Lectio Divina is an ancient prayer form developed by the Benedictines in the 6th century, a way to deeply pray with Scripture. One read attentively, pondered, as Mary did, the word of God, responded back to God, and rested in simple contact with him. In the 12th century a monk called Guigo decided to divide it into more definite steps. For me over time this prayer became less formal and more of a flow that happens naturally in the Spirit. In fact with long practice it is just the way I hear and respond to Scripture when I am really paying attention. Maybe that is how this prayer arose before it had a set of concrete steps to follow. The pray-er experienced a natural, Holy Spirit guided progression between attentive reading, deep prayerful pondering and simple rest in loving awareness and receptivity to God’s presence.
It was cool of Guigo to organize this into steps however. The steps helped me a lot when I was new to it and still do sometimes especially when I am upset and can’t focus. Also everyone is different. Some people pray more freely with a sense of order and clarity. Others do best with spontaneity and receptivity. God loves both of these and can work with equal grace with every soul, no matter the preference.
Here are the steps.
Step One Lectio: First, slowly and reflectively read a passage of the Bible three times, paying special attention to any word or phrase that catches your attention.
Step Two Meditatio: Quietly ponder the word or phrase that stands out to you slowly repeating it in silence. Ask the Lord what he is saying to you in this Word, brought to your attention by the Holy Spirit.
Step Three Oratio: When you receive light on what God is saying in your soul through that word or phrase, respond back to God in prayer, perhaps asking for all that you need to carry out his will, or maybe in praise and thanksgiving; whatever is appropriate. Have a conversation with him.
Step Four Contemplatio: Rest now in simple love, in communion with him for a time.
Some people will add:
Step Five Actio: Like Mary after the Annunciation, arise with haste and act on what you have received in prayer! (Luke 1:39)
Encounters with God don’t always lead us into immediate service but if they do go with it!
If I don’t have a particular Biblical passage in mind I choose from the mass reading of the day. I consider the readings of the day to be chosen by the Holy Spirit. If none of these particularly catch my attention I pick the Gospel reading. 🙂
You can find the daily readings here https://bible.usccb.org
The number of minutes you pray Lectio Divina is up to you. God will definitely be there throughout regardless. He is unlimited by time. 5, 10, 15 or 30 minutes will all work. I tend to set a a quiet alarm so I am not tempted to worry about time. I know the sound will call me back at the right moment and I can relax into prayer.
If you are new to silent interior prayer, I suggest you start with 5 or 10 minutes at first. You are more likely to make a habit of prayer when you feel you can succeed and are less likely to feel overwhelmed and avoid it. Baby steps!
Some people say to pray at the same hour in the same place every day. You may find this helpful in creating the habit and sticking with it. At times I have found that helpful too.
To me any quiet and solitude I can find will work. And anyway I like to change things up now and then.
Always remember that God responds to any good faith approach. He doesn’t get all weird, scrupulous or worried about things the way we do. He just wants to be with us.
“All I need is Jesus, His will, and silence.” – St. Miriam of Jesus Crucified
See? That’s pretty simple.