What is Lectio Divina?


What is Lectio Divina (Taken from the website of the Dominican Order)

Lectio divina (Divine Reading) is more than a method of prayer. It is an encounter with the Word of God in which a person is lead into a deeper awareness of the mystery of God as well as himself/herself. It is a graced event that centers on listening.

Granted we may have lost the skill and art of listening on many levels, nonetheless, it is one of the primary ways in which God converses with us. Lectio divina improves the way we listen with all of our senses while at the same time it calls into question the filters we use when listening.

This is perhaps the greatest challenge of lectio divina: our own conversion. One central key to a fruitful lectio divinia is simply repetition. The more a person engages in lectio divina, the more he or she strengths the habit of listening to the particular word that God is speaking to him or her in a very personal manner. This ‘word’ may not be a word at all but an assurance of Divine Providence and Presence that guides a person through the various joys and struggles of life.

At the same time, repetition is a doorway to discover something new that was not previously understood or that is now seen in a different and more relevant way. One need only to recall the stories of the Scriptures where God encounters men and women of all races and ways of life, to foresee that an encounter with the Word of God is never the same for everyone.

Each person is in a particular place. Each person, through the graces of lectio divina, is brought to another place. Where is this place? It is within the mystery of God, where the person is given some “hidden manna” and a “white stone” on which is written a new name that no one knows except God and the one who receives it (cf. Rev. 2:17).

How is it prayed?

The goal of the lectio divina is closer union with the Lord Jesus. There are many explanations of how to pray the lectio divina, but its basic structure is essentially the same. The four traditional steps are lectio (read), meditatio (meditate), oratio (pray) and contemplatio (contemplate). In the book, The Oblate Life, by Gervase Holdaway, it is described this way: “Lectio Divina has been likened to “feasting on the Word”: first, the taking of a bite (lectio); then chewing on it (meditatio); savoring its essence (oratio) and, finally, “digesting” it and making it a part of the body (contemplatio).”

The spiritual benefit is in hearing the same passage over and over, read slowly and prayerfully each time. Before praying the lectio divina, it is a good idea to slow oneself down, by asking for the presence of the Holy Spirit to come into your life through the prayerful bible reading. One other thing that is helpful is to think about your breathing, and to make it measured and calm, which also has the effect of making you calm.

In the traditional style, the passage is read slowly four times. One for each part of the lectio. The first step is to simply hear the reading, listening for the Holy Spirit to come into your heart. The first part, lectio, is not meant to be thought about much. Rather, it is simply in listening to the words as they are read aloud. Each successive step involves a slow, prayerful reading, with a desire to get deeper and deeper into the text. Meditatio is that careful consideration about what words or phrases might be striking me at this moment. Oratio is the attempt to be very attentive to the reading, considering what Jesus might be saying to me though this reading. This step is a reminder that the heart of prayer is about a dialogue with God, speaking and listening, not one or the other. Contemplatio is that step where we “let go” and simply rest in the Word of God.

There are many places where one can learn more about the lectio divina. Here are some suggestions: