“Have the courage to pray with Scripture in first person.”
I recall receiving this advice years ago and I can attest to the difference it has made in my own prayer life and living my vocation as a consecrated member of a secular institute. I had reached a point in my initial formation where I had to make a decision: I could continue this journey to be an Apostolic Oblate by renewing my temporary vows before making final vows or I could walk away by simply not renewing this commitment. The freshness and excitement of following the Lord and joining my institute had subsided in some ways with time, a particularly challenging assignment, and health issues. I went on a silent eight day directed retreat seeking clarity and peace. Most silent directed retreats follow St. Ignatius of Loyola who guided the retreatant by structuring the days with various hours of prayer with Sacred Scripture and spiritual direction.
The graced moment of my retreat occurred when I was directed to pray with John 17. I was still seeking answers from the Lord and wrestling with where He was calling me. Part of me wanted to quit and another part of me wanted to continue giving myself fully by consecrating my life permanently through vows. My struggle initially made praying with John 17 feel difficult and discouraging. I wasn’t receiving the consolation
and answers that I sought and was tempted to walk away from this schedule hour of prayer. Ultimately, I wanted Jesus to show me that He was still calling me to be with Him.
Then I recalled this advice, “Have the courage to pray with Scripture in first person.”
Instead of walking away from this time prayer, I settled into imagining Jesus praying before me as He did for the disciples in John 17. “Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world” (Jn. 17:17-18). This passage became, “Consecrate Joan in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent her into the world.” Receiving the Lord’s blessing and desire for me allowed me to continue to seek Him in this moment of prayer.
“Father, they are your gift to me.” (Jn. 17:24). This passage went deeper as well, “Father, she is your gift to me.” Knowing this truth and allowing it to define me changed everything. I experienced Jesus praying over me in thanksgiving and joy. I desired to respond with the gift of myself. My problems had not changed but I knew Jesus was with me and that was enough. Several years later, I made my final vows, and I am truly grateful for my vocation.
There are many ways to pray with Sacred Scripture and we know that when we read the Bible it’s not the same as reading any other book. Lectio Divina which means “sacred reading,” is a form of prayer that engages our minds, hearts and imaginations as we seek to encounter Christ.
St. Augustine said, “When you read the Bible, God speaks to you; when you pray, you speak to God.”
The Bible, also known as the Word of God, is a sure way in which He reveals truth to us. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh who came to live among us. Let God speak to you through Sacred Scripture this Lent. Place yourself in the scenes. Ask Jesus questions. Let Him speak directly to you when He is addressing someone. Notice what happens in your mind and heart when you hear Jesus say your name. Let us pray for the courage to look, listen and receive the Word of God this Lent.
Joan Patten is a consecrated member of the Secular Institute of the Apostolic Oblates. She is currently the Delegate for Consecrated Life and the local director of the Pro Sanctity Spirituality Center in Fullerton, CA. Pro Sanctity is an international Catholic lay movement founded by Servant of God, Guglielmo Giaquinta in 1947. The mission of Pro Sanctity is to promote the universal call to holiness and brotherhood. Find out more at caprosanctity.org.