“In Christianity, ‘Lectio Divina’ (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s Word. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word.
Traditionally ‘Lectio Divina’ has four separate steps: read, meditate, pray and contemplate. First a passage of Scripture is read, then its meaning is reflected upon. This is followed by prayer and contemplation on the Word of God.
The focus of ‘Lectio Divina’ is not a theological analysis of biblical passages but viewing them with Christ as the key to their meaning. For example, given Jesus’ statement in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you” an analytical approach would focus on the reason for the statement during the Last Supper, the biblical context, etc. But in ‘Lectio Divina’ rather than “dissecting peace”, the practitioner “enters peace” and shares in the peace of Christ. In Christian teachings, this form of meditative prayer leads to an increased knowledge of Christ.
The roots of Scriptural reflection and interpretation go back to Origen in the 3rd century, after whom St. Ambrose taught them to St. Augustine. The monastic practice of ‘Lectio Divina’ was first established in the 6th century by Saint Benedict and was then formalized as a 4 step process by the Carthusian monk, Guigo II, in the 12th century.”
“Lectio Divina”, a Latin term, means “divine reading” and describes a way of reading the Scriptures whereby we gradually let go of our own agenda and open ourselves to what God wants to say to us. In the 12th century, a Carthusian monk called Guigo, described the stages which he saw as essential to the practice of Lectio Divina.
There are various ways of practicing Lectio Divina either individually or in groups but Guigo’s description remains fundamental.
He said that the first stage is “lectio” (reading) where we read the Word of God, slowly and reflectively so that it sinks into us. Any passage of Scripture can be used for this way of prayer but the passage should not be too long.
The second stage is “meditation” (reflection) where we think about the text we have chosen and ruminate upon it so that we take from it what God wants to give us.
The third stage is “oratio” (response) where we leave our thinking aside and simply let our hearts speak to God. This response is inspired by our reflection on the Word of God.
The final stage of Lectio Divina is “contemplation” (rest) where we let go not only of our own ideas, plans and meditations but also of our holy words and thoughts. We simply rest in the Word of God. We listen at the deepest level of our being to God who speaks within us with a still small voice. As we listen, we are gradually transformed from within. Obviously this transformation will have a profound effect on the way we actually live and the way we live is the test of the authenticity of our prayer. We must take what we read in the Word of God into our daily lives.
These stages of Lectio Divina are not fixed rules of procedure but simply guidelines as to how the prayer normally develops. Its natural movement is towards greater simplicity, with less and less talking and more listening. Gradually the words of Scripture begin to dissolve and the Word is revealed before the eyes of our heart. How much time should be given to each stage depends very much on whether it is used individually or in a group. If Lectio Divina is used for group prayer, obviously more structure is needed than for individual use. In group prayer, much will depend on the type of group. Lectio Divina may involve discussing the implications of the Word of God for daily life but it cannot be reduced to this. The movement of the prayer is towards silence. If the group is comfortable with silence, more time could be spent resting in the Word.
The practice of Lectio Divina as a way of praying the Scriptures has been a fruitful source of growing in relationship with Christ for many centuries and in our own day is being rediscovered by many individuals and groups. The Word of God is alive and active and will transform each of us if we open ourselves to receive what God wants to give us.
Enzo Bianchi “Praying The Word: An Introduction to Lectio Divina” [Cistercian Studies, Cistercian; 11th edition, 1999]: “Scripture brings the Word of God to us when we read and welcome it in faith as the Word which comes from God and leads to God. Scripture is the means by which we live in God. The ancient monastic (and patristic) way of reading Scripture involves reflection (meditation) and prayer. It is listening to the Word, allowing the Word to become active in our lives. It is, in the words of Saint Jerome, ‘opening our sails to the Holy Spirit without knowing on what shores we will land.’”
M.Basil Pennington “Lectio Divina: Renewing the Ancient Practice of Praying the Scriptures” [The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1998]: “’Lectio divina’ is “letting our Divine Friend speak to us through his inspired and inspiring Word,” according to M. Basil Pennington, the late priest, retreat master, and prominent lecturer in the Centering Prayer movement. This ancient Christian practice requires faith, humility, openness, and fidelity. Father Pennington sets the process of praying the Scriptures in the context of meditation, contemplation, compassion, and action. He calls it “a way of friendship” wherein we pay attention to “the love letters from the Lord.” Lectio, as a satisfying mental and emotional experience, can be enhanced by reading different translations of the Bible, using commentaries, participating in Bible study groups, and using the resources of Scripture-oriented websites.”
Thelma Hall “Too Deep for Words: Rediscovering ‘Lectio Divina’” [Paulist Press, 1988] Retrieves from obscurity the lost art of contemplative prayer as practiced for sixteen centuries in monastic tradition, and provides 500 thematically arranged scripture texts as rich resources for this intimate prayer.
