Come and Pray today was a prayer and worship event at Exeter Cathedral, featuring different forms of prayer, prayer stations for all ages, creative prayer activities for the family, and various acts of worship. Some 4,300 people came into the Cathedral during the day, some to pray, some for prayer, some to look round. It was amazing to see! And it was lovely to play a small part myself, leading a shared Lectio Divina session for anyone who wished to experience a new way of reading the Bible and praying.
Lectio Divina, or divine reading, is an ancient form of praying through slow reading of Scripture. During Lectio, we listen to the text of the Bible with the “ear of the heart”, aiming to nourish and deepen our relationship with God. Regular Bible reading and study gives us breadth of knowledge. Lectio helps us also absorb Scripture in depth. Though simple, it needs practice, as the slow ritual reading is very different from our modern habit of skimming text.
Our Lectio session today followed the pattern below. We used the verse that shaped Come and Pray and, even though it is short, the Holy Spirit prompted as many different deep and nourishing responses as there were in the group.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.Philippians 4.6
If you are here because you joined the group or picked up a leaflet during the day, and wish to explore Lectio further, I have a number of resources to download about shared and individual Lectio. I share in running a Lectio Divina Group that meets on Wednesday evenings at 8pm on Zoom. We are just about to start using the Psalms, and new members are warmly invited. Please do contact me if you are planning to join or simply wish to know more, and I will be able to direct you to the list of Psalms that we will be using and the Zoom link.
Description of the shared Lectio
We divide into small groups of 3 or 4
After a short prayer and a minute of recollection, the leader reads through the Bible passage.
In turn, each member of the small group shares a word or phrase that has struck them. Simply share the word or phrase; do not comment on your own or another’s word. Anyone may ‘pass’ if they wish.
The leader reads the passage a second time. If not on the first reading, a word or phrase may stand out on the second reading, or a new word arise. There is then a period of silence for 5-10 minutes during which each ponders silently over their word or phrase.
After the silence, the leader reads the passage for a third time. Then each member shares whatever they wish within the small group for a minute or so. Let each member speak in turn; do not ‘hog the time’, and do not comment on what others say at this stage. Again, each must feel free simply to say ‘pass’. Once all members have shared, continue to sit silently with the passage until each small group has finished.
When everyone has had the chance to share, the leader invites everyone to pray silently for the person on their right, after which there may be time for some general sharing together in the larger group.
The leader ends with the Grace.
My reflections on ‘but’
The word ‘but’ is often used negatively: something is ‘good… but……’ It is a word that I am conscious I could use negatively in certain situations, including towards myself.
But [sic!] in this verse from Philippians it is acting as a pivot. It is expressing a kind of repentance, a turning away from anxiety and towards God.
So my prayer is that I am more aware of any anxiety I may have, and any occasion I may use ‘but’ negatively or be unsympathetic in general towards myself, and turn instead to God in trust, hope and thanksgiving.