What is Lectio Divina?
Since the early centuries of the church, Christians have encountered God through praying with the Holy Scriptures. Lectio divina, literally “sacred reading,” involves reading, pondering, and praying the written Word of God so that we may encounter the living Word of God—our Lord Jesus Christ—and grow in an intimate relationship with him. Our desire is to meet God as his Word penetrates our hearts and allow him to transform us more and more into the image of Christ.
In lectio divina, we enter into a conversation with God. It is very different than Bible study done for the sake of gaining information about God. The aim of lectio divina is to nourish and deepen our relationship with God through Scripture and prayer. Through the centuries, sacred reading has been practiced in many different forms, by both groups and individuals. In his address commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Dogmatic Constitution, Dei Verbum, Pope Benedict XVI called upon all the faithful to renew their spiritual lives with the practice of lectio divina. He said,
I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of “lectio divina”: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart (c.f. Dei Verbum, n.25). If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church — I am convinced of it — a new spiritual springtime.
Lectio divina involves four prayer-filled stages: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), oratio (prayer) and contemplatio (contemplation). It is a powerful spiritual discipline for those who desire to grow in intimacy with God. In essence, lectio divina is prayer at a deep experiential level. It is encountering God through his Word. Lectio divina “…is truly capable of opening up to the faithful the treasures of God’s word, but also of bringing about an encounter with Christ, the living word of God” (Pope Benedict XVI). This intimate encounter with God should lead to the genuine transformation of our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this process we are also empowered to become more fruitful disciples of Jesus Christ. Some actually consider this to be a fifth stage called, actio (action).
Recent years have seen a great revival of interest in this ancient prayer practice. The following pages are an attempt to introduce this type of prayer in such a way that anyone who desires to try it can understand and practice this wonderful gift of the Church.