Originally written by Cameron Abernethy for St John’s Church, Edinburgh
The art of lectio divina, or divine reading, has a long history with the Christian tradition, and has long been practised by monastics as a way of deepening their prayer lives. There are traditionally four stages of lectio divina, namely lectio, meditatio, oratio and contemplatio.
Lectio involves reading or listening to the passage of scripture being read slowly and gently, allowing time to stop and notice anything that stands out or catches one’s attention.
Meditatio gives time for one to mull over the word, phrase, image or thought that arose during lectio; to unravel its importance or meaning as one sits in the presence of God. Through meditatio we allow God’s word to become His word for us, a word that touches us and affects us at our deepest levels.
Oratio is an opportunity to have a conversation with God about the content of one’s meditations, to listen to God’s spirit and so allow our deepest selves to be healed and transformed.
Contemplatio is a time to rest in the presence of God in silence, and so savour one’s relationship with a loving and personal God. Out of such contemplation can also arise the impulse to respond in a more active way within the world in your life.
A suggested way of lectio divina:
- Choose a text of the Scriptures that you wish to pray. Many Christians use in their daily lectio divina one of the readings from the daily office; others prefer to work slowly through a particular book of the Bible.
- Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Use whatever method is best for you and allow yourself to enjoy silence for a few moments.
- Then turn to the text and read or listen to it slowly two or three times. Savour each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow says, “I am for you today.”
- Next take the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories and ideas. Do not be afraid of “distractions.” Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself which, when they rise up during lectio divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self. Allow this inner pondering, this rumination, to invite you into dialogue with God.
- Then, speak to God. Whether you use words or ideas or images or all three is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you.
- Finally, simply rest in God’s embrace silently and passively. Consider if there is an action that God is leading you to from this time of prayer.
- When you wish to draw your time of prayer to and end you might find it useful to say an ‘Our Father’ or the Grace.