PRAYERFUL READING


Shine within our hearts, loving Master, the pure light of Your divine knowledge and open the eyes of our minds that we may comprehend the message of Your Gospel. Instill in us also reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that having conquered all sinful desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, thinking and doing all those things that are pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the light of our souls and bodies, and we give glory to You, together with Your eternal Father and Your all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and always and forever and ever. Amen.” (Prayer Before the Gospel, Byzantine Divine Liturgy)

This is the prayer before the reading of the Gospel at Divine Liturgy, and it is meant to prepare all of us, by asking God to “open the eyes of our minds” so that we may “comprehend,” “think” and “do” what we are about to hear. In practice, however, the prayer does not prepare “all of us,” because in many of our churches it is read silently by the priest.

Be that as it may, this traditional prayer of the Divine Liturgy gives me an idea of what “prayerful reading” is, which I can also do privately, on my own. The ancient Christian practice of “prayerful reading” (lectio divina) means combining my spiritual reading (usually, of Scripture) with prayer. Before I begin reading, I pray to God for comprehension and enlightenment (as in the prayer cited above), and then I read, - not a whole lot, but deeply, in order to carry with me what I’ve read, for the rest of my day. It is helpful sometimes to jot down a verse that particularly moved me, to better remember it. I finish this kind of reading with a brief prayer of praise or gratitude.

Today I pray to our Lord, “the light of our souls and bodies,” to “open the eyes of my mind” to His word, that it may guide and enlighten me throughout my day.

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