Christine Valters Paintner “The Lectio Divina – The Sacred Art: Transforming Words & Images into Heart-Centered Prayer” (The Art of Spiritual Living) [SkyLight Paths, 2011]
“The whole world is, in fact, a text of sacred revelation. All experience has the potential to be revelatory, and God is singing one unending song seducing each of our hearts. So the call is to listen, to attune to the words God utters in the world.”
—from the Afterword
Break open this ancient contemplative practice of listening deeply for God’s voice in sacred texts. Drawing on her own experience as a monk in the world, Christine Valters Paintner introduces the foundations for a practice of lectio divina. She closely examines each of the four movements of lectio divina as well as the rhythm they create when practiced as a process. She then invites you to expand your practice beyond traditional sacred texts to a sacred reading of the world through image, sound, nature, and life experience.
Whether you want to start a contemplative prayer practice or deepen your experience of lectio divina in new ways, you are invited to savor the gifts lectio divina has to offer your heart and spirit.
David G. Benner “Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer” [IVP Books, 2010]
“Most broadly understood, lectio divina involves receiving God’s revelation wherever it occurs. This means that there are other media beyond Scriptures that can also be engaged with in this same prayerful way. We can, for example, apply it to the reading of a book or article. In fact, it is very appropriately used when reading something devotional-say, for example, the book you now hold in your hands. But we can also open our senses and attend to God’s revelation while listening to music, viewing a work of art, contemplating an icon, talking to a friend, listening to a sermon or watching a sunset.”
James C. Wilhoit and Evan B. Howard “Discovering Lectio Divina: Bringing Scripture into Ordinary Life” [IVP Books, 2012]
Saints of the past can’t seem to say enough about their ecstatic experiences with the words of Scripture. The writer of Psalm 19, for example, can hardly contain himself as he exclaims that God’s words and ways have revived his soul, made him wise, brought joy to his heart, given him clarity and correct perspective on his life, and warned him of danger. Why should our experiences of the Bible today fall short of this standard? What are we missing? Spiritual formation experts James Wilhoit and Evan Howard argue that our ancestors in the faith responded to the special nature of Scripture with special habits of reading. In this step-by-step introduction to the practice of lectio divina, you will learn what it means to read your way into a new and life-changing intimacy with God. Their simple, easy-to-follow explanation of this ancient practice provides a perfect foundation for you to begin meeting God in his Word as you: read, meditate, pray and contemplate.
Stephen J. Binz “Conversing with God in Scripture: A Contemporary Approach to Lectio Divina” [Word Among Us Press, 2008]
Is it really possible to enter into a genuine conversation with God? Christians throughout the ages have done so using the ancient practice of lectio divina, or spiritual reading. In this practical and inspirational book, Stephen Binz shows how we can read and reflect on Scripture in ways that enable us to hear God speaking to us in our thoughts and hearts. He explains how to converse with God in prayer, which will lead to contemplation and life-changing action. With a clarity that all will welcome, Binz explains the elements, characteristics, and benefits of lectio divina. This book is suitable both for beginners and those seasoned in prayer as well as for those in faith-sharing and Bible study groups.
Seven examples from biblical passages show readers how to use lectio divina.
Questions for reflection and discussion follow each chapter.
Valuable for all, from beginners to those experienced at prayer.
Stephen J. Binz is a Catholic biblical scholar, a popular speaker, and the author of more than twenty books on the Bible, including the new series, Threshold Bible Study. An enthusiastic proponent of Scripture study in the church for over two decades, Binz has studied at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and Hebrew University in Jerusalem and has led numerous pilgrimages to biblical lands.
Michael Casey “Sacred Reading: The Ancient Art of ‘Lectio Divina’” [Liguori, 1997] “Examines the Western tradition of ‘lectio divina’ (a spiritual and prayerful approach to reading the sacred texts) in order to help readers expand their spiritual approach to living.” Casey offers fascinating insights into how the prayerful experience of lectio divina can be sustained and invigorated by the techniques of sacred reading–techniques distilled from the author’s deep acquaintance with the Bible and the ancient books of Western spirituality.
Donald K. McKim (ed) “Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters” [InterVarsity Press, 1998]“The ‘Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters’ is a unique reference work that recognizes that the history of Christian theology is fundamentally the history of the church’s interpretation of the Bible. In this book contributors from both historical and biblical studies meet and create a reference book that will be valuable for all students and teachers of theology, church history and biblical studies. The methods, perspectives and seminal works of major biblical interpreters are placed in historical perspective and assessed by scholars who are experts in their subjects. Over one hundred biblical interpreters have been selected for their individual contributions or their representation of approaches to biblical interpretation. This handbook is organized by historical periods, from the second century to the late twentieth century, with each period introduced by an overview essay and followed by articles on the major interpreters of the period. A final section is devoted to twentieth-century North American interpreters. Valuable bibliographies include the significant works of each interpreter as well as studies of the interpreter and important studies of each period under review.”