What Is Lectio Divina, And How to Pray It

Lectio Divina (Latin for  Divine Reading) is a practice of reading the Bible to enter into communion with God. This meditative form of prayer aims at gaining a deeper understanding of God’s Word. Lectio Divina was formerly considered an exclusively traditional monastic practice, used by Carmelite Orders. Nowadays, this contemplative scriptural reading method has gained popularity in more secular environments. After the Second Vatican Council, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI both encouraged Christians to practice Lectio Divina: “there is no greater priority than this: to enable the people of our time once more to encounter God, the God who speaks to us and shares his love so that we might have life in abundance.” (Verbum Domini II)

What Is Lectio Divina?

Lectio Divina is a four-step process that starts with a slow and solemn reading of the scriptures: the purpose of this step is to “hear” what God is saying today. Following this, a dialogue takes place between God and us, leading to the communion of our spirits. This technique hails from Jewish tradition, with the interpretation method called “Pardes”. It is quite easy to do it: although the understanding of biblical exegesis can be a great element of meditation, it is not a condition of the practice. What matters during Lectio Divina is to let ourselves be touched. Above all, the Lectio Divina aims at getting to know God better, rather than gaining a deeper understanding of biblical scriptures.

The Roots of Lectio Divina

The term Lectio Divina is attributed to the III century Scholar Origen. His reading method approach was a three-step process to pray with the Bible:

  • The first step is  to “knock”: it is a conscious move towards God taken by the believer

  • Then, we “seek”: God never forces us to meet Him. He lets Himself be found by those who seek Him

  • Finally, we “ask”: once we “find” God, we can begin to have a dialogue. Prayer is the final objective of this process

Jesus Christ Himself taught us these three gestures of faith: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew, 7:7). 

The Ladder of Guigo II

Guigo II was a Carthusian monk of the XII century, who further developed the ancient practice of scriptural reading. He described the process of Divine Reading, illustrating it with the story of Jacob’s Ladder: “He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” (Genesis 28:12). During the meditative process of the divine reading, we need to progressively detach from our worldly environment to ascend into a state of communion with God, at the top of the ladder. From the scriptures and the verses of the Bible to the Word of God.

How to Practice Lectio Divina

Call Upon the Holy Spirit

It is important to begin with an invocation to the Holy Spirit, so that It may give us the ability to listen, the enlightenment necessary to understand the scriptures, and the words to express ourselves in prayer: “O God, send forth your Holy Spirit into my heart that I may perceive, into my mind that I may remember, and into my soul that I may meditate.” (St. Anthony of Padua). There are many prayers to the Holy Spirit to choose from!

The Four Steps of Lectio Divina

Traditionally, there are four steps of Lectio Divina (although sometimes, only three steps are mentioned):

  • Lectio: slow reading of the scriptures

  • Meditatio: a meditation on the Bible passage and on what it inspires us

  • Oratio: a moment of prayer to God

  • Contemplatio: the adoration of the Lord

Every step is as important as the next: when combined, these four steps enrich one another and facilitate the process. Lectio Divina is meant to create a dialogue between God and ourselves: it is more than a prayer sent upwards into the Heavens, or a Word sent to us on earth; it is a reciprocal and active exchange. 

God speaks to us (Lectio), therefore we must listen, and welcome His word. After listening, we need to reflect on the Word (meditatio). Once we understand His message of the day, we can answer, and ask (oratio). Finally, we enter into communion with Him, committing our will to His (contemplatio). It is important to take the time to fully complete the four steps: ideally, the Lectio Divina could last 20 minutes (5 minutes for each step). 

Can You Pray the Lectio Divina as a Group?

Lectio Divina is an intimate dialogue between us and the Lord: it can feel like a very personal moment. Our Father has a special message for each of us that He communicates through the scriptures. 

However, it is possible to pray the Lectio Divina as a group: as a couple, with our families, our friends, with other parishioners…

The diversity of impressions and understanding of the text truly helps us realize the depth and relevance of the scriptures. It is important to make ourselves ready to listen attentively during group settings. Let us not forget that the Holy Spirit enlightens us individually to unite us all!

Why Practice Lectio Divina? 

Since the Second Council of the Vatican, the Church encourages Divine Reading, as it allows Christians to encounter God, and to grow our relationship with Him. 

It is a practice that enables spiritual growth. The Word of God is like a seed that needs to be cultivated into a fruit. It is a long germination process, and it requires that the soil is well prepared for it: indeed, the seed is perfect as it is, but it needs to be planted into the soil to produce a harvest! Lectio Divina is more than a prayer (where we make demands), it is an exchange.

Grow Your Faith with Hozana

Hozana is a social network that connects you with your Christian brothers and sisters around the world. By joining Hozana’s many prayer communities, you can learn to grow your own seed with other people who are looking to do the same thing! Experience the joy of Lectio Divina with an 8-day program of prayer to discover the spirituality of St. Ignatius.

The word of God is living: learn to pray with the Bible. Invoke the Holy Spirit with this powerful novena and invite the Holy Spirit into your life. Connect with the roots of Christianity by reflecting on the words of the Fathers of the Church.