What is Lectio Divina?

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105

Morning Lectio
The closest that I’ve ever been to God was when I was the farthest that I’ve ever been from home.

When I went on a FOCUS mission trip to Nicaragua, