Lectio Divina means “sacred reading.” Reading is often understood as gaining information, however Lectio Divina is different.

We understand what wind is by feeling it blow in our face. We know what snow is like when we make a snowball or watch snowflakes collect on our mittens. This sort of knowing transcends the intellect; it is direct, sensate and experiential. Devotional reading, or Lectio Divina, invites us into that kind of knowing. It is the kind of knowing for which Paul prayed when he said,

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19, emphasis added)

The first 1,500 years of church history were characterized by the practice of Lectio Divina. Since many people were illiterate and many that could read didn’t have Bibles, Lectio Divina offered a way of attending to Scripture as it was read in church, with an ear to hearing a word from God. A brief and memorable word or phrase became bread for the soul throughout the week. Devotional reading is not an exercise in mentally critiquing or exegeting the text. It exists to further divine companionship. Lectio Divina invites us into God’s presence to listen for his particular, loving word to me at this particular moment in time. In lectio one listens to the word as it is read aloud—or you read the text aloud for yourself.

Devotional/Sacred reading of Scripture is rooted in the assurance that every part of the biblical story—letters, parables, Gospels, Prophets, history—is inspired and can give voice to God’s particular word to us.

Sacred reading was traditionally made up of five movements:

1. Silencio – quiet preparation of the heart

Come into God’s presence, slow down, relax, and intentionally release the chaos and noise in your mind to him.

2. Lectio – read the word

Read a Scripture passage slowly and out loud, lingering over the words so that they resonate in your heart. When a word or a phrase catches your attention, don’t keep reading. Stop and attend to what God is saying to you. Be open to the word. Don’t analyze it or judge it. Listen and wait.

3. Meditatio – meditate

Read the Scripture a second time out loud. Savor the words. Listen for any invitation that God is extending to you in his word. Reflect on the importance of the words that light up to you. Like Mary, who pondered the word in her heart, gently explore the ramifications of God’s invitation.

4. Oratio – respond, pray

Read the Scripture a third time. Now is the time to enter into a personal dialogue with God. There is no right or wrong way to do this. The important thing is to respond truthfully and authentically. What feelings has the text aroused in you? Name where you are resistant or want to push back. Become aware of where you feel invited into a deeper way of being with God. Talk to God about these feelings.

5. Contemplatio – rest & wait in God’s presence

Allow some time for the word to sink deeply into your soul. Yield and surrender yourself to God. Before you leave, you might consider a reminder that can help you dwell on or incarnate this word throughout the day.