A Guide to Devotional Study of Scripture
Lectio divina is a slow, contemplative process often termed, “praying the Scriptures.” The purpose is to enable the Bible to become a means of union with God. This process is common among monasteries.
Step 1: READING (lectio).
Slowly and gently read the scriptures, savoring and staying with words or phrases that speak to the depths of your heart. Listen to the word “with the ear of your heart” and be willing to stay with portions of the text that address you in a special way. You might think of this step as “loitering with intent”; that is, through repetition allowing the text to linger in your memory to the end that you are able to receive the gift God holds out to you through this passage. You may want to set aside the printed text and listen in quietness to the word that has already touched your heart.
Step 2: MEDITATION (meditatio – rumination).
Like the ruminant that chews cud to extract all the rich nutrition from its food, repeat and ponder the text you have internalized until it yields its savor. Allow the scripture passage to interact with your memories, hopes, and concerns. If distractions arise ask yourself if they are leading you off at a tangent (in which case simply acknowledge their presence and let them go) or if they offer a further insight into the text. Distracting thoughts that need to be remembered later can be jotted down so that you do not spend the rest of the prayer time wondering if you will recall them when you are done! Keep gently coming back to the text when you are drawn away by conflicting thoughts.
Step 3: PRAYER (oratio).
Now let the text call you to place your whole being before God. Let the word you have heard become a word of offering, dedication, and desire in which you give to God your deepest longings and concerns. Allow dialogue to take place as you respond to God who has already addressed you through inspired word and who, through the scriptures, draws you deeper into the divine presence. You may write this dialogue in your journal to remind you of the conversation, or you may choose to record a brief description of the experience at the end of your prayer time.
Step 4: CONTEMPLATION (contemplatio).
When you are ready, simply rest silently in the presence of God without words. Be willing to let go of the scripture that has led you into the divine presence and allow yourself to enjoy communion with our loving Creator God who stands behind and is known through the scriptures. Saint Benedict reassures us and invites us into joy as he encourages us to go on: “As we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.”
Steps 1-4 taken from Elizabeth J. Canham, Heart Whispers: Benedictine Wisdom for Today
(Nashville: Upper Room Books, 1999), 38-39.