Lectio Divina – latin for Divine Reading
Lectio Divina is a spiritual practice that has been around for centuries, you could even say it has been around as long as scripture. It’s taught and practiced by most streams of Christian faith at this point. Long associated with Catholicism due to its use in monastic orders and advocacy of people like St. Augustine and St. Benedict it has also been used by reformer John Calvin and Puritans like Richard Baxter.
And what Lectio is really, although exact methods vary, is reading the Scriptures with loving devotional attention without trying to figure out the historical facts or the meaning. It is attentive listening for the leading of the Holy Spirit.
This is why I say it can be said to have been part of the early Church’s life. We see in the Bible the early Church, and even before, people listening and responding to the Spirit’s leading from the Scriptures. Passages like 1 Corinthians 2:10 lead us into this practice as it says,
For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. NLT
Think of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 when he tells his listeners of what the Scriptures tell about Jesus. That’s not the result of his study. He’s a simple fisherman who is receiving the revelation of the Holy Spirit from the words of the Old Testament.
Lectio Divina is about relying on the Holy Spirit absolutely to show us or to illuminate the Scriptures to us. It is an exercise of listening, love and trust.
Commonly the stages are described as
- Read – settle yourself away from distractions and read lovingly the passage selected.
2. Meditate – Not analyzing the passage or seeking to learn from it factually but letting your mind rest on it. Listening for the Holy Spirit to bring a word, phrase or idea for your attention
3. Prayer – Talking to God about the words or ideas that you ‘heard’ from the Spirit.
4. Contemplation – Silent time with God and the word received.
When I was first taught Lectio it was taking a short passage of scripture, most often a part of the Gospels, and reading it aloud repeatedly. During each reading you listen for the Holy Spirit to emphasize a particular word, phrase or idea. Then in the pause between readings you pray and reflect on the word/phrase/idea given. Each time you listen to the passage (read by yourself or by someone else) you remain open for God the Spirit to highlight the same thing or something else. At the end, pause and pray about the word given, contemplate what God is saying to you in this time. This is still the most frequent method I have encountered.
So, let’s just hit a few relevant points about doing Lectio and then I will walk you through it.
*Lectio Divina is not relying on your knowledge or analysis but on the Spirit speaking to you
*Lectio is a very scripture loving devotional method of hearing God
*this can be done in a group setting or alone, in groups it can lead to new insights for group discernment
*keep your chosen passage short, perhaps a single brief story from the Gospels to help you listen rather than getting caught up in a long reading
*like most spiritual practices, you might not think it “worked” as we are all prone to distraction, disbelieving what we hear or being put off by any number of factors. Spiritual practices are relational not mathematical or scientific. They don’t always add up or find the same result.
*you could use an audio version of the Bible. However, this can move quicker that you might as you or someone else reads lovingly and without haste.
To begin, take a minute and relax yourself, push away distractions and prepare to listen. You might want to repeat the name of Jesus prayerfully or use the Breath Prayer or rest in the words of Psalm 46:10 – “be still and know that I am God.
Read or listen to the passage you’re focusing on. Pause at the end.
Is there a particular word/phrase/idea that the Spirit has emphasized to you? Rest with that word for a minute silently.
Read the passage again and listen once again.
Is there a word/phrase/idea that stood out? Is it the same or not? Rest silently and prayerfully on that word.
Read the passage for the third and final time. Listening again.
Is there a word/phrase/idea that stood out. Same or different? Rest silently and prayerfully on that word.
Meditate on it. Pray over it. Ask God what He is saying to you?
Journal it, confess and repent over it, apply it … don’t just ignore it. Act.
And as I said earlier, if it doesn’t click for you the first time you try Lectio, don’t worry about it. Try it again on another day with different scripture. You might find it takes some time for you to get the hang of it. But trust God and the Holy Sprit to make this come alive for you.