The Bible wasn’t designed as a reference manual or as a textbook. The Bible is meant for ongoing meditation. One way to study the scriptures is through the rhythm of Lectio Divina. In this method, we seek to experience the presence of God through reading and listening, prayer, meditation and contemplation. Lectio Divina can be done as an individual or as a group.
Lectio divina is not a new method of Bible Study. Whereas study of the Bible sets its focus on learning, lectio divina is a method of meeting God in the Scriptures. In doing so, we allow the Scriptures (in cooperation with the Spirit) to lead us into further intimacy with God as we move slowly, carefully, and repeatedly through the text. The practice consists of five distinct movements:
1) Preparing to meet with God
2) Reading (lectio)
3) Reflection (meditatio)
4) Response (oratio)
5) Rest (contemplatio)
Practicing Lectio Divina Individually
Find a time and place that is both quiet and free from distraction. You will want about 5-10 minutes to engage in the practice of lectio divina.
Any passage of Scripture can be utilized for the practice of lectio divina. It can be helpful to limit the passage selected to about 6-8 verses (especially when first starting off).
After selecting one passage, read and move slowly through each of the five movements of spiritual reading.
Prepare to meet with God: Turn off any distractions. If you need to find a quiet room, or sit in silence for several minutes, or sit in a comfortable chair, take whatever posture will help you prepare to receive and experience God’s presence. Calm your body and quiet your mind before God as you work to prepare your heart to receive what God has spoken through the text, and to respond accordingly. Finally, invite the Holy Spirit to guide your thinking and feeling as you read.
Read (lectio): Read the passage slowly and carefully. Take your time. As you move through the text, pay close attention to what words and ideas draw your attention in unique ways. When your focus is drawn to a particular word or thought, pause momentarily to reflect on them.
Reflect (mediatio): Upon completing the passage, return to the beginning and read again. On your second journey through the text, allow the text to connect with you personally. Which words or phrases assume a particular resonance in your heart, your season of life, your person in this moment. Ask, “What do I need to know, or be, or do in light of the text? What does this mean for my life today?” Meditation is no easy task. As you try to concentrate, don’t be disappointed if random thoughts enter your head. As they do, offer them to God.
Respond (oratio): Now begin to speak to God. Tell God what word, phrase or idea captured your attention and what came to mind as you meditated upon it. How is God using this word, phrase or idea to bless and transform you? Talk to God about your experience. If you’re confused, say that. Moved? Express gratitude to God. Upset? Tell him about it. Compelled to worship? Worship. If the text has brought something else to mind, talk to God about that.
Rest (contemplatio): Finish by focusing your attention on the fact that God’s presence is with you. You might express wonder, awe, gratitude, or praise through words, or you might allow yourself to feel and experience these things quietly before God. If as you try to focus on God’s presence you sense a need to read the text again, or continue meditating, or to simply continue talking with God, allow yourself to do so. As you do, know that you are in the presence of God.
Practicing Lectio Divina as a Group
Begin by identifying an individual to lead the process. This person will lead the process by reading the selected text three times. Each reading is followed by a period of silence after which each person is given the opportunity to briefly share what they are hearing as they listen to God.
During the first reading, read the text aloud twice. Read through slowly. The purpose of the first reading is for each person to hear the text and to listen for a word, phrase or idea that captures their attention. As group members recognize a word, phrase or idea, they are to focus their attention on that word, repeating it.
During the second reading, read the text again. This time, listeners are to focus their attention on how the word, phrase or idea speaks to their life that day. What does it mean for you today? How is Christ, the Word, speaking to you about your life through this word, phrase or idea? What is Christ, the Word, speaking to you about your life through this word, phrase, or idea? After the reading, allow a brief period of silence and then invite group members to share briefly what they have heard.
Read the text again. This time, listeners are to focus on what God is calling them to do or to become. Experiencing God’s presence changes us. It calls us to something. During this final reading, what is God calling you to do or to be as a result of this experience? After the third reading, allow a period of silence, and then invite group members to share what they are being called to do or to be. Finish the exercise by having each one pray for the person on his or her right.
Over the next week, spend some time going through scripture and practicing lectio divina. We’ve provided several guided scripture readings to get you started.
Find a quiet place, prepare your heart, and let the following videos walk you through guided readings of the practice of Lectio Devina. This first video on Psalm 23 is longer than the others because it includes information on the practice itself and what to expect.
1 Corinthians 13
For more information on Lectio Divina, visit: https://www.faithward.org/lectio-divina-an-ancient-contemplative-spiritual-practice/