“Hold your breath. Make a wish. Count to three…”
So begins the classic theme song from the 1971 fantasy film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It’s a delightful melody—except that many of us have unintentionally adapted it as a model for self-serving use in our daily prayers. When it’s time to pray, we find ourselves unconsciously thinking:
“Close your eyes. Make a wish. Say amen…”
But your prayers don’t have to be singsong exercises in personal gratification. See for yourself—try one (or all!) of these 6 creative ways to pray unselfishly today.
1. Lectio Divina Prayer
Learning to pray unselfishly requires first building a habit of praying away from yourself—of turning your inward thoughts to outward interests. This is the power of Lectio Divina, the practice of “divine reading.” An ancient spiritual discipline, it empowers us to focus our prayers on Scripture instead of ourselves—a method that helps us internalize and pray God’s words back to him.
In the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, theologian Adele Ahlberg Calhoun describes it this way: “Lectio divina invites us into God’s presence to listen for his particular, loving word … rooted in the assurance that every part of the biblical story—letters, parables, Gospels, Prophets, history—is inspired and can give voice to God’s particular word to us.”
Are you curious yet? If so, then you can try it now. Here’s how Lectio Divina works:
1. Silencio (“silence”). First, take a moment to breathe in silence, preparing to hear from God.
2. Lectio (“reading”). Read a Scripture passage out loud to yourself.
3. Meditatio (“meditation”). Read the passage again, out loud or silently, pausing to reflect on any words or phrases that seem to catch your attention.
4. Oratio (“prayer”). Speak to God in prayer about the Scripture passage. Pray it back to him as is appropriate, Ask questions, make promises. Speak the Scripture into his ear while he whispers them into your heart.
5. Contemplatio (“contemplation”). Before saying “amen,” take time to contemplate what an answer to your Lectio Divina prayer might look like, and yield your will to God’s intentions in your prayer.
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