Lectio divina (latin for holy reading) is a way of praying and worshiping with Scripture with one’s whole self. The articulation of the practice has been described using a couple of metaphors. One metaphor being a ladder with four rungs: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), oratio (response), and contemplatio (contemplation, soaking in the stillness of God’s loving presence). These describe the different purposes that a person engages in during the prayer. The other metaphor is that of a cow chewing its cud. The cow chews the grass, ingesting it, then regurgitates the grass chewing on it again as it moves through the deeper levels of the cows digestive tract where more and more digestion takes place. Below is a method I have adapted from Andrew Dreitcer (San Francisco Theological Seminary, San Anselmo, CA) I have personally found it helpful to do it a few times to get comfortable with the mechanical aspects. I also have two trusted mature Christian friends who I debrief prayer times with. They covenant with me to listen to the Lord for me and share their perspective with me. This is distinct from a gossip session or giving mere human advice. One last suggestion is in the spirit of the old adage, “Less is more.” I find that stillness and limiting words is a challenge for most people. I know I am more accustomed to speaking freely, so this is a good discipline. Choose the few words that most capture your experience and share those with the Lord as prompted. Here goes……………
Choose a short piece of Scripture to pray with. Prepare an exposition from a trusted commentary of this passage and have it ready to refer to for one of the final stages of the prayer (see ‘How To Read The Bible For All It’s Worth’ by Fee and Stuart. They have an excellent listing of quality commentaries in the back of their book.).
Prepare yourself for prayer in whatever way is beneficial for you. Find a time and a place free from distractions. Turn off the phone, close the room to your door, let people know you do not want to be disturbed, etc.. Invite God’s Spirit to speak to you and pray a prayer of protection from voices that do not come from God’s Spirit. For some adding a physical symbol of prayer and God’s presence is helpful such as lighting a candle.
1. Read the passage of Scripture two times and listen for a word or a phrase that leaps out at you.
- It will catch your attention in some way either because it beckons you, addresses you, stirs you, unnerves you, or disturbs you.
- Repeat this word or phrase to yourself. Speak it out loud or write it down.
2. Read the passage of Scripture again, this time focus on the word or phrase that caught your attention and notice what emotions or images you have in regards to this.
- For now, let your mental concepts and interpretations go. Focus on the feeling or emotion you have that is connected with the word or phrase from the passage. You may also have an image or picture connect with it. Be patient. Give yourself time to pay attention to the emotions and visual elements of hearing that word or phrase.
- Repeat the word or phrase and then write or speak out to the Lord the feeling or image you connect with it.
3. Read the passage of Scripture again and consider if there is a situation in your life right now that this word or phrase, emotion or image is addressing.
- Now pray about the connection the Lord is drawing out of your daily life. What areas of your life is the Lord wanting to speak into? What areas of your life at home, at work, or in your leisure time is God addressing? Take some time to consider this.
- What do you think God is saying to you about this part of your life? How would God form you through this word? What significance does the emotion and vision hold in God’s revelation? What response is being asked of you in this? Take some time to consider this.
- Repeat this word or phrase and then write or speak with the Lord about your understanding of the situation in your life right now God is addressing with this and the response it is evoking.
4. Read the passage of Scripture again, then draw upon the exposition of a commentary of this passage. Consider the application of this meditation.
- It is not necessary to attempt to remember everything you are reading. What you are paying attention to is that what you have understood from God thus far is confirmed by the objective interpretation of Scripture. What the Lord is saying to you and revealing will not be in contradiction with Scripture.
- How else is the gift of the scholar’s wisdom and knowledge encouraging you in hearing from God in this passage?
- Repeat the word or phrase and then share with the Lord your understanding of His revelation to you thus far, including if there is any action that you need to take in response to this.
5. Read the passage one last time. Take an extended period of silence and stillness, soaking in the reality of God’s loving presence with you. Thank God for this time of prayer to close.