[Copied here or convenient reference from a prototype blog called Hemlandssånger (which didn’t go anywhere and was replaced by Ordinary Time. This post was published March 4, 2019.]
“Praying With Scripture,” Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois https://springfieldop.org/praying-with-scripture/
Lectio Divina is the contemplative practice of reading and responding to the Word in a personal way. The four steps of Lectio Divina are: read, reflect, respond and rest.
When you read God’s Word, be attentive to any word or phrase that stands out to you.
Reflect on that word or phrase, repeating it in your mind over and over.
Respond with your heart to the ideas and feelings that word or phrase generates.
Rest, and let the Word rest in you.
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James Martin, SJ. “Read, Think, Pray, Act: ‘Lectio Divina’ in Four Easy Steps,” Word Among Us, November 2007 https://parishes.wau.org/archives/article/read_think_pray_act/ [dead link].
A Simple Approach. Lectio divina is a way of encountering God through Scripture—normally, by taking a specific passage from the Bible as the basis for this prayer. There are many possible approaches to lectio, but the easiest I’ve found was suggested by my New Testament professor, Fr. Daniel J. Harrington, SJ. He suggested breaking it down into four steps. …
- Reading: What does the text say? First, you read the text. At the most basic level, you ask: What is going on in this Bible passage? Sometimes a Bible commentary is helpful to enable you to better understand the context. …
- Meditation: What is God saying to me through the text? At this point, you ask whether there is something that God might want to reveal to you through this passage. Often, it might connect with something in your life. …
- Prayer: What do I want to say to God about the text? …
- Action: What do I want to do, based on my prayer? Finally, you act. Prayer should move us to action, even if it simply makes us want to be more compassionate and faithful. …
Savoring and Listening. Another, slightly different, way of praying lectio divina is to let yourself dwell on a single word or phrase in the scripture passage you have chosen. This allows you to “savor” the text, as Saint Ignatius Loyola put it. This works especially well with the psalms.
Say, for example, you are reading Psalm 23, which begins with the phrase “The Lord is my shepherd.” When you arrive at the stanza, “He makes me lie down in green pastures,” you might find yourself drawn to meditating on what it would feel like to experience rest in that green pasture. If you’re a busy person, you might take the opportunity to simply relax with God. Or you might think about the places in your life that are green pastures for you, and thank God for them. Your lectio could be as simple as a prayer of rest, or wordless gratitude.
God has many ways of working in our lives and communicating with us. Lectio divina is just one of them. God can also speak to us through the Mass and the sacraments, through our experiences and our relationships, and through nature, music, and art. In all these moments, the voice of God is coming to us. So when you are praying and feel God is speaking to you—listen! n
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Elizabeth Manneh, “Lectio Divina: A Beginner’s Guide,” Busted Halo, Jan. 18, 2017 https://bustedhalo.com/ministry-resources/lectio-divina-beginners-guide
[Busted Halo is an online ministry of The Paulist Fathers.]
Lectio Divina (literally divine reading) is a way of becoming immersed in the scriptures very personally. It draws on the way Jews read the Haggadah, a text read during Passover that retells the Exodus story. Haggadah means “telling” and along with being a physical text, the word captures the practice of telling and retelling a story.
The Christian form of Lectio Divina was first introduced by St. Gregory of Nyssa (c 330- 395), and also encouraged by St. Benedict of Nursia (c 480-547), the founder of the Benedictine order. It’s a way of developing a closer relationship with God by reflecting prayerfully on His words. In Lectio Divina, the chosen spiritual text is read four times in total, giving an opportunity to think deeply about it and respond thoughtfully. When we practice Lectio Divina, we can imagine we’re actually involved in the events of scripture — for example, hearing God’s words to the Israelites in the desert. It’s an intensely personal experience.
