The Faith to Action Initiative works to educate and mobilize Christians to respond to the needs of orphans and vulnerable children, upholding the vital importance of family and community. In doing so, we engage with a variety of different Christian traditions with the goal of working together to care for children and families in collaboration and unity. Evidence-based research, case studies, and learning from fellow orphan care practitioners are vital to growth in this field. As Christians, we have the additional dimension of being guided by a faith that leads us to action. We believe that it is of the utmost importance to create space to listen to what God has to say about His heart for orphans and vulnerable children and the unique roles we can play in caring for His children around the world.
As we journey in praying for those most vulnerable, different types of prayer can center us to hear God’s voice and understand His heart through Scripture. One type of contemplative prayer is lectio divina, which translates from Latin as “divine reading.” It is an ancient Benedictine spiritual discipline that intertwines the reading of Scripture with meditation and prayer, and can be done individually or collectively in a group. Different from other free-form types of prayer during which we can get caught up in saying the right words, it helps us listen to God’s still, small voice. It slows the whole process of prayer down beautifully and is intended to be simple. The practice provides a safe container for deep listening without external judgments or internal expectations.
Here we will outline how to walk a group through a time of lectio divina that can be centered on orphans and vulnerable children. This serves as a resource for churches, small groups, organizations, universities, and student groups and can be modified for individuals. If your group is embarking on a project such as partnering with a ministry to vulnerable children or supporting a church’s work with family-based care, lectio divina can be a helpful tool for uniting the group around a common vision through Scripture and a shared time of listening to God. As we do during the season of Advent, with a new endeavor in which there are great expectations about what is to come, we would do well to set our anxieties down and find our confidence in the words of our Father.
Sample Group Lectio Divina
Take a look at our Scripture page for relevant texts to use in your prayer time and select a verse or several verses. Use the following format to guide a group of four to eight people. The group leader is present to coordinate the process and facilitate sharing. Designate someone to take brief notes for further discussion later.
Verse: “But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief that you may take it into your hands; the helpless commit themselves to you; you have been the helper of the orphan.”
Psalms 10:14 (NRS)
Read the verse three separate times, with time for silence at the end of each reading. Follow the silence with a time for group members to share what they may have received during the reading.
Step 1: Listen for a word or something that touches the heart. Reflect on it silently. Share with the group.
Step 2: Listen and look for Christ in the Scripture. Where does the word or phrase touch your life in that present moment? Reflect on it silently. Share with the group.
Step 3: Listen for Christ’s call to action. Reflect on it silently. Share with the group.
Conclude: The leader can close in prayer and set a time to debrief what was shared at a later date.
One of the strengths of using lectio divina in this capacity is that participants in a group setting experience the Scripture in unique ways, helping the group to learn more after seeing the texts from various perspectives. Walking through the lectio divina process multiple times will bring different experiences and new learning about God’s heart for orphans and vulnerable children. The process also provides a meaningful way to prepare a group before a formal meeting. A foundation of prayer promotes unity among a group and may even yield words or images that can serve as signposts along the journey. If your group is using the Journeys of Faith study series, this could be an excellent additional tool to incorporate or adapt as you go through the small group study questions at the end of each chapter.
For more prayer resources, visit our Engage page and look at the section on Prayer. Throughout the next year, we will continue to update this page with additional resources to help support you as you pray for orphans and vulnerable children and their families. We also welcome you to share some ways you, your church, or your community have prayed for them. If you use this lectio divina practice, please share your experience with us in the comments section or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The author has worked in international development for five years in East Africa and the Middle East. She is currently living in the Middle East with her adventurous husband, where she supports communications and programming for reconciliation, peace building, and interfaith efforts. She holds an MA in Cross-Cultural Studies from Fuller Graduate School of Intercultural Studies.