Lectio Divina, a Latin term, means “divine reading” and describes a way of reading the Scriptures whereby we gradually let go of our own agenda and open ourselves to what God wants to say to us. In the 12th century, a Carthusian monk called Guigo, described the stages which he saw as essential to the practice of Lectio Divina. There are various ways of practicing, either individually or in groups but Guigo’s description remains fundamental.
The four stages of Lectio Divina are:
1.Lectio: Reading where we read the Word of God, slowly and reflectively so that it sinks into us. Any passage of Scripture can be used for this way of prayer but the passage should not be too long.
2. Meditatio: Reflection where we think about the text we have chosen and ruminate upon it so that we take from it what God wants to give us.
3. Oratio: Respond where we leave our thinking aside and simply let our hearts speak to God. This response is inspired by our reflection on the Word of God.
4. Contemplatio: Rest where we let go not only of our own ideas, plans and meditations but also of our holy words and thoughts. We simply rest in the Word of God. We listen at the deepest level of our being to God who speaks within us with a still small voice. As we listen, we are gradually transformed from within. Obviously this transformation will have a profound effect on the way we actually live and the way we live is the test of the authenticity of our prayer. We must take what we read in the Word of God into our daily lives.
The Word of God is alive and active and will transform each of us if we open ourselves to receive what God wants to give us.
Some people light a candle or have a ritual that shows that they are ready to participate in the experience before they begin the stages. I always start with saying this out loud: 1 Samuel 3:10, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Typically I read the text 3 times. Once as I normally would read something, the second time I read it a bit slower, allowing myself to really hear each word and a third time line by line, pausing between each to see if there is anything that stands out to me. I then take about 20-30 minutes and in complete silence I reflect. I always have my sketchbook with me and will usually draw or write words that I believe God is giving me during that time. I then move into a time to respond. I bring my thoughts and questions to God. There have been many times I cry out to God during this time in frustration if I feel like I didn’t hear anything. I then rest in a song or a poem or will reread the Scripture that I started with. I end the time by sitting in a meditative yoga pose and hold my hands out in front of me, palms up and repeat 1 Samuel 3:10. I want to leave that space the same way I entered it- listening to the heart and words of God.
Remember to have a continual “learner’s posture”. I can tell you firsthand that if you choose to allow God to teach you during these times, you will receive so much more than you ever expected. This divine reading time is simply this for me: He says Come and I accept the invitation to participate in conversation with him.
During my divine reading time a few weeks ago, God revealed a lot to me (see THIS post) and also asked me to give up/give over a lot. I’ve come to the place where I no longer ask “But WHY God??? I really don’t want to give THAT up!” I now say, “Lord remind me not WHAT I am giving up or even WHY yet, but WHO I am giving this up for?” Usually He tells that I have to give up something that is replacing time with Him in my life. Once I have a better balance I see Him (sometimes) slowly bringing that hobby, relationship, etc back.
I’d love to hear your experiences with Lectio Divina. How has it changed you? Do you prefer to do this practice alone or in community with others?
[ Information on the stages of divine reading is from the Carmelite Order website. Find more resources including a daily reading plan HERE. ]