“Be still and know that I am God”. But how exactly do we move towards stillness? How we enter into contemplative prayer? And why should we care about contemplation? One huge reason: contemplative prayer is how we discover the embrace of God’s love. And He SO LOVES YOU. Don’t you want to feel that? One powerful and effective resource for guiding your contemplative prayer life is the Lectio Divina.
Just FYI, “lectio” is pronounced like “lexio”. Only a tip to prevent any Latin “scholars” from giving you the side-eye if you say it wrong in front of them! Don’t be put off by a fancy Latin name. Lectio Divina is simply a way of reading the scriptures prayerfully and being formed by it. Without further ado, here are the traditional four steps of the Lectio Divina!
Lectio Divina Steps
- Lectio (Reading)
- Meditatio (Meditation)
- Oratio (Prayer)
- Contemplatio (Contemplation)
Before you begin, choose a text of the Scriptures that you wish to pray. Next, set the stage for deep reflection by placing yourself in a quiet and calm environment. Relax and begin by acknowledging God’s presence. Finally, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and enlightenment as you begin.
1. Lectio – Reading
Read the text. Consider what this passage is saying that everyone should understand at it’s face value. Then re-read it, slowly and prayerfully. Try reading it out loud. Receive God’s word.
2. Meditatio – Meditation
A better word for meditation might be ponder. Pondering means to consider something carefully and thoroughly, weighing it in your mind. This is meditation in a Biblical sense. Scripture is a Living Word, so rich in meaning! What word or phrase struck you while reading the text? Stop and rest with it. God is drawing your attention to this word or phrase. Repeat it to yourself. Ponder it in your heart. Allow it to speak to you in a personal way. What does the text say to me, today, and to my life? Does it contain a promise? A warning, or an example to follow?
3. Oratio – Prayer
What do I want to say to God in response to His word? Prayer is a dialogue with God, straight from your heart. Pondering has led us to engage in an intimate conversation with God. Discuss with God what you heard in the reading of the scripture passage. Be open to how your heart is led to respond. We may moved to give Him thanks or praise. We may be ready to ask for His help in a specific way. Ask God for His insight and wisdom. Ask Him for guidance on your purpose today.
4. Contemplatio – Contemplation
Sit still with God. This is a quiet rest in God’s presence. Don’t focus on your action or doing, but allow God to act in your soul. Be open to receiving His transforming embrace. In my experience, going through the earlier steps of Lectio Divina usually leaves my mind relaxed and my heart calm. Even if all you are noticing at this point is simply a pleasant quiet, that’s okay. Sit for a moment in the quiet and just “be” with God.
For some of us, just being still is the hardest part. But I promise you, like anything else, it gets easier with practice. Build up slowly: one minute, then two minutes, etc.
The more you pray the Lectio Divina, the greater your contemplative “skills” will grow! You may want to journal your experiences so you can see how God is moving in your life. Within my free printable Lectio Divina guide sheet, there is space to record your thoughts and reflections. Write down the significant words and phrases that stood out to you earlier, and what God is speaking to your heart.
One more thing
Wait! There’s one more step to consider. How do we go from prayer to our lives? The essential result of a prayerful encounter with God is the “unofficial” last step: Actio (Action). How is God calling you to action in response to His Word?
According to Pope Benedict XVI, “We do well also to remember that the process of Lectio Divina is not concluded until it arrives at action (actio), which moves the believer to make his or her life a gift for others in charity.” (Verbum Domini).
Receiving God’s love and grace inspires an eagerness to share that love and transforming power with others. In everything you do today, whether it’s running errands or typing an email, God’s gift of grace and love goes with you. How can make ourselves a gift to others today?
Grab your Lectio Divina Guide Sheet here!
And finally, if you’re interested in how to take your own kids along on this journey of pondering and contemplation (yes, it IS possible! Even your three year old!) please check out the US Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd website. There are tons of resources for parents there and information on how you can locate a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) program near you. I’m a trained catechist for this Montessori based program, which is been in use all over the world since 1954. Contact me anytime with your questions about CGS or contemplative prayer in general, or comment below on how I can help!