Lectio Divina - A longer explanation
Lectio Divina (Holy Reading) is an ancient Christian bible meditation practice (originating from the Hebraic tradition of the Shema) which involves listening with the heart. Christians in the early church practiced Lectio Divina in a communal way and then later on it was also used with an emphasis on the individual's meditation.
We recommend Lectio Divina because our tendency in a busy and rushing world is to skim scripture and miss what it is offering us. God actively speaks to us through the words of the bible but we sometimes need to slow down and concentrate on listening. It doesn't take great intellect or study. It is simply giving enough time for the words of scripture to come alive and speak into our lives.
It can be used as a way of incarnating Biblical truths into known areas in which you may wish to grow. This is a good prayer model for integrating Biblical truth into your life. You can ask the Lord to take some truth, some mystery from scripture and work it into an area of your life which you know needs work. A bit like finding the yeast which needs kneading into the bread. The goal is the inner formation of your soul to the character and nature of Jesus.
Lectio Divina involves reading and re-reading a selected portion of scripture and then allowing one particular phrase or word to "jump out" at us. By thinking about those few words we can find God ministering to us deeply. This reading is very different from the speed reading which we usually use for newspapers, books and even the Bible. Lectio is reverential listening; listening both in a spirit of silence and of awe. Listen for the still, small voice of God that will speak to you personally – not loudly, but intimately.
Here is a suggested format for you to follow:
1. Preparation. Get comfortable. Begin with a few moments of deep, regular breathing and a short prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to guide you.
2. First lectio (reading). Read the passage slowly. Pause between phrases and paragraphs.
3. Second lectio. Read the text slowly again, with bigger pauses. Keep an eye open for any particular phrases or words that catch your attention. When you have finished the second reading, jot down these special words or phrases.
4. Third lectio. Read the text once more until you reach one of the phrases or words that struck you before. Stop there and reread those words, repeat them to yourself a few times.
5. Meditatio (meditation) Repeat these words gently to yourself. Allow them to become God’s word for you. Let the words interact with your thoughts, memories, other scriptures that come to mind. Let the thoughts touch your heart, fears, desires. This is the Holy Spirit at work in your heart and mind to illuminate the text for you. It is not a new revelation from God to you but an increased understanding of His revelation in scripture.
6. Oratio (prayer) Respond to the passage by opening your heart to God, “What might you be saying to me God?” This is not an intellectual exercise but the beginning of a conversation with God. God invites you to be real, to hold up your most difficult and pain-filled experiences to him, and to gently recite over them the healing word or phrase he has given you. Make a note of your thoughts and what God may be saying to you.
7. Contemplatio (contemplation). Rest. Silence. Open your mind and heart to the influence of our loving God. Listen to Him. There are moments in all loving relationships when words are unnecessary, and it is the same in your relationship with God. Let go of your own words and simply enjoy the experience of being in the presence of God, the One who loves you. A beautiful, wordless contemplation, joyful contemplation of God. Stop doing and just be.
8. Response. Ask yourself, and God, “What am I being called to do as a result of the word I have been given?” Is there a challenge for your life or to serve somewhere, to speak to someone, to restore relationship, or of work to be done on some aspect of your character? Whatever it is, write it out, “Today God challenged/called/invited me to …. “ Say thank you for the word you have been given.
For more background and guidelines, you can read a more detailed practical introduction to lectio divina for private and group use from the Catholic tradition or, from within Leeds Vineyard, a Minicab interpretation of lectio divina in contemporary language, suitable for all ages, and an article about art-based bible meditation by Julia Cameron.