Step 1 – Why The Prayers?

I have been asked to say a word about the prayers I recommend for Step 1, the Preparation Step, of Lectio Divina. 

First, let me say that these prayers are not mandatory. They are not necessary from God’s perspective. He is ready to speak to your heart now, through his word. 

But from our end, some form of spiritual preparation is necessary. Because our hearts and minds are not always in a state of readiness for deep listening. And prayer is about deep listening of the heart.

Thus I propose these prayers. They are the prayers I use to prepare my heart for a time of Lectio Divina.

Here’s why and a word of explanation about each.

I learned these prayers from the monastic community where I lived in my 20s. This community drew deeply from both the Catholic and Orthodox monastic traditions and they beautifully live the contemplative life. When I pray these prayers, I join in community, in some sense, with their effort to life a life of communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Should you decide to pray them, you too could be joining in this communion. If you have a copy of the book, The Gospel Life, you could think of these prayers as your way of connecting with the spiritual effort that is expressed in those pages. 

Or you could choose different prayers that also help you.

But here’s a description of these prayers.

The Opening Prayer: 

Glory to the Holy Trinity, consubstantial, life-giving and indivisible. As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.

This is the opening prayer. It is an Orthodox prayer, translated from the French, in praise of the Holy Trinity. Consubstantial is a word that means “one substance.” It means that each person of the Trinity is of one essence, one substance with the others. They are three persons but they share one substance. This belief – that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are con-subsubstantial with one another – is one of the core tenets of the Nicene Creed that Catholics and Orthodox Christians profess. That creed was originally written in Greek and the word for consubstantial in Greek is homo-ousios. One ousios, or one substance. It speaks to the unity of the Trinity. This prayer is thus proclaiming that the Trinity is undivided, of a single, shared substance and is the giver of life. This belief is at the core of our faith.

At the beginning of our prayer, then, we activate that faith, we assent to it, we remind ourselves of it. If the Trinity is a light that shines in creation, we open the windows of our soul to this light at the start of our prayer.

The Second Prayer – King of Heaven: 

King of Heaven, Comforter, Spirit of truth, you who are everywhere present, you who fill all things, treasure of grace and giver of life, come and dwell in us. Purify us of our sins and save our souls, you who are goodness. 

This is a prayer directly addressed to the Holy Spirit. It is also an Orthodox prayer. It expresses the Christian faith that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to be with his disciples always, to teach them all things and remind them of what Jesus said. (Jn 14:16, 26). It is through the Holy Spirit that disciples are born to eternal life (Jn 3: 5-7), hence the Spirit is the giver of life who will lead the disciples of Jesus into all truth (Jn 16:13).

The Third Prayer – the Trisagion:

The third prayer, the Trisagion, is also an Orthodox prayer. It means thrice – agios. Which means thrice holy. It refers to what occurs in Isaiah’s vision of heaven, recounted in Isaiah 6:2-4. There Isaiah sees God’s temple in heaven; he sees the winged seraphim, hovering before the throne of God, crying out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory.”  (Is. 6:3) Holy. Holy. Holy. Thrice Holy. This prayer holds that Isaiah gazed upon the Trinity when he looked upon heaven. The prayer recapitulates the three-fold structure of Isaiah’s prayer and takes up the prayer for mercy that Isaiah prayed:  “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Is. 6:5) In the New Testament tradition in which we now live, the prayer becomes Trinitarian.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. 

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. 

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

The Our Father is the well known prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray. When we take these words on our lips we pray in communion with the whole Church, according to the counsel of Jesus’ himself. 

Psalm 85:

Jesus always prayed the psalms. He took several of them on his lips even during the crucifixion. There are several that express very well a disposition of heart as we take up the word in the morning. Psalm 85 is a great one. Others are Psalm 4, 41 or 26. Stick with one until you memorize it, then learn another.

Turn your ear, O Lord, and give answer for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life for I am faithful; save the servant who trusts in you. You are my God, have mercy on me, Lord, for I cry to you all the day long. Give joy to your servant, O Lord, to you I lift up my soul. O Lord, you are good and forgiving, full of love to all who call. Give heed, O Lord, to my prayer and attend to the sound of my voice. In the day of distress I will call and surely you will reply… Show me, Lord, your way that I may walk in your truth. Guide my heart to fear your name . . . God of mercy and compassion, slow to anger, O Lord, abounding in love and truth, turn and take pity on me. Give strength to your servant and save the child of your handmaid. Show me a sign of your favor that my foes may see to their shame that you console me and give me your help. 

Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. Ps. 85:1-7,11,15-17

When you feel ready, when your mind is quieted and you have reminded yourself that you are on holy ground, it is good to close this time of preparation with the words Samuel prayed, when he understood that God was calling him. 

Speak to my heart, Lord, for your child is listening.           1 Sam 3:7

These six simple prayers can be prayed in 5 minutes or less. If you are alone, you might choose to chant them. Reading them or chanting them will dispose your heart for the deep listening that happens in Lectio Divina.

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