Lectio Divina: Abiding in a Familiar Passage of Scripture
Lectio Divina is a slow, contemplative way of praying the Scriptures that enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God. It is one classic way of allowing the Word and presence of Christ to penetrate to the center of our being and begin a process of transforming us from the inside out.
There are four movements contained within this method of praying Scripture. The first movement is called “reading” or “listening.” The practice of Lectio Divina begins with cultivating the ability to listen deeply, to hear “with the ear of our hearts” as St. Benedict describes in the Prologue of his Rule. It is a way of being more sensitive to the still, small voice of God (1 Kings 19:12), the “faint murmuring sound” which is God’s word for us, his voice touching our hearts.
The reading or listening, which is the first step in Lectio Divina, is very different from the speed reading you may be used to applying to magazines or novels. Lectio is reverential listening; listening both in a spirit of silence and of awe. In Lectio we read slowly, attentively, gently listening to hear a word or phrase that is God’s communication for us this day.
The second step in Lectio is meditation. Once through “listening,” if we have found a word, passage, or image in the scripture which speaks to us in a personal way, we take it in and “ruminate” on it. We ponder it in our hearts. We do this by gently repeating a key word or phrase (or gazing on an image in the passage), allowing it to interact with our thoughts, hopes, memories and desires. This is the second step or stage in Lectio, meditation. Through this phase we allow the word from God to become His word for us, a word that touches us at our deepest levels.
The third step in Lectio Divina is prayer: prayer understood both as dialogue with God, that is, as loving conversation with the One who has invited us into His embrace; and as consecration, prayer as the priestly offering to God of parts of ourselves that we have not previously believed God wants. Here we allow the word that we have taken in and on which we are pondering to touch and change our deepest selves.
The final step is to rest in the presence of the One who has used His word as a means of inviting us to accept His transforming embrace. It is the phase, called “contemplation” where there are moments when words are unnecessary. Contemplation is wordless, quiet rest in the presence of the one who loves us.
For this exercise you are asked to use the text found in the Bible Study –
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
As you walk through this passage of scripture using the steps suggested above, you may wish to ask yourself one or more of the following questions. This may be particularly helpful as part of Step 3 – Prayer.
- When I am confused, troubled, lonely, in grief or despair, where or to whom do I look first for comfort, guidance, or help?
- Recalling a time when I looked to God for help and was comforted, what were my feelings? How did I respond? [Note – You may wish to spend time in a prayer of thanksgiving and praise for this gift.]
- Recalling a time of need when I looked to God and did not feel helped or comforted, what were my feelings? How did I respond? [Note – You may wish to spend time in pouring out these feelings directly to the heart of God.]
- Recalling a time when I was in great need and did not look to God, to whom or what did I turn? What were my feelings? Why may I have resisted first seeking God as my refuge and help? [You may wish to enter into prayer as a conversation in which you share these feelings and seek understanding from God.]
At this point, you may wish to return to the Final Step listed above—Resting in the presence of God.