Praying the Bible: Lectio Divina

May 20, 2009

Though lectio divina is mostly practiced in the Roman Catholic tradition I see that there is great value in using it in daily readings. I have taken the liberty to write this in less a RCC view and more for every person.

Start out first with prayer: By inviting the Holy Spirit to come and teach us, we open ourselves to God and entrust all to Him and his guiding. This is not to be confused with emptying oneself as the “paganistic religions” teach, rather taking time to empty our “self” and allow God to speak to us. Any simple prayer will do.
Come Holy Ghost, fill the hearts and minds of the faithful you servant, and inflame them with the fire of Your divine love. Instruct my heart and renew my mind by Your Truth. Enter my innermost being and renew a right spirit in me.

Lectio: The next step is relaxing. By finding a place that does not allow distraction we can better concentrate on what God has for us. Some call this “quiet time” and is much the same thing. You may go as elaborate as using candles or incense or simply find a quite spot that will not have anything that might distract you from interacting with God.

There is not set “goal” in your reading. In fact a goal may interfere with what God is trying to accomplish and teach you. This sounds a bit counter productive, yet sometimes our agendas may interfere with God’s agenda for us. Simply find a passage you may feel lead to or if you do not “feel” lead, find a passage that interests you.
As you read prayerfully ask God to show you. Keep in mind the humility of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:30-31; who humbly was wrestling with the scripture and asked Phillip to explain it to him. We now have the Holy Spirit to teach us, so simply be open to what the Spirit may be saying.
Some may want to bring commentaries and other items to use as they read. Personally I see this as not needed but I am not opposed to their use. If you come to a verse or passage that you do not understand. Spend some time prayerfully asking God to reveal it to you. Do not be discouraged if you hear nothing from God. Feel free also move on and keep reading into material you already do understand, yet ask God if there may be something you are missing or that may add to your current understanding. You might be amazed that a verse you thought you had down comes alive a this point and you see it from a totally different view. Remember “lectio” is simply reading the text and attempting to understand what the writer is saying. Do not stress out if this seems hard at first, it does become easier over time.

Meditatio: I am amazed that some see this part as dangerous. I do agree, if you do this part God may dramatically change your life! Take time to read and re-read the passage you read. Visualize it and even read it out loud and “listen” to what God may be revealing to you. Consider the verse in perspective to the Church, family, your own person or even your enemies. Take time to consider the verses in terms of allegorical or metaphorical meanings and even historical views…. Even taking it literal is often great! The idea is letting the Holy Spirit draw you in deeper to understand what the writer was trying to say and convey.

Oratio: After a while pray again that God gives you the grace to be changed by the truth of what you read. Prayerfully ask this Truth to fully come into your very being and live it out in a practical sense.
Contemplatio: Give thanks that God will do as He promises and rest in that truth.

Collatio: If you know of others who are doing this, talk to them about what God has taught you. Also there is safety in talking to others to help guide us in understanding what we learned. Someone you know my already have learned or is learning what you were taught and you can encourage each other

Actio: Live what your have learned. Allow it to be your life and truth. It is God’s word and by it allow yourself to be lead.

Addo: Though I may be wrong I believe “Addo” means “to give” and that is the last step you should do. If lectio divina is something that helps you in your reading, pass it on or give it away to others.

For more info:

Since I sort of stole the name of this post from Tony Jones I will give him some credit.

Tony Jones has a great article out on praying the bible. He just did another post that gives a bit of more history to the steps I have written about.

I also found this site as an a great resource to start to understand lectio divina.


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  1. Something helpful that I read once (this would fall under “actio”) said, after reading the text and meditating upon it, obey the simplest meaning first. This will lead to the deeper meanings. Jesus called the disciples with “Follow Me” and they obeyed it literally. They physically began following him. But this obedience led them to the “larger” meaning of following him in his likeness and ways.

    Great article! Thanks!

  2. Carlos,

    you totally got mentioned in a post on ODM, as being a heretic. You must be on the right track. Way to go =)

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