We are such a visual society. We see many images a day from News Feeds to Facebook and Instagram feeds. Often we mindlessly scroll through these images. The practice of Visio Divina helps us to redeem the mindlessness and make it a sacred activity. It is designed to give us eyes to see and expand our hearts of compassion.
Visio Divina means Divine Seeing in Latin. This type of prayer uses images to prompt a response in prayer. “It invites us to see deeply, beyond first and second impressions, below initial ideas, judgments, or understandings.” The pictures draw you into the story for you to contemplate and pray for the people or the situation presented. We will extend the practice to relate to people and settings your own world.
How to use these pictures for Prayer
Find a comfortable place to view the pictures. Look at the first picture. Study the setting and the people.
“Be aware of any assumptions or expectations that you bring to the image. No matter what your response is to the image — delight, disgust, indifference, confusion — ponder prayerfully the reason for your various responses and what these responses might mean for you.”
If people are pictured, remind yourself that they are dearly loved by God and made in His image. Then start praying for that actual person and the people who love them. Specific prompts will accompany each picture.
Then mediate on the people in your own neighborhood and community that are in the same situation. Concentrate on the faces you see in the regular routine of your day….the people who live next door, or down the street. The people at work, at school, at the coffee shop, at the dry cleaners. Think about the people that serve you at restaurants, car washes and the post office. Ask God to help you see them, for them to know God’s love for them and to give you opportunities to show kindness and compassion to them.
Are you seeing these people in your life in a different light? Pay attention to the emotions you are experiencing. What responses to God do these images invoke…gratitude, wonder, confession, lament, joy, praise…. End your practice being responding to God’s promptings.
Take the practice off this page and use it with the images you see as you scroll through your day.