to illuminate God’s message for you that day. Lets practice the four stages of lectio by prayerfully considering the following passages, (taken from chapter twenty five of my upcoming book entitled, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love).
Isaiah 1:2-3: In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream towards it; many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Read the above scripture passage aloud to hear with your ears the Words of God spoken through the prophet Isaiah. Soak in the literal meaning of these words, or what the prophet was trying to say to the people of his time. Next, read the passage slowly and silently, noticing if any particular words or phrases stand out or touch your heart. Then, discern what insights, feelings or understanding you are experiencing at the moment. You may even consider utilizing your senses and imagination to make the scene come alive in your mind. Read it one more time to glean the fuller meaning of the passages. Following the promptings of your heart, begin a verbal dialogue with God in response to His Words. After expressing your deepest thoughts, silence yourself and allow the Holy Spirit to deepen your awareness of God’s response.
What did you hear from God? Sacred Scripture is the living Word of God, therefore, its message and meaning will change each time you read it. Thank goodness that the Word of God is like a fire hydrant, gushing forth an endless supply of life giving waters, for I know there are many life lessons left for me to learn. At this time period in my life, as I first meditated upon these particular passages, I began to hear God’s voice calling me to the Promised Land. Two years later, I made that life changing trip, along with my mom, sister-in-law, Jeff Cavins (the co-author of The Great Adventure Bible Timeline) and 3 bus loads of fellow pilgrims, all in search of the quiet voice of God. I would like to close with Jesus’ words to His disciples and each of us, “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you,” (John 14:25-26). Therefore, go ahead, open up God’s book, and listen for His quiet voice hidden within the pages of the written Word. Enjoy!
Closing 3:00 p.m. prayer for Divine Mercy.
Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.
For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).
Jesus, I trust in You.
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