Imagine living in 6th Century Europe. That’s right, 500 CE. You most likely work with your hands in the labor industry. And, like the majority of the culture, you probably cannot read or write. How do you go about studying God’s Word? How do you discover the life changing truth of the Gospel?
Lectio Divina, meaning “Divine Reading”, is a combination of prayer and Bible reading that enables all people, rich or poor, educated or not, to engage with God’s Word. Developed by Benedictine monks to help the brothers reflect on Scripture throughout the day, Lectio Divina is still practiced today by Catholics and a growing number of evangelicals. Lectio Divina is not so much an intellectual exercise but an experiential approach toward God’s Living Word, his very breath.
The goal is not necessarily to gain more knowledge of the Bible, but to connect with the Holy Spirit through the book he inspired; to commune with God through his Word for us. Think of it as a slow, thoughtful reading of Scripture—like savoring a piece of Brie cheese direct from France versus devouring a wrapped slice of American cheese.
Practicing Lectio Divina
Lectio Divina has 4 movements: Lectio (read/attend), Meditatio (meditate/ponder), Oratio (respond in prayer), & Contemplatio (contemplate). Between each movement, practitioners pause for a few moments of silence.
Try Lectio Divina for yourself by using one of these passages:
Psalm 23, 1 Corinthians 13, Isaiah 40: 21-31, Colossians 1:15-23
Start by quieting your mind and your heart for a couple of minutes. Take several slow, deep breaths. Allow your muscles to relax. Perhaps pray, “Lord, I want to receive your Living Word.”
Lectio: Read the text once or twice out loud. Or like early church members, gather friends to take turns reading the passage aloud. Simply listen. Let go of the need to figure out what it means. Thank God silently for his Word.
Meditatio: Listen to the text again. Pay attention to any words or phrases that light up for you—words that resonate or seem to stick out. Sit in silence for a couple more seconds, think about the words and phrases that stick out, maybe say them or think them in your head.
Oratio: Read the text again. Be mindful of the words or phrases that are lighting up to you. When the text has been read, respond to God in prayer. Ask him, “What is your invitation to me?” Listen for his response.
Contemplatio: Read the text a final time. When finished, ponder what God is communicating to you through his Word. Sit in the knowledge that God is with you and that is Word is living and active.
Finish your time by thanking God and lingering in his presence. Carry the word or phrase that God revealed throughout your day, allow its meaning to unfold according to his timing.
An Exercise in Solidarity
Lectio Divina is a way of engaging with Scripture that forces us to depend on God. We can't force a word or phrase to strike us, we must trust that God is willing and able to meet us in his Living Word. As you practice Lectio Divina, think of it as an opportunity to commune with brothers and sisters around the world without access to education or copies of the Bible. Slow down and savor the Word, the very breath of God.