lectio divina

The term lectio divina means divine reading. It’s a contemplative prayer practice based on short Bible passages. The goal is not to study but rather to experience. Read on for an overview of lectio divina and a step-by-step guide.

Overview of lectio divina:

Lectio divina is an ancient practice. I’ve seen it presented using “the four Rs,” which are reading, reflecting, responding, and resting. I like to describe it using steps, which you’ll find below. The idea is to use a Bible passage to guide a time of prayer, listening, and reflection. The ultimate goals are to have a conversation with God and to spend time listening to God.

My experience

I first learned of lectio divina in a small group at church. We practiced the technique as a group. Later, my pastor (now a former pastor) offered a class on various contemplative prayer techniques. I loved learning about this beautiful practice and have continued to use it.

There is a lectio divina app which helps structure your practice. It provides different passages throughout the week and gives you the opportunity to journal. This website gives information on the app I use; you can also purchase a physical journal through them.

Step-by-step guide to lectio divina

the image displays the five lectio divina steps as listed in the article: prepare, read, reflect, pray, rest
image links to free printable pdf

Step 1: Take a minute to prepare silently.

Find a quiet place free of distractions. You might want to keep a paper and pencil nearby in case something enters your mind and you need to write it down. Sometimes I can’t clear my mind if I’m worried I will forget something; writing it down helps me let it go.

Sit in a comfortable position and take several deep breaths. You might want to light a candle to represent God’s presence. Choose a time and place where you won’t be interrupted.

Step 2: Read the chosen Bible passage out loud slowly three times.

You can choose the passage you want to use, or you can take one suggested by an app or journal. I like to read it out loud several times, pausing after each phrase. Focus carefully on the meaning of the verses. Feel free to try this passage:

35 Later that day, when evening came, Jesus said to them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” 36 They left the crowd and took him in the boat just as he was. Other boats followed along.

37 Gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat so that the boat was swamped. 38 But Jesus was in the rear of the boat, sleeping on a pillow. They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning?”

39 He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, “Silence! Be still!” The wind settled down and there was a great calm. 40 Jesus asked them, “Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”

41 Overcome with awe, they said to each other, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!”

Mark 4:35-41

Step 3: Reflect on the passage. What word or phrase stands out to you?

Sit briefly with the passage. Identify a key word or phrase that drew your attention as you were reading. Perhaps one of these felt significant to you:

  • Silence! Be still!
  • The wind settled down and there was a great calm.
  • Why are you frightened?
  • Overcome with awe.
  • Who then is this?
  • Even the wind and the sea obey him!

Different portions of the passage will resonate with different people. You may use the same passage on two different days and notice completely different things each time.

Step 4: Pray briefly.

Prayerfully consider what you’ve read and the phrase you’ve pulled from the passage. Does it bring to mind anything you need to pray about? Perhaps a friend or family member springs to mind and you feel led to intercede for them. Ask God to guide your prayer time. Take as long as you want; you may only need a few minutes.

Step 5: Rest and commit to applying what you’ve learned.

Sit quietly a moment longer as you close your prayer. Make a note of the key phrase you’ve used. Jot down any insights or decisions you’ve made.

Ultimately, lectio divina is flexible and can be tailored to your preferences. What I’ve presented here is geared for how I tend to use the practice. Adapt it as you choose. It even works well for groups. One person can serve as the reader, group members can sit quietly together for the reflection and prayer time, and then everyone can discuss the experience at the end. I hope you find it to be meaningful.

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