More information on LECTIO DIVINA
Prayers & Lectio Divina
How to Practice Lectio Divina
A step-by-step guide to praying the Bible
BY: Father Luke Dysinger, O.S.B.

Lectio divina is a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures. Time set aside in a special way for lectio divina enables us to discover in our daily life an underlying spiritual rhythm. Within this rhythm, we discover an increasing ability to offer more of ourselves and our relationships to the Father, and to accept the embrace that God is continuously extending to us in the person of his son, Jesus Christ.

Very often our concerns, our relationships, our hopes and aspirations, naturally intertwine with our meditations on the Scriptures. We can attend "with the ear of our hearts" to our own memories, listening for God's presence in the events of our lives. We experience Christ reaching out to us through our own memories. Our own personal story becomes salvation history.

How to Practice Lectio Divina

1. 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 eucharistic liturgy for the day (find the readings here); others prefer to slowly work through a particular book of the Bible. It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as one has no set goal of "covering" a certain amount of text. The amount of text covered is in God's hands, not yours.

2. Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Some Christians focus for a few moments on their breathing; others have a beloved "prayer word" or "prayer phrase" they gently recite.. For some, the practice known as "centering prayer" makes a good, brief introduction to lectio divina. Use whatever method is best for you and allow yourself to enjoy silence for a few moments.

3. Turn to the text and read it slowly, gently. Savor 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." Do not expect lightning or ecstasies. In lectio divina, God is teaching us to listen to him, to seek him in silence. He does not reach out and grab us; rather, he gently invites us ever more deeply into his presence.

4. 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 that, 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.

5. Speak to God. Whether you use words, ideas, or images--or all three--is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. And give to him what you have discovered during your experience of meditation. Experience God by using the word or phrase he has given you as a means of blessing and of transforming the ideas and memories that your reflection on his word has awakened. Give to God what you have found within your heart.

6. Rest in God's embrace. And when he invites you to return to your contemplation of his word or to your inner dialogue with him, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.

Sometimes in lectio divina, you may return several times to the printed text, either to savor the literary context of the word or phrase that God has given or to seek a new word or phrase to ponder. At other times, only a single word or phrase will fill the whole time set aside for lectio divina. It is not necessary to assess anxiously the quality of your lectio divina, as if you were "performing" or seeking some goal. Lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures.

Lectio Divina as a Group Exercise

In the churches of the Third World, where books are rare, a form of corporate lectio divina is becoming common, in which a text from the Scriptures is meditated on by Christians praying together in a group.

This form of lectio divina works best in a group of between four and eight people. A group leader coordinates the process and facilitates sharing. The same text from the Scriptures is read out three times, followed each time by a period of silence and an opportunity for each member of the group to share the fruit of her or his lectio.

The first reading is for the purpose of hearing a word or passage that touches the heart. When the word or phrase is found, the group's members take it in, gently recite it, and reflect on it during the silence that follows. After the silence, each person shares which word or phrase has touched his or her heart.

The second reading (by a member of the opposite sex from the first reader) is for the purpose of "hearing" or "seeing" Christ in the text. Each ponders the word that has touched the heart and asks where the word or phrase touches his or her life that day. Then, after the silence, each member of the group shares what he or she has "heard" or "seen."

The third and final reading is for the purpose of experiencing Christ "calling us forth" into doing or being. Members ask themselves what Christ in the text is calling them to do or to become today or this week. After the silence, each shares for the last time, and the exercise concludes with each person praying for the person on the right of him or her.

Those who regularly practice this method of praying and sharing the Scriptures find it to be an excellent way of developing trust within a group. It also is an excellent way of consecrating projects and hopes to Christ before more-formal group meetings.
Lectio Divina from "MANY PATHS TO PRAYER"
by Vincent Dwyer

What I try to describe here is really a journey. It's a spiritual journey. A journey of love, that requires a sensitivity, an honesty, an ability to leave people free, not to possess another human being. That's very hard to do. It's difficult to have loved a human being, and to actually almost have begotten that human being, and then to allow that human being to go forth and to touch and love other human beings, to give them the freedom to take your love and to give it away. That is very hard. It requires a great deal of discipline. 

It also means that in the process one must have encountered Jesus Christ. One must have been led to understand and to touch and to feel the person of God within oneself. He is real. Private prayer becomes critical. You begin to realize that prayer is spontaneous, a beautiful response to God. Just as you can't program your dialogue with someone you love -- it has to come out of your heart, so too with prayer. 

