Lectio Divina (Latin for godly reading) is a simple yet profound method of prayer found in many traditions of Christian spirituality, though perhaps most associated with Saint Benedict and the monastic tradition.
Sometimes it is called “meditative reading” or “spiritual reading”, but could perhaps better be described as praying with a listening heart, since most of the people who have used this approach to prayer throughout the ages could not read.
The “lectio” of lectio divina is a listening with the heart, as you tend to do quite naturally when you are struck by the beauty of a sunset, as you are mulling over a treasured memory, or as you pay attention to someone you love.
In praying this way you hear a scripture passage or other sacred text and you let your heart be your guide. You read slowly, with pauses, and relish or drink in the words you are hearing. A natural process takes place: heartfelt listening moves naturally into a deep reflection upon the words and the silences between them; and that deep reflection leads you to some kind of heartfelt response. You find yourself speaking from the heart to the God who has spoken to you. The ease and rhythm of this approach to prayer can carry you deeper into God.
Choose your passage from scripture (or some other text with meaning for you… poetry is good) and become comfortable with it. Read it over a few times to get past any questions that arise about meaning. Invite God to speak to you through the text. Ask for openness. Let yourself settle into an expectant stillness.
This kind of prayer has three “phases” that you move between as you feel drawn: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation) and oratio (prayer).
Read slowly and gently, listening with your heart to the words. There is no need to rush and no need to get to the end of the passage. When a particular word or phrase strikes you and seems to have some savour, linger with it …
… let it into you. Pause with it. Let the word or phrase resonate. Repeat it to yourself silently, relish it, let it echo and soak into you until the “flavour” begins to go, then …
… let yourself respond in prayer, in words from the heart, or a space full of silence, or spontaneous, unspoken feeling. Whenever the moment feels ripe, begin to read again …
When you are ready, mark the end of your time of prayer with some closing gesture or words of prayer. Afterwards you might want to make a note of anything that seemed significant.
I’ve never tried this kind of prayer … it’s sort of like centering prayer?
Crystal: I don’t know what a practitioner of centering prayer would say but to my mind lectio divina is aimed at entering the heart of the text to let it speak while centering seems more apophatic, an attempt to leave text and word and image behind for a wordless “communication”.
At least, as a spiritual director in the Ignatian tradition, I find it “easy” to accompany someone using lectio whereas centering prayer poses a challenge.
Rob, off subject, but I posted a song, Gabriel’s Oboe, from the movie the Mission, if interested.
Rob, excellent description. I’ll pass this on
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