Part 1 of the 4 part series: Lectio Divina
Lectio divina means "divine reading" or "sacred reading." It is an ancient, Christian art that consists of a slow, contemplative reading of Scripture, enabling the Word of God to become a means of uniting ourselves with God. Before diving into this form of prayer, it's important to understand the basic foundation upon which it was built.
As humans, and especially in our current culture, we tend to be very busy and goal-driven. The noise of media, productivity, and checklists constantly demand our attention and attempt to rob us of a true and deep inner peace, often quite successfully. The practice of lectio divina is not intended to be another item that we check off our Catholic spiritual to-do list; rather, it is a means of reorienting our very selves and minds towards God, opening our hearts to a two-way communication with Him, reestablishing a sense of peace and silence, and fostering a deeper personal relationship with Him.
The four steps of lectio divina are:
These steps are not designed to have specific limitations, such as using only certain scripture verses or doing each step for a certain amount of time. Before beginning, it will be more fruitful if you take a few moments to place yourself in the presence of God, to ask for the aid of the Holy Spirit, and to follow the order of these steps while still allowing yourself to move freely between them, according to any quiet inspirations.
You do not need to worry about "doing it right." As you do it more often, you will become more comfortable and perhaps be able to stay in prayer longer. Because this ancient prayer is so contrary to the busyness of our culture, we have broken up the four steps into four posts to allow us to focus on one each day. I encourage you to take each of these days (or several days, if you prefer) as an opportunity to practice that one step, slowly building upon it with the next day's step, until you are fully praying lectio divina.
STEP 1 of Lectio Divina: Lectio or Reading/Listening
St. Benedict encourages us to cultivate the ability to listen deeply, to "listen with the ear of our hearts." This requires silence and an environment conducive for reflection. In 1 Kings 19:11-12, Elijah finds God voice in the "light, silent sound," not in the wind, earthquake, or fire. Therefore, begin by disposing your heart to God's still, small voice in a place where you can be free from distractions.
Choose a set of scripture verses. These can consist of a parable, a story from the Gospels of Jesus and his disciples, or part of a book of the Bible which you plan to slowly work your way through. You may also choose just one verse if something immediately sticks out to you while reading it.
Read through the verses. This should be done slowly and reverently. You may read through them several times, listening for the small voice of God to speak to you personally in a word, phrase, or verse. It will most likely not be loud but instead a gentle prompting or inspiration to further reflect on one thing.
In this first step of lectio, God slowly and softly teaches us to listen more attentively to His Word and to open our hearts to Him. Practice taking a few minutes every day to enter into His presence before reading Scripture. Quiet your heart, offer up your trials and distractions to God, and become aware of His presence in your life. Then read from Scripture with an open mind and heart, disposed to listening to the gentle promptings of the Spirit.