On the way to my Florida vacation, I arrived early at the Hopkins airport, so I went into its nondenominational chapel. Only a young man from India was there. As I prayed, he came over, sat down next to me, and asked, “How do you meditate?” A half hour later, this Hindu had had a course in Christian prayer. You never know when or how God will use you! Speaking of meditation, there is a unique way to adapt lectio divina. You might be familiar with this “sacred reading” prayer, but you might not know that you can also use it to “read” the events of your life. (Lectio divina has four steps: 1. Read a Scripture passage until a word or phrase captures your attention. 2. Stop and ponder why that word means something special to you. What is God trying to tell you? 3. When you realize the word’s significance, the “aha moment,” respond to God with thanks, praise, contrition, joy, love, or petition. 4. Simply rest in God’s presence.)
These four steps can easily be applied to a memory. 1. Think of something that happened to you and replay it in your mind. What particular aspect “speaks” to you? 2. Reflect on what that aspect might mean for you. 3. When the light dawns, speak to God as prompted. 4. Be quiet and be aware of God looking at you with love.
Now for an example. On my first morning in Florida, as I entered the peaceful park along the river for my daily walk, I heard a thud. A lone workman had fallen backwards on the lawn and was having a seizure. When I called to another workman, he ran to get help. I stayed with the fallen man and tried to calm him, praying, rubbing his shoulder and stroking his curly blond hair while his limbs were flailing and blood trickled from his mouth. Soon he was surrounded by other workmen. One of them knelt next to him and turned him on his side so he could breathe. This man kept saying, “Daddy’s here” and finally, “I love you.” As he bent over his son, I saw a spider walking over the father’s curly chestnut hair. I grabbed it and threw it off. A girl passing by called 911. In time the young man quieted, sat up, and looked around with dazed blue eyes. The rescue squad arrived.
1. As I recall that event, I can vividly picture it. I experience it again as though I were watching a movie. What stands out for me is the father saying, “Daddy’s here.” 2. When I reflect on that and why it touched my heart, a number of thoughts occur. I think of the powerful love the father has for his son, the care he must have given him through the years, and his anguish. I realize that this is a modern day repetition of the Gospel story of the man who begs Jesus to help him because his son has seizures and falls into the fire. 3. I respond by asking Jesus to cure the young man I encountered and so remove the pain from the father’s heart. 4. I’m silent.
As with lectio divina in reading scripture, the steps can be repeated. The next time I pray over my experience in the park, I might be attracted to the fact that I lifted off the spider with my bare hands. (My sister sprays them with hairspray and waits until her husband comes home to dispose of them . . . and I share her horror of spiders.) On the other hand, I might draw other meanings for me from the words “Daddy’s here.”
You might try “reading” an experience of yours. If you do, how did you find this prayer method? Would you do it again?