We think of prayer, another word for Oratio, mainly as speaking. The word means infinitely more. Jesus spoke Aramaic, and the Aramaic word for prayer is shela. One interpretation of the word shela is to be open and to listen to the Presence of the Divine. We'll get to that interpretation and meaning of prayer in our next step, and in the section on Contemplative Prayer.
However, I want to throw something else in the mix. A true conversation has two conversants. If we speak to God, we should also give Him time to speak to us. Wouldn't that just be good manners?
Listening is not strictly part of Lectio Divina, but we need to keep in mind that it's an art involving the God who created us. If God spoke to virtually every believer in Him in the bible, why should He not speak to us?
Oratio — talking to God
So, if you have a question or nagging concern, why don't you raise it with God and see if He responds? What do you have to lose? The bible teaches that she who seeks God will find Him. In any case, that's up to you.
To continue our earlier metaphor, Oratio is that part of Lectio Divina that extracts the flavor from the food. We have now put the food into our mouth, chewed it, and when praying, we are starting to extract the flavor. We will thoroughly experience and enjoy that flavor in the final step.
When I spend time in Oratio, I tend to start with the Lord's Prayer. That is after all how Jesus taught his disciples to pray. It prevents us from using too many words.
You can, however, add specific concerns or pleas in the appropriate place. If, for instance, some mistake is resting heavy on your heart, mention it to God where you ask Him to "forgive our trespasses." In this way, the Lord's Prayer almost becomes like a prayer framework, and you can make it more personal and look at your own situation through this model prayer.
The Lord's Prayer already contain all the important considerations for someone wanting to speak to the Divine.
After this, I am normally just open and honest with God about what I have read. To get back to our focus verse example from the previous steps, I might for instance tell God where I think I still need to die — like the grain of wheat in Jesus' parable.
I keep it short, since Jesus warned us to pray using our words selectively. God knows everything in any case.
After this, I might raise something that's not clear to me or that I need further clarification upon. And I will allow a short time to wait on a response from God.
Sometimes it comes, and at other times there's just silence. In God's language, silence is an answer too. In the times of silence I remind myself that a large part of the contemplative life is to be okay with not knowing.
After all this it is time to move on to the best part... Contemplatio. This is the whole point of Lectio Divina — the soothing rest as a result of the work of the first three steps.
To conclude, Oratio is prayer. The core of this for me personally is the Lord's Prayer — which can be used as a prayer framework. After that you just talk to God about what you have read, as simply and honestly as you can manage. And it could be that the ensuing conversation is a two-way conversation. We'll never know if we don't listen...
Next up is the final, concluding step of our spiritual reading process, Contemplatio.
"How do you make attractive that which is not?
How do you sell emptiness, vulnerability and nonsuccess?
How do you talk descent when everything is about ascent?
How can you possibly market letting-go in a capitalist culture?
How do you present Jesus to a Promethean mind?
How do you talk about dying to a church trying to appear perfect?
This is not going to work (admitting this might be my first step)"
— Richard Rohr at the beginning of his book Everything Belongs...