I am convinced that far too few who follow Jesus find fuel for the journey in their own regular engagement with the Bible. If you do, that’s great. If you don’t, Guigo II (d. 1188) is the man to check out.
Actually it is his little book that you should check out: The Ladder of Monks is the go-to guide to the real medieval practice of lectio divina or prayerful reading of Scripture, as I said when I started this series.
The great thing about Guigo’s approach, as I’ve also said, is that it is totally engaged, mind heart and soul, without being dryly academic like some modern approaches.
Reading, Meditating, Praying.
They are all connected.
As Guigo puts it
Reading seeks for the sweetness of a blessed life, meditation perceives it, prayer asks for it…
He has two metaphors going at once to better express how these activities relate to each other.
First is the ladder of the book’s title.
You can’t get to the higher steps without placing your feet on the lower ones. So this kind of prayer will be something that requires the text of Scripture, studious reading of that text, and then meditation on the text you read. It is not that you are done with Scripture, so you start to pray. You pray the biblical text.
Second is his food metaphor — usually juicy grapes:
Reading, as it were, puts food whole into the mouth, meditation chews it and breaks it up, prayer extracts its flavor…
You can’t taste food that isn’t in your mouth; you have to read. You can’t taste food that hasn’t been chewed up; you have to meditate. But the point is to get to all that flavor.
Notice, though, that praying Scripture is not a self-satisfied reveling in the good tastes:
“…prayer asks for what we long for…
All that meditative chewing has revealed things about our own inner state. We are a long way from what God offers and calls us to be. Reading and meditation fill us with a very particular longing for the reality Scripture reveals. We cannot get to that reality on our own — so we pray for God to help us reach it.
Throughout the book Guigo gives examples from his own lectio divina
His text is Matthew 5:8,
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
His reading, or study, helped him understand what this meant.
His meditation, or rumination, made him see how far his own experience is from either side of it.
His heart is not pure. He has not seen God. And so he prays, reminding himself of the foreign woman who sought Jesus, that the even the dogs get to eat the crumbs that fall from the table. And so he prays
So give me, Lord, some pledge of what I hope to inherit, at least one drop of heavenly rain with which to refresh my thirst, for I am on fire with love.
He asks to truly know God — as he will only be able to do if God purifies his heart.
Read and meditate until you know you need what Scripture offers. Then pray for help.
That’s the key to praying Scripture for Guigo. You are ready to start when you feel the gap between your life and God’s promise. Then it is the obvious thing to do.
I would love to hear from you in the comments!
How have you used Scripture in prayer in the past?
What do you think of Guigo’s approach?