Have you heard the expression “praying with scripture”? I heard that expression long before I heard of lectio divina, but praying with scripture became real for me as I learned this form of “reading” and prayer.
Lectio divina is usually translated “sacred reading.” It is a way of slowing ourselves as we read scripture so we not only read the words printed on the page but learn to listen and hear the Word of God. I have heard it remarked that bible study is “reading for information” and lectio is “reading for transformation.” That certainly is an oversimplification, but might help us understand how lectio goes beyond study.
Lectio divina is usually described as having four movements,
1. Read – Read a short passage of scripture slowly, listening with the “ear of your heart.” Listen for a sentence or phrase or word that captures your attention. Stay with what has captured you and give your full attention, mind and heart, to it. Repeat it as you let it fill your mind and heart.
2. Reflect – Giving your full attention to the words, relish them, In a spirit of quiet receptiveness be attentive to what speaks to your heart. This is a time of going deeper in listening. Initially you read the words. Now you let the words speak to you and you listen. In this quietness you open yourself fully to God’s presence.
3. Respond – As you listen to the sentence or phrase or word, you respond spontaneously. Perhaps a prayer of thanksgiving or praise or petition comes to you. Give voice to that response. Your attention stays with phrase or word but you are noticing what that provokes, calls forth in your and you acknowledge that in God’s presence.
4. Rest – You have come to a place to be with God. Don’t hurry, don’t run, don’t try to accomplish anything, rest with God. If you are drawn back to the scripture go there, if you are drawn to silence go there. Follow God as you are lead.
You will often see these movements called by their Latin names, lectio (read), meditatio (reflect), oratio (respond or pray), and contemplatio (rest).
Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking these are “steps” that are to be done always in sequence and for a certain number of minutes each. While setting aside a specific amount of time might be helpful in beginning this practice, it misses the essence of the practice, listening for God, responding to God, letting God fill your life.
Are you ready to sit with a scripture for a while and let it lead you?