And yet if you have never experienced in a human dimension the ability to deal in signs, to know through your whole being that you are communicating love and that you are receiving love, then there is no way that you can step into the relationship with God and all of a sudden begin to think that you can deal with God in signs. It won't work. You can get caught in a world of illusions which all the the mystics warn us against. The test of your intimacy with God is in the intimacy you've achieved with your sisters and brothers. 

I remember one time in the monastery -- as a young monk, my reasoning went something like this. It was said that if you meditate a half-hour a day then you were sure of salvation; contemplation is a pure gift of God, but if you put more time into it, you're probably better disposed to receiving the gift. Being pretty practical, and with my Irish background saying, "Well, God, if I got into this outfit I ought to at least arrive at contemplation or something," I began to invest a great deal of time in "prayer". 

I built it up to a point where I was spending probably six hours a day before the blessed sacrament, maybe even more. When I'd come in from work or maybe it was class, whatever it was, I would head immediately to the church to pray. 

And I had a special spot in that church. It was the second pillar behind the brothers' choir stall. So if I was coming in from the cloistered walk I'd make my profound bow in the centre, go to the left hand side and then down behind the second pillar, and that's where I'd rendezvous. 

At the beginning I used to spend most of my time kneeling there, but then as I spent more and more time I had more and more trouble with my knees. Then I took a stool out of the brothers' chapter house and used to carry it with me. Then I decided, "Well, I really don't have to go back and forth for the stool since I'm here most of the time. I'll just leave it here," and so I had it hid there. 

Everything was unbelievable. As soon as I'd arrive at that spot, I'd be in passive prayer. Sometimes I'd wonder if I was going to ascend or what was going to happen to me. But then I would arrive sometimes and one of my brother monks would be there, in my spot. Then I'd have to back up and in the centre of the main hall I would kneel in the infirmary choir and begin my prayer. I would place myself in the presence of God. If I had been behind the second pillar I would immediately go into passive prayer and prayer of quiet, contemplative prayer, but in this spot it didn't seem to happen. 

I would then find myself with distractions. My navy language would come back and I'd say, "What the hell's he doing over there?" and then I'd check myself: "No, I shouldn't have said that. I'm back in your presence, Lord; speak to me."  Then I'd look again and say, "Gosh, you know, look at this damn church is empty. What the hell. And now he's sitting on my stool!  No, it's not my stool. It's our stool."  I'd have all these distractions. And then finally he'd leave. I'd make my bow, I'd go over there and, pfft, I'm fine. Beautiful. 

Well, I went to see the old abbot one day who was one of the great men in my life, a spiritual genius in my estimation. Much of what I share with you came from sitting at his feet. He had this loveable way about him. He said, "How's everything going?"  I said, "Reverend Father, just tremendous."  He said, "How is your life of prayer?"  I said, "Oh, boy. It must be six or seven hours a day I'm spending before the blessed sacrament."  He said, "Your prayer is fine?"  I said, "Just unbelievable."  He said, "No problems?"  I said, "Well, I have one little problem."

So I described this distraction. He looked at me and he said, "Fili mei, would you like some advice?"  In my little soul I was saying he's about to tell me I'm on the maybe the seventh or eighth mansion of St. Teresa and I'm going through some particular trial, and "Oh, yes, Reverend Father. Speak to me."  He said, "Well, the Holy Spirit doesn't seem to get locked into one spot all the time. He's very capable of meeting you even out in the fields. You don't really have to be there." 

He said, "It sounds kind of strange to me that you have no problem and then somebody comes along.... Would you really like some advice?"

I said, "Oh, yes, Reverend Father." 

He said, "I think you'd better spend more time out working in the fields."

What I'd really like to try to share with you this morning is to take you back and to look at the theology of prayer and to show you that for a long time prayer was really unified, really one, then we began to foul it up. We began to compartmentalize it. 

As we compartmentalized it people lost the unity of the spiritual life, this unity that comes out of a life of prayer. All of sudden I began to value those moments where I'd be in the chapel as being greater than the moments I would spend maybe in work or greater than the moments I would spend on a tennis court or swimming or something like that. 

So all of a sudden we started having all these hierarchical values, on the top being the moments that I spend in prayer or the moments that I spend in spiritual exercises as being the most important elements. We were failing to say that really the spiritual life is one. I think most people would agree or feel comfortable when we describe prayer basically as union with God. 

