The Our FIAT program has two main components, prayer with Scripture and group sharing. Five prayer exercises are assigned for group participants each week to do at home alone, listening to the Holy Spirit through the exercises. Once a week your group meets and members share their experiences of the exercises with one another. The exercises provide a sequence intended to lead each person to a more meaningful personal prayer relationship with the Trinity. Each exercise requires 10-20 minutes of alone, quiet time in prayer and meditation.
The prayer exercises of the Our FIAT program use all of the principles of the very ancient art of “lectio divina” – spiritual reading. The art of spiritual reading begins with cultivating the ability to listen deeply, to hear “with the ear of our hearts” as St. Benedict encourages us. When we read the Scriptures we should try to imitate the prophet Elijah. We should allow ourselves to become women and men who are able to listen for the still, small voice of God (I Kings 19:12); the “faint murmuring sound” which is God’s word for us, God’s voice touching our hearts. This gentle listening is an “attunement” to the presence of God in that special part of God’s creation that is the Scriptures.
Step 1. Prepare Yourself
The voice of God often speaks very softly. In order to hear someone speaking softly we must learn to be silent. If we are constantly speaking or if we are surrounded with noise, we will not hear His gentle voice. The first step of our fiat is to quiet down in order to hear God’s word to us.
Find a quiet spot away from distractions such as telephone or the internet. Place yourself in a comfortable position. Before you begin, take a moment to calm yourself and become silent. Get ready to listen – really listen – to whatever God would like to tell you. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart and guide this prayer time.
Begin speaking with God. You may begin by a familiar prayer such as the Our Father or asking Mary to intercede with her Son for you. Then speak to Jesus as you would a human friend, telling him you love him and worship him as your personal God. You may want to just speak his name over and over a few times. Speak words of praise to him.
Step 2. “Lectio” – Reading
Begin by reading the assigned passage of Scripture. Read the passage several times. Lectio divina is very different from the speed reading which modern Christians apply to newspapers, books and even to the Bible. Lectio is reverential listening; listening both in a spirit of silence and of awe. We are listening for the still, small voice of God that will speak to us personally – not loudly, but intimately. In lectio we read slowly, attentively, gently listening to hear a word or phrase that is God’s word for us this day.
Step 3. “Meditatio” – Meditation
Take note of the assignment attached to each scripture. Once you have done that, take the word and your experience in and “ruminate” on it. The image of the ruminant animal quietly chewing its cud was used in antiquity as a symbol of the Christian pondering the word of God. Christians have always seen a scriptural invitation to lectio divina in the example of the Virgin Mary “pondering in her heart” what she saw and heard of Christ (Luke 2:19). For us today, these images are a reminder that we must take in the word and, while gently repeating it to ourselves, allow it to interact with our thoughts, our hopes, our memories, our desires. This is the next step of lectio divina – meditation. Through meditation we allow God’s word to become His word for us, a word that touches us and affects us at our deepest personal level.
Step 4. “Oratio” – Prayer
The next step is oratio – prayer. Respond to the passage by opening your heart to God. This is not primarily an intellectual exercise, but more of the beginning of a conversation with God. Expect that God wants to communicate with you. If this is difficult for you, ask the Holy Spirit to increase your faith of His living presence in your heart.
In our conversation, allow the word that we have taken in to touch and change our deepest selves. Many times God will invite us to hold up our most difficult and pain-filled experiences to Him. Give to Him what you have discovered in yourself during your experience of meditatio. Experience God using the word or phrase that He has given you as a means of blessing, of transforming your ideas and memories, which your pondering on His word has awakened. Give to God what you have found within your heart. In this oratio, we allow our real selves to be touched and changed by the word of God.
Step 5. “Contemplatio” – Contemplation
Now, simply rest in God’s embrace, in the presence of the One who has used His word as a means of inviting you to accept His transforming love. No one who has ever been in love needs to be reminded that there are moments in loving relationships when words are unnecessary. It is the same in our relationship with God. Wordless, quiet rest in the presence of the One Who loves us has a name in the Christian tradition – contemplatio, contemplation. Once again we practice silence, letting go of our own words; this time simply enjoying the experience of being in the presence of God.
Step 6. Record Your Experience
Finally, write down what comes to you in your journal. Allow the thoughts, inspirations and ideas to flow out onto the pages. And when He invites you to return to your pondering of His word or to your inner dialogue with Him, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.
Step 7. Weekly Prayer Group Meeting
Once a week you will gather with your small faith-sharing prayer group. You begin the meeting with prayer and meditation to silence the distraction of the day. Then someone in the group reads the Scriptural reading aloud and each member shares from their journal the thoughts and insights experienced during their personal prayer. Since all members completed the same readings, you’ll continually discover that God is speaking to each of us differently on a very deep, individual and personal level.