Lectio Divina is one of the great treasures of the Christian tradition of prayer. It means Divine Reading, which is reading the book we believe to be divinely inspired. This tradition of prayer flows out of a Hebrew method of studying the Scriptures which was called haggadah. Haggadah was an interactive interpretation of the Scriptures by means of the free use of the text to explore its inner meaning. It was part of the devotional practice of the Jews in the days of Jesus.
Listening to the Word of God in Scripture
Listening to the word of God in Scripture (Lectio Divina) is a traditional way of cultivating friendship with Christ. It is a way of listening to the texts of Scripture as if we were in conversation with Christ and he were suggesting the topics of conversation. The daily encounter with Christ and reflection on His word leads beyond mere acquaintanceship to an attitude of friendship, trust, and love. Conversation simplifies and gives way to communing. Gregory the Great (6th century) in summarizing the Christian contemplative tradition expressed it as “resting in God.” This was the classical meaning of Contemplative Prayer in the Christian tradition for the first sixteen centuries.
Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer
Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer are two distinct prayer forms. Lectio Divina is a reading, reflecting, responding and resting in the word of God that helps one grow in relationship with God.
Centering Prayer is a method of prayer in which we consent to rest in God’s presence. It is a prayer that moves us beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him. It prepares us to receive the gift of contemplation.
Lectio Divina is a gift to Centering Prayer. As our relationship with God deepens we will be renewed in our intention to rest with God in Centering Prayer.
Centering Prayer is a gift to Lectio Divina as it frees us from obstacles to hear the word of God on a much deeper level in Lectio Divina.
Lectio Divina and Bible Study
Bible Study is the reading of the scriptures for information and an understanding of the context of the passage. It provides a solid conceptual background for the practice of Lectio Divina.
Lectio Divina is a reflective reading of scripture. It is a method of prayer that leads us into the deeper meaning of scripture and the transformation of our lives. A contemplative reading of the Scriptures is compatible with well-grounded interpretation of the Bible.
- Lectio: Read the Scripture passage for the first time. Listen with the “ear of your heart.” What phrase, sentence or even one word stands out to you? Begin to repeat that phrase, sentence or one word over and over, allowing it to settle deeply in your heart. Simply return to the repetition of the phrase, sentence or one word, savoring it in your heart.
- Meditatio: Reflect, relish the words. Let them resound in your heart. Let an attitude of quiet receptiveness permeate the prayer time. Be attentive to what speaks to your heart.
- Oratio: Respond spontaneously as you continue to listen to a phrase, sentence or word. A prayer of praise, thanksgiving or petition may arise. Offer that prayer, and then return to repeating the word in your heart.
- Contemplatio: Rest in God. Simply “be with” God’s presence as you open yourself to a deeper hearing of the Word of God. If you feel drawn back to the scriptures, follow the lead of the Spirit.
Growing in Relationship
Growing in relationship with God is a process like any other relationship. We need to begin by listening and entering into dialogue with God’s word. As the dialogue unfolds we will discover different ways of being in relationship; different moments of being with God. There are the moments of listening to the other and pondering the meaning of his/her words. There are the moments of responding and dialoguing, as well as being with the other when no words need to be said.
A relationship with God is also made up of many moments. These moments may come in any order. Begin by walking through each moment, taking as much time as needed. There are no “shoulds, oughts or musts.” Listen with the ear of your heart and let the dialogue with God unfold in its own time and let the Holy Spirit take the lead.
We need to trust that God is eager to be with us and to share with us the inner peace and freedom we desire.
The text on this page was excerpted from Lectio Divina by Contemplative Outreach. Contemplative Outreach is an excellent resource for anyone seeking information and guidance about the Christian contemplative tradition and associated practices.