Spiritual Formation Thursday: Lectio Divina

Used with permission, by Eugenio Hansen, OFS

Used with permission, by Eugenio Hansen, OFS

Today I would like to talk about the ancient prayer practice of the Church, Lectio Divina (Divine Reading).  The Church has used this prayer practice since the early Church.  Origen of Alexandria is believed to have been the first to make this practice popular.  St. Ambrose of Milan also practiced it and taught it to St. Augustine of Hippo.  The Desert Fathers also used the practice and it has been used by monks and nuns since then.  St. Benedict made it a common practice in his monasteries.  It is a form of meditative/contemplative prayer.  But it is a little more focused or guided than just contemplative prayer.  I have found this practice extremely helpful and very productive.

There are four common steps to Lectio Divina, I usually like to add a primer step, just to get myself to the place where I can pray and listen to the Lord.  I think the primer step is just as important as the other steps.

Primer: Take a minute or two to just prepare your heart for some time with the Lord, clear your mind of all the things that you need to do in the day or have done. Sit in a relaxing place. Maybe write down your worries or things you need to do as a way of getting them off your mind before focusing on the Lord.

First: Lectio (Read). Read a passage until you come upon a word that jumps out at you. This might be a word or phrase that God has put on your heart or just some word that sticks out that God is trying to educate you about.

Second: Meditatio (Mediate).  Mediate on the word or phrase. In this step no thoughts or material is off limits, think about the word or phrase, look it up in a dictionary, look up the verse it is in in a commentary, think about it. Chew on the word; think about all its aspects, meanings, what it stirs up in you. Chew on the word like a cow chews its cud, get all the important information from it that you can or feel is necessary; but just sit with it thinking on it and studying it.

Third: Oratio (Prayer). Pray about the word; ask the Lord what he is trying to tell you with this word. Does this remind you of someone you need to pray for or a situation you need to pray about? Ask God where this word is touching your life today. Ask God if there is anything that he wants you to change or do in response to the word. Ask God if he is inviting you to change in any way in response to the word. No prayer is off limits in this time, let the Spirit led you to pray about whatever comes into your mind and heart.

Fourth: Contemplatio (Contemplation). This is a time to try and clear your mind and just sit with the Lord. Clear away your words and just sit in the presence of the Lord. Let him love you and minister to you and possibly speak to you. This is a time where he might answer your questions you asked in prayer or he might just minister to you in silence with his presence. This is a time to rest and relax, in some cases to escape from the day or prepare for the day.

So I hope you enjoy this practice, let me know in comments if you use it and if you think it was a good practice.

About Jesse

I am a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary with a Masters of Arts in Theology focusing on Church History. I am a Third Order Benedictine monk, in the Company of Jesus. I am married to a wonderful woman, we just had a baby Michaela Rose. You can follow me and be alerted of new blog post by following me on Twitter @jtalexanderiv. Or following this blog.
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2 Responses to Spiritual Formation Thursday: Lectio Divina

  1. Sarah says:

    I think this is the hardest of all spiritual practices. I used to do it in a group in college and within about 5 minutes, I was already thinking of everything else. It’s truly a humbling experience.

    • Jesse says:

      I can understand that Sarah. However, keep in mind that during Meditatio nothing is off limits you can be thinking about anything. It is really just meant to bring up anything and everything connected to that word or phrase you felt God pulling out to you. This is also why I like the Primer step, because it allows me to quite my mind before starting to listen for the word.

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