Prayer is really my response. As the Holy Father has said, it is a dialogical process. It's basically God revealing God's Self and my response to that. Or we could say that it is union, it is lifting of one's heart, etc. Do you feel comfortable with that as a definition or description  of prayer?  Do you? 

Now, let's go back to four pillars of a life of prayer and watch what happens. I'll use the Latin to show you what a poor job we did at translation. They were Lectio Divina, Meditatio, Oratio, and Contemplatio. I'm sure that the priests and religious here would recognize that immediately because it's in all of the classic textbooks. 

Those are the four pillars. For a long time in the Church they were not four distinct parts, they were one. 

Lectio Divina became translated in our framework into "spiritual reading", which became a particular exercise. 

Meditatio was translated into "meditation", which became a procedure, a methodology of prayer, and by that I mean that you would, for instance, place Jesus before you, or you'd read something in scripture, and then you would create an image of it, and then you would walk with him and chat with him and then you would move down towards movement of the affection, of the heart, and after that dried up you then made a resolution and you went on to kind of look at that later on in the day. Does that ring a bell?  That is what we call a methodology; it's a procedure. 

Oratio became translated into all kinds of prayers and devotions, divine office, and so forth. 

Contemplatio was translated as "contemplation" and then you were told, "But contemplation is only for chosen souls like myself and others who are called to contemplative monasteries. The rest of you poor people are called only to meditate and that is the way it is. Too bad. Some are chosen, some aren't."

It's a heresy. I'll never forget Eugene Boylan who was the first one that I heard publicly say that it was a heresy. We are all called to contemplation. You know one of the tragic things is that many of you have been  led to believe that you are called only to meditate, you are called only to a very simple form of prayer, and that contemplation was like looking at somebody on the mountain, and saying, "Not me."

It actually was a cop-out for many people like yourselves. You read something about the mystics. You read something about the purifications that you must undergo in order to really be able to receive the gift of contemplation, and so you'd say, "Well, thank God I'm not called to that. I don't have to go through that. It's okay for those special people called to contemplative monasteries, but I'm not called. Therefore I don't have to face the reality of such purifications. I will be a good boy or a good girl and I will meditate."  That was a tragedy in the history of the Church. 

The whole thing was kind of foolish in terms of our translation or our misunderstanding of it. Lectio Divina being translated into "spiritual reading" -- how in ... [the world] did we ever get to that, particularly when in the early Church most people couldn't read anyway?  It's true. There weren't that many books around. So it was never meant to be what we made it.

What was it?  Lectio Divina was the art of listening. That's why I said the pope was opening us to the key of all prayer when he started to emphasize in the encyclical the need to relearn and to develop the art of listening.

Meditatio was not a procedural method. It was merely a presence, a presence which from listening brought about reflection, to the point that when you listen, infallibly you reflect. It just flows. 

Oratio wasn't meant to be all these things that we made it be. Oratio was really when you reflected you then found yourself moving towards prayer of petition, prayer of thanksgiving, silence, awe, anything that would move you. It was ability to allow oneself to move from reflection. And infallibly the Spirit would move you.

And Contemplatio was a direct and natural sequential development of having listened. And it was receiving the gifts of the Spirit and being able to taste and to know what it is to operate under the Spirit's influence, which in the old days we called the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

This really had a unity. It was a oneness, but as with so many things, in trying to understand it -- and there's nothing wrong with trying to understand -- we analyze, we abstract it. What happened here was when we abstracted it, we forgot to put it back together into this beautiful unity. What did we do?  We put it back into a bunch of boxes. And we lost the rhythm of it. 

If prayer is union with God, if it's a response to God or a dialogical process, the dialogue between ourselves and God, then the question is, how can God reveal God's Self to me. How can God reveal God's Self to me so that I can respond? 

Well, God certainly can reveal God's Self through revelation, the scriptures. God can reveal God's Self through the Church, through the sacraments. How else?  Through people. Nature. Music. Art. Literature. In recreation. In events. In sin. Is there any way God can't reveal God's Self?  No. It's too good to be true!  What have we done?  If this is true then these are possible forms of prayer. 

What makes them prayer?  Listening.

