Lectio divina (Latin for “divine reading”) is a simple method of praying with Scripture. It was already known by the Church Fathers in the early days of the Church. Lectio divina was recommended by Saint Cyprian (a third-century bishop and martyr). It has been part of the prayer of Christians throughout the history of the Church. Monasteries kept the practice alive. Saint Benedict (480–547 A.D.) taught his monks to pray in this way 1500 years ago, and it is still a wonderful way to pray today.
Getting ready for Lectio Divina
FIND THE RIGHT TIME AND PLACE. Set aside a few minutes (aim for ten to fifteen minutes a day if you can manage it) in a quiet, comfortable place where you can be relatively free of distractions. Have your Bible available.
PRAY FOR HELP. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. You are about to have a conversation with God Himself; invite Him to take the lead in the conversation!
PICK A SCRIPTURE PASSAGE. Choose a Scripture passage as the subject of your prayer time. It should not be too long, perhaps a short Psalm (or a section of a longer one), a story from one of the Gospels, etc. We STRONGLY RECOMMEND using the Mass Readings of the Day. You can find them listed at http://www.usccb.org/nab/ . There are other ways to choose:
You might choose a book of the Bible that appeals to you, and read and pray with a little bit of it each day. The Psalms are great; they were Jesus’ prayer book, so they should be good enough for us! Or you might choose one of the Gospels or one of Paul’s letters.
QUIET YOUR MIND FOR A FEW MINUTES. Now you’re really ready to get started!
“If we delight in the law of God or the Word and mediate on it day and night, we will be blessed and prosper.” (Psalm 1:1-3)
The four stages of Lectio Divina
Lectio divina has four stages, or parts, each with its Latin name:
• Lectio (reading)
• Meditatio (meditation)
• Oratio (prayer)
• Contemplatio (contemplation)
1) Lectio (reading)
Read the passage.
Reread it again s-l-o-w-l-y, line by line, pausing from time to time. Notice any words or phrases that appeal to you or attract your attention.
You’re not reading just to get the gist of the story; every word or phrase can have meaning.
2) Meditatio (meditation)
Mull over the passage you have just read. Remember, this is God speaking to you. The words or phrases that caught your attention may contain God’s special message for you. (He speaks to each one of us in a unique and individual way. No two people will get the exact same thing out of the passage. And if you were to read it again a year from now, you might hear something different.)
Spend extra time thinking about the meaning of the words that “jumped out” at you. Ask yourself,
• What is God saying to my heart?
• How can I relate this passage to my daily life?
• What is God asking of me at this moment?
3) Oratio (prayer)
Now it’s your turn to speak. Respond to God’s word in silent prayer. What do you want to say back to God? The passage you just read may inspire you to …
• Thank God.
• Praise Him.
• Tell Him you are sorry about something.
• Give yourself to Him in complete trust.
• Ask Him for something you need. Has the passage brought to mind any personal needs you might have? Or the needs of others?
• Make a resolution. Has the passage prompted you to take some action in your life? To overcome a bad or sinful habit? To reach out to someone in need?
If you would like, you can go back to the Scripture passage and repeat the meditatio and oratio stages with another phrase or two. It’s up to you. Let the Holy Spirit lead you.
4) Contemplatio (contemplation)
When you are finished reading, listening, and talking to God, it’s time to just rest in His loving presence for a few minutes.
No words are needed. Be at peace and rest in silence before the Lord.
Just love Him, and let Him love you. (Kind of like a couple falling in love — sometimes it’s enough just to be in the same room together.)
Finish with a prayer of thanksgiving for the gifts and inspirations received during your prayer time. In JOURNALING – you can include your insights, prayer in writing.