Lectio Divina: Sacred Reading, Week 1

Jan 1, 2017 ~ Prev | Intro | Next

Psalms 8

During the month of January, we will be using the ancient prayer practice of lectio divina, which translates as divine reading. In this prayer, you use the scripture a meditation guide, drawing from it a word or image to guide a time of listening and speaking to God. Unlike the biblical imagination prayer we practiced during Advent, the focus of lectio divina is less on the content of the scriptural passage and more on the scripture as a doorway to conversation with God.

Around the year 500, St. Benedict developed the form of lectio divina to help his monks develop their relationship with God. The prayer practice has four basic steps, following a time of silence to center oneself.

  1. Reading (lectio): The first step is to select a scriptural passage and read it through several times. Rather than reading for the surface meaning of the text, read it as it speaks to you at this particular time and place. As Daniel Wolpert says, “Allow your body and mind to become a deep cavern in which the Word of God echoes, bouncing off the walls of the cave and slowly disappearing into the shadows of your mind.” As you read, listen to identify a word, phrase, or image that calls to you.
  2. Meditation (meditatio): The second step is to take the word, phrase, or image you identified in the first step, and meditate on it. In this step, mull over the word, removed from its context, and listen for the message it speaks to you. If an image has come to you, observe. What is God speaking to you through that word or image? Allow your mind to follow freely and faithfully where God leads you.
  3. Prayer (oratio): The third step, following your time of listening to God, is to respond. Lectio divina is a conversation, where there is dialogue between the partners. What words arose from deep within you as you meditated? What do you want to say to God?
  4. Contemplation (contemplatio): The final step is contemplation, the time to reflect on what you learned and experienced. What word did God speak to you? How has that influenced your perspective? What new direction did you gain? It is also appropriate to express thanks to God for your conversation. It is important to note that not all prayer times are equally productive. Some days you may not think you have heard anything. It may be frustrating. Remember that prayer is about cultivating a relationship with God, not getting a result. Give thanks for the time spent with God, practicing opening yourself to listening for God’s word. As Wolpert says, “God does not require that we be successful, just faithful.”
This week, practice lectio divina beginning with Psalm 8.

O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;
What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet,
All sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!