Is it necessary to know that you're praying in order to pray?  No. Most people really don't believe it. It's a head trip, it's too good to be true. But as the old abbot used to say to us, quoting the desert fathers, "You pray best when you don't know you're praying."

What were they really trying to say to us?  They were saying prayer is a way of life. 

Sometimes when it's very sweet and we're kind of feeling wonderful, the Lord is touching us and everything. Boy, I'm praying. Then along comes the Lord and says, "Well, you've had enough of this sweet stuff, now you're supposed to walk." God comes along and takes away the sweet stuff and we say, "Oh, my God, something terrible has happened. I no longer pray. I no longer feel, and therefore I'm no longer praying."

Prayer often will start out with very sensible consolations and a feeling, but you can be sure, you can be positive, you can be absolutely certain that if you are faithful you will find yourself moving through a development in prayer which will bring you to a point where you will not feel his presence, and you will walk in faith. 

The ultimate test for the Christian life is whether we keep going. When the chips are down, do we quit, or do we keep moving?  There are times in your life when Christ will lead you along a path where you won't feel God. You will actually think God has deserted you, and you will really experience in some degree what Jesus experienced when he cried out to his father, "Why have you abandoned me?"  You will feel the same agony, and you will think that all is lost, only to discover when you turn the corner that it was a very important part of your life.

Prayer is really a way of life, a living out of the commitment to Jesus Christ.
Lectio Divina - Diligent Sacred Reading (SVD materials)

"The Catholic Church urges all the Christian faithful to learn by frequent reading of the Divine Scriptures the 'excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ' (Phil. 3:8). 'For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ'. Therefore, they should gladly put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself" (Dei Verbum #25).

"The Word is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance." (Dt 30:14)

- in the mouth: by the READINGWe read (LECTIO)
- in the heart: by MEDITATION and PRAYERunder the eyes of God (MEDITATIO)
until the heart is touched (ORATIO)
- in practice: through CONTEMPLATIONand leaps to flame (CONTEMPLATIO)

Step 1. Reading (Lectio)
Step 2. Reflection (Meditatio)
Step 3. Prayer of the heart (Oratio)
Step 4. Resting in God (Contemplatio)

= a believing a prayerful reading of the Word of God
= regular Bible reading, the systematic access to sacred Scripture as a spiritual source for Christian life and an
impulse for renewal. A.D. Guido, a Carthusian monk wrote: "When on one day after my phisical labour,
I reflected upon the spiritual activity of man, I suddenly had the idea of the ladder with the four spiritual steps:


This is the ladder upon which the monks may ascend into heaven from earth. Even though the ladder only consists of a few steps, they are unusually high, so that though the lower part stands on the earth, its upper part reaches the clouds and penetrates the secrets of heaven.

The READING is a continuous and eager research of Holy Scripture.
MEDITATION is a careful activity of the intellect who, with the help of its own insight, searches for the knowledge of the hidden truth.
PRAYER is the motion ot the heart towards God to ask him to remove evil and grant goodness.
CONTEMPLATION is the elevation of the spirit above oneself to savour the joys of eternal happiness hovering in God.

1. Start with the reality in which we live
2. Read within the context of the faith that we profess
3. Read with a deep respect for the Word we are receiving

1. The Bible forms one large unit. The principle of the unity of Scripture prohibits the separating of parts, tearing
them out of their context, or proposing them as isolated and absolute statements.
2. When we as Christians read the Bible, we must not forget life. We must discover in the Bible what we are
experiencing in the moment.

= Reading again and again until one becomes familiar with what has been written there.
= Making the Word one's own. Respecting it and placing it into context.
The aim is to bring out the meaning of the text itself, independent of our own thinking.
A good Bible commentary can help!
The goal is to drill a hole in the wall between the text of yesterday and the today of our lives, in order to open up a dialogue with God.
The objective of the reading is to read and study the text until it becomes a mirror which reflects some of our own life experiences.

= To learn what has been read, to repeat it orally... until it enters from the mouth and from the head to the heart and
enters into the bloodstream of one's own life.
= To place the text into the horizon of our lives. Faith tells us that the text must have a message for us today.
The text must have a permanent value, a value leading to conversion.

It is to give to God an answer in prayer and ask that He might help us to realise in our own lives what His Word demands from us.

It is to savour the Word and see the world in a new way and light. Contemplation is what remains in the eyes and in the heart once the prayer is ended.
You can copy and distribute these materials. The Word of God and prayer are NOT for sale.