I’m happy to welcome a guest blogger, Dr. Kathy Johnson, who is offering us a delightful three-part series. Kathy is a former D.Min. Student of mine at Gordon-Conwell and wrote her doctoral thesis on “Scripture Based Reflective Prayer.” As a result, she is a person we need to listen to in our desire as spiritual leaders to go deep with God in our prayer closets. Enjoy these three very practical, personal, and biblical reflections. Welcome, Kathy!
“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” ~ Luke 24:32
Do these words of the disciples on the Emmaus road describe your personal time with God?
Do you long to experience a deeper relationship with God in prayer?
Prayer is centered in relationship. Deep relationship with God and prayer have key elements in common. They are both a two-way communion between God and his beloved children. Intimacy of relationship is fostered by time spent together; true communication happens when both listening and speaking occur. When a Christian experiences intimacy of relationship with God in prayer, then prayer becomes a delight rather than a duty.
My recent research among a group of Evangelical and Catholic Christians who had been practicing their faith for 20 years or more showed that the vast majority were dissatisfied with their prayer life. Most believed that 2-way communication with God was important but, in reality, few practiced it. Scripture-based Reflective Prayer can, by its very nature, be a powerful tool and spiritual discipline to help Christians deepen their relationship with God and grow in their prayer life. This happens by encouraging thoughtful reflection on God’s Word, listening to him speak, responding to his voice and delighting in his presence.
This blog entry will be a very brief introduction to Scripture-based Reflective Prayer. I hope to whet your appetite for this kind of prayer and to give opportunity to practice it right away.
What is Scripture-based Reflective Prayer?
Since the early centuries of the church, Christians have encountered God through praying with the Scriptures. Scripture-based Reflective Prayer, or Lectio Divina (literally, “sacred reading”) as it is sometimes called, involves reading, pondering, praying, listening, and ultimately encountering Jesus, the Living Word of God. This tried and true way of praying with Scripture encourages intimate encounter with God. In it, we read the Word with an openness of heart, allowing it to penetrate our hearts and transform our lives though the work of the Holy Spirit. We converse with Jesus much as the disciples did on the Emmaus road when he opened the Scripture to them.
In Scripture-based Reflective Prayer (“Reflective Prayer,” for short), we enter into a conversation with God. It is very different than Bible study done for the sake of gaining information about God. The aim of Reflective Prayer is to nourish and deepen our relationship with God through Scripture and prayer. This intimate encounter with God should lead to the genuine transformation of our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this process we are also empowered to become more fruitful disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Four Stages of Reflective Prayer
Reflective Prayer consists of four prayer-filled stages: Reading, Reflecting, Responding, and Resting.
- Read – Read the verses slowly and prayerfully several times (out loud if possible), savoring the words and letting them sink in. Write down any words or phrases that seem to stand out.
- Reflect – Now begin to think about the words or phrases that stood out to you. Come in faith with the expectation that the Lord will speak to you. Ask him a question such as “What does this mean?” to help you reflect more deeply. Write down any insights that God gives you.
- Respond – Prayer is a two-way conversation with the Lord. Respond from your heart to what he has been revealing to you in his Word, especially taking time to listen to what he may be saying to you personally. You may want to write out your prayer to God and anything he says to you.
- Rest – At any time, when you begin to sense the presence of the Lord, stop any mental effort you are making and just rest in and enjoy his presence. This is the time to savor the special moment of connection between you and God. Treasure God’s Word in your heart.
What I have described is a very brief and introductory explanation of Reflective Prayer. The beauty of this type of prayer is that it is really very simple. I will explain more in my next two blog entries but you can jump right in and try it for yourself today! One very important thing to remember is to slow down and take your time. Choose one verse (two, at most) of Scripture and use the 4 steps to lead you in praying with these verses. Have a pen and paper to record your thoughts and prayers.
Katherine Johnson is a lover of God, wife, mother, ecstatic grandmother of two, life-long missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators, author, teacher, scuba-diver and Girl Scout. She and her husband live in Dallas, Texas. Find Katherine’s blog HERE and her series of Scripture-based Prayer Guides at www.scriptureprayerguides.com.
Katherine Mills Johnson © 2013 All Rights Reserved