One of the key ways we stay in touch with God, and form a living relationship with God, is through reading and pondering on God’s word, the Bible.
There are many different ways of reading the Bible. One of the oldest and most practiced is the ancient way of lectio divina.
Throughout all of the Christian centuries people have struggled with the call to follow God, and to hear God’s voice in the busy-ness of their lives. Part of being a people of prayer and contemplation is to stop and listen for the still, small voice of God (1 Kings 19:12). The ancient practice of lectio divina is a way of listening for that still small voice.
Lectio divina (which means sacred or spiritual reading) probably began in the prayer of the monks who lived in the desert in the first Christian centuries. It is a way of reading the Bible slowly, prayerfully and thoroughly, so that we can hear the voice of God. Lectio divina isn’t the same as studying the Bible, though it is part of Bible study.
There are four steps in lectio divina. It’s best to set aside 15-30 minutes for this, a couple of times a week. You might like to do it, say, on a Saturday when you read through the Gospel reading for the next day. You might also like to do it in the middle of the week, reading something from the Psalms. Try to set aside time devoted just to this, just to being with God. Begin by praying that God will be with you, and will be inside your heart and your mind.
So here are the steps.
LECTIO – Read the Bible passage. Do this a few times, slowly, silently … Allow yourself to sink into the words. Don’t try to work out what they mean, just let them wash over you, and slowly enter into you. As you go through this lectio stage, you might find that a few words, or a phrase stands out for you.
MEDITATIO – Ponder a word or a phrase that stands out for you. What is it saying to you? How is that connected to your life? Don’t try to work out the usual things we do in Bible study – we’re not so much concerned with who the passage is designed for, or what the writer meant, or what the context is. We’re more listening for what God is offering us through this passage in the Bible, which is the ever-living word of God.
ORATIO – Ask yourself ‘what is the message here for me?’ Ponder the answer for some time. In the Christian tradition, this can be a good time to talk to God and ask what it is that God wants you to hear about you and your life at this time. Is there an invitation here? What is God offering you? What is God asking you to offer to God? To others? To the world?
CONTEMPLATIO – sometimes this message will stay in your head or heart for a day or so. Pray the word. Carry it around with you and live it out.
It’s that easy. And that hard. The desert monks and nuns knew that this practice changed their lives. In the monastic tradition today lectio divina is still practiced, and is one of those practices which is known to be most transformative. Really sitting with God, really listening, really offering your heart, mind and body to God means that you are open to all God is offering and asking of you.
A particularly good resource on Lectio Divina is Thelma Hall’s Too Deep for Words: Rediscovering Lectio Divina (Paulist Press, 1988).
A very good website resource, Accepting the Embrace of God, can be found Luke Dysinger’s website.
Colin Thornby, 2008
The following short video may also be useful!