From the Benedictines of the fifth century comes a way of
“praying the scriptures” known as Lectio
Divina (literally, sacred reading).
The Benedictines were people of God who lived a life of prayer and
manual labor. They developed an approach
to prayer which encouraged restful silence, waiting, listening, and thoughtful
The idea behind Lectio Divina is a simple but potent
one. It is as revolutionary as the yeast
kneaded by the woman in the gospel parable. If we devote ourselves to meditation on God’s Word for a few minutes a
day, we will gradually be changed; a new person will emerge who looks at life
and humanity with a transformed attitude, a person who sees with the heart of
The approach consists of four movements:
1. Lectio (Reading—Under the eye of God)
Begin by consciously placing yourself in God’s loving presence. You may want to spend a few minutes in silence, light a candle, pray a prayer of openness, or listen to a piece of meditative music.
Read through the scripture in a slow, thoughtful way, listening to God’s Word to you. It is best to read the text out loud very slowly – perhaps several times.
2 Meditatio (Meditation—When your heart is touched)
Read the text until you come to a word, a phrase or a sentence that attracts you or touches your heart. Stop to re-read the phrase, savoring its goodness and sweetness in much the same way that you would delight in a well-seasoned meal.
You may want to jot down the words or phrases that emerge during this time of meditation. Especially if the text is a story or poetry, you may find yourself entering into the actions or images. Let your thoughts and imagination be part of the meditation.
3. Oratio (Personal prayer—Expressing to God what is in your heart)
Respond to God in prayer—silently, aloud, or by writing. You may be prompted to give thanks or make a confession, to respond to an invitation or warning, to note some connection to your life, mood or need, to pour out your heart to God, or to intercede for others. This is the prayer of the heart.
4. Contemplatio (Contemplation—Giving yourself up to love)
Rest in God’s presence. Wait silently. Thank God for being with you and loving you. This is being held by God, surrendering to God, trusting the Spirit to pray within you. Again, this may be a time for journaling—for writing down what God has given you in prayer.