Fr. [Thomas] Keating describes the four stages of Lectio Divina as compass points around a circle, with the Holy Spirit moving seamlessly between them. As a beginner, I’ve found it helpful to follow the stages in order. Like learning an instrument, once I’ve learned the basics, I’ll be able to improvise! Here’s how to get started:
My first reading is an opportunity to get to know the scripture passage. I listen carefully for any words or phrases that seem to jump out. It’s important not to force things, but wait patiently for God to give gentle guidance. …
The second reading of the same passage focuses further on the points I become aware of during the first reading. Often I’ll just re-read a few verses so I can reflect carefully on where God has nudged me.
Then I’ll reflect on what I believe God is saying. I try not to analyze the passage. It’s easy to slip into “study mode” and think about interesting points rather than listening to what God might be saying. It helps to ask God to make His focus clear.
After a third reading, it’s time to respond. I like to record my thoughts by journaling because I know I’m very prone to forgetting what I’ve learned, even by the next day! We can respond in prayer too, which gives us the opportunity for a conversation with God. …
After the final reading, I spend around 10 minutes in silent contemplation. This isn’t a time of prayer or meditation — I just sit quietly and allow God to work. When my mind starts to wander and dart here and there, I bring it gently back to stillness again.
Br. Timothy Danaher, O.P., “Lectio Divina Now!” Dominicana, Aug. 18, 2017 https://www.dominicanajournal.org/lectio-divina-now/
Many summaries of the practice also add a bit too much mystery and regimen to it all: Step 1, open to a certain passage in a Gospel; Step 2, read only five lines; Then pause for five minutes, imagining the scene; Reread the scene and ask yourself how it relates to you; Five more minutes of silence; Read for a third time, and you may reach contemplation, which is different from meditation (here, various definitions and debates ensue, about what kind of prayer we slip into, and so on…); Silence again; Do a handstand if you’ve yet to feel the Holy Spirit descend upon you; Wash, rinse, repeat.
The problem with prayer recipes is that we’re not baking a cake, we’re real people who are praying according to our own needs, temperaments, etc. And God moves us when He wills and how He wills. It’s simpler than our explanations.
We need to pray with Scripture simply, which means sitting down and reading it. Whatever thoughts and reflections follow, God guides the process. The key is to take the time to simply do it, as the Hank Williams song says, “Get that dust off the Bible and redeem your soul.”
There are, of course, some good guidelines out there. I like the books of two priests, Raniero Cantalamessa’s Jesus Began to Preach and Michael Casey’s Sacred Reading. A summary of what they say is very simple:
Why We Should Pray With Scripture
It’s not a dead letter. Christ is still living and speaking in the Scriptures.
With Scripture, we begin prayer with what God says to us, not only what we want to say.
Closeness to Christ grows in a unique way when we spend time with His words and deeds.
Find a silent space.
Read consistently every day, even if only for a few minutes.
Be faithful to one book (best to begin with a Gospel).
Read small portions, just enough to meditate on.
“Praying with the Scriptures — Lectio Divina Journaling,” GIFT (Generations in Faith Together), Our Lady of Victory, Centerville, Mass. https://www.olvgift.com/uploads/1/2/9/1/12912075/lectio_divina.pdf [dead link?]
[Has eight steps for doing Lectio Divina — these stood out for me:]
- Close your eyes and think about what you read. Reread the passage slowly repeating it to yourself. Be attentive, allowing your inner world of concerns, memories, and ideas to flow freely. 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. The voice of God usually comes in the form of ideas or understandings that come to mind while you are searching for meaning in what you are reading.
- Have a Conversation with God…As you are thinking about what you read, you may feel something. This is a good time to write about what you are feeling in your journals. If you don’t feel anything specific, write about whatever stood out most to you when you were thinking. Focus your prayer around the passage you read. Be attentive while to hear what the Holy Spirit might be “speaking” in your heart. Sometimes it will be as simple as His peaceful presence.
- Choose: What can you do so that you are changed by your experience and new knowledge of God? Make a practical resolution in response to your experience in prayer. Lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures. “calling us forth” into doing or being.