Lectio Divina is Latin for “divine reading,” “spiritual reading,” or “holy reading” and refers to a method of prayer and scriptural reading intended to promote communion with God and to provide special spiritual insights. The principles of lectio divina were expressed around the year A.D. 220 and practiced by Catholic monks, especially the monastic rules of Sts. Pachomius, Augustine, Basil, and Benedict.
The actual practice of lectio divina begins with a time of focusing, or centering prayer, in which you make yourself comfortable and clear your mind of mundane thoughts and cares so that you may focus yourself in God’s presence. Some lectio practitioners find it helpful to concentrate by beginning with deep, cleansing breaths and reciting a chosen biblical phrase or word over and over to help free the mind. Then they begin to work through the four attitudes or steps:
1. Lectio – First Step/Attitude = Reading: Read the Bible passage gently and slowly several times – out loud (or lip-reading) if possible. The passage itself is not as important as savoring each portion of the reading. Constantly listen for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that speaks to you. It can be helpful to write these down. First of all, you have to ask, What does the text say as text? This requires you to be silent. Everything in you must be silent so that nothing stands in the way of your gleaning what the texts say to you and so that you do not make the text say what you would like to hear.
2. Meditatio – Second Step/Attitude = Meditation: Focus on the word(s) &/or phrase(s) that spoke to you (and have written down) and think about how it applies to your own life. This is a very personal reading of the Scripture and very personal application. You must ask, What does the text say to me or to us? In this second step we enter into dialogue. In this way ‘the Word of God will dwell abundantly on your lips and in your heart. Sit with the text so that its meaning comes across with freshness and penetrates your life. It may also help if you write down your insights.
3. Oratio – Third Step/Attitude = Prayer: Responding to the passage by opening the heart to God. This is not primarily an intellectual exercise, but is thought to be more of the beginning of a conversation with God. Furthermore, you have to try to discover What does the text lead me to say to God? This is the moment of prayer. Write down what you want to say to God as if you are directly addressing Him.
4. Contemplatio – Fourth Step/Attitude = Contemplation / Listening to God. This is a freeing of yourself from your own thoughts, both mundane and holy, and hearing God talk to us. Open your mind, heart, and soul to the influence of God and ask the question What is God saying to me? As it comes to you, write down what you hear as if God were addressing you directly.