Lectio Divina is an ancient way of praying scripture. This practice has been used throughout church history and continues to be a nourishing discipline for Christians from all traditions.
The Latin/Benedictine name, Lectio Divina, may sound unusual to us now — it essentially means: “sacred reading”. This engaging with scripture is reflective and done in the presence of God, with an openness to receiving what the Spirit has to say to us today.
So often we can get into the habit of monopolising the conversation we are having with God. We rush into prayer with words of thanks, praise or requests. Lectio reminds us: God always has the first word. So, we come first to listen.
We are all used to reading scripture — to learn, to study, to memorise, and to teach. With Lectio — we read not to be informed — rather to be transformed.
There is of course time to study, and time to grasp nuances of context, and form and language. However, lectio is a different sort of spiritual discipline — it is prayerful and mediative. “Oh how I love your law, I meditate on it all day long”, writes the Psalmist; and: “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.” In lectio we seek to do the same.
For this reason we tend not to choose long passages of scripture, rather we engage with just a a few verses at a time. And we listen through repeated reading of those verses. The intention is to go deep not wide. We are ‘sipping on scripture’ as one writer put it — savouring the flavour — like a fine wine.
Practicing this prayer
This way of prayer has 4 distinct stages:
Read / Reflect / Respond / Rest.
Read: First, read the text listen to the text — listen as if hearing it fresh, hearing the sounds.
Reflect: Read a the test second time and allow yourself to focus on the one word or phrase which draws your attention today. Give time in silence to reflect & meditate that word or phrase — ponderer it… mull it over.
Respond: Read the passage a third time — and consider how you would like to respond to God in silent prayer.
Finally Rest. This is a key feature of lectio and of contemplative prayer in general. Resist the urge to race through on to the next thing. Give yourself time to simply ‘be’ — to treasure what you have been given with God.
As you practice this in everyday life you may want to work through a whole chapter over a series of days. Or, you may simply return to verses which have been bought to your attention (e.g. at church, or something you’ve read, or a fleeting memory) — we can take these nudges as invitations to go deeper and to dwell on what God has to say to us.
Why not try the prayer today? Perhaps start by using the much loved Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd,
I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down
in green pastures,
he leads me beside
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me
along the right paths
for his name’s sake.