Scripture is living and active as the Bible reminds us in Hebrews. Lectio Divina is a practice of listening to scripture read out loud while we allow the Holy Spirit’s presence to speak to us. When we quiet ourselves and meditate on the text, we allow space to experience God and rest in his love and grace.
Quick Introduction to the Practice of Lectio Divina
Lectio Divina begins by preparing ourselves to meet with God through scripture. This is not a time for a theological analysis of the text. You don’t need to find a deep meaning in the text – we’re instead inviting the Spirit to simply meet us there.
The practice begins by quieting ourselves and praying to invite the Holy Spirit to be present and illuminate something through the text. We then move to a portion of scripture we’ve decided on, and when ready, read through the text slowly. After the first reading, we pause for several minutes to meditate on the text that was just read. Be mindful of words or phrases that stand out to you. Hold on to those, and allow the Spirit to speak through them. We then read the scripture a second time. Notice those words or phrases that stood out the first time, and spend time talking to God about what he is revealing. We’ll then read the same passage a third time, and after this we’ll spend time in contemplation.
A Short History
Lectio Divina has roots in the 3rd century from Origen of Alexandria (scholar, ascetic, theologian). He talked about this practice as “seeking the meaning of divine words which is hidden from most people.”
This practice of meditating on scripture was passed on to other monks and transformed slightly in practice in the 12th century with Guigo II, a monk. Some version of Lectio Divina was taught to and practiced by monks for centuries. Origen’s practice was learned by Ambrose of Milan, who taught it to Saint Augustine, and from this, in the 4th century, was the beginning of regular use in monastic traditions. Many others we know of have practiced this over the centuries: the Desert Fathers, Saint Hilary of Poitiers, it was taught by Saint John of the Cross, and even was used by Protestant John Calvin. Today it is practiced by Protestants, Reformed, Puritans, Catholics and Anglicans, as well as continued to be practiced in monastic traditions.
Guigo II (Chartreuse, FR) was the one who ‘created’ or set the 4 steps to Lectio Divina: Read, Meditate, Pray, Contemplate. This is still the basis of how we practice Lectio Divina today.
God’s Presence within Lectio Divina
Being a meditative and contemplative practice, we need to recognize that this is not the only way we experience God.
God is present within Lectio Divina because we invite the Holy Spirit who is our counselor and guide, into this time. As we know, the Holy Spirit speaks differently to each of us, in each circumstance, so we need to learn to listen, and to be still and receptive to what the Spirit has for us. Lectio Divina is a great spiritual practice, to practice that divine listening.
Deeper Dive into the Practice
Lectio Divina is a slow, methodical, prayerful reading of and listening to scripture, allowing the Spirit to speak through the text to us.
Start by being mindful of your body. Get into a comfortable position – place both feet on the ground, posture upright, you can even place your hands open, facing upwards in your lap. Prepare by quieting yourself and praying – inviting the Holy Spirit to guide the time and the reading of scripture.
Try to limit your distractions during this time – leave your phone face-down away from you, not touching it. Close your eyes if that will keep you from being distracted by things around you. Do whatever feels right to you.
Read through the scripture slowly and attentively. This will happen several times. Don’t worry about what the passage means. Don’t analyze it – just listen for what is coming up for you as you hear it. After the passage is read, take several minutes of quiet. The first time will be focused on meditating on the passage you just read.
Meditate & ponder on the significance of the text. Allow the Spirit to highlight things for you. Note if there are words or phrases that stand out to you. You can repeat those words or phrases to yourself. Be open to whether God is asking something of you, or telling you something of himself. Meditate on the text.
After several minutes of quiet, read the same passage again. This time when you spend several quiet minutes after the reading, respond in silent prayer.
Dialogue with God about what has risen up in you. Gratitude? Praise? Lament? Comfort? Confusion? Are there specific words or phrases you want to bring to Him? Do you want to ask God why certain things were brought up?
Again after several minutes, read the passage a third time. This third time of silence, spend in contemplation.
While meditation is more active (actively considering the text that was read), contemplation is quiet stillness in the presence of God. This is also not a speech-kind of prayer time, but rather a silent dwelling with God. Resting in His presence. Resting in His love.
You will probably find your mind wandering at certain points in the silence. That is completely normal, happens to everyone. When you notice your mind wandering, just acknowledge it, then gently bring it back to this time – as many times as you need to. If you’re new to this, the quiet may feel long and awkward, but that’s ok. Allow the Spirit to work, and listen.
Also whatever you feel during this time is valid, and to remind you that whatever our expectations of this time are – and if they’re met or not – God is still here with each of us. He is still pleased that you took this time to connect with Him. And he has love and grace for you in that.
Guide to Practicing Lectio Divina
This guide to practicing Lectio Divina is here as a prompt to follow. Prayers are included, but please feel free to pray in your own way. A example of a passage to use is offered as well. Feel free to use a different passage. Enter into this time in a quiet, meditative state, open to whatever the Spirit reveals.
Pray, inviting the Spirit to this time.
Father, thank you for this time to come in worship before you. Reveal yourself to us through your scripture, and give us peace. Holy Spirit, meet us in this place. Ready our hearts to hear from you. Ready our minds to think on you. Ready our souls to rest in you. Amen.
Read the Scripture a first time
Luke 24:36b-48 (Jesus with the disciples after his resurrection)
In silence after the first reading: Meditate
Read the Scripture a second time
In silence after the second reading: Pray
Read the Scripture a third time
In silence after the third reading: Contemplate
Lord, help us treasure your presence with us. Holy Spirit we love you and long for you. Help us keep the words of your scripture on our minds and hearts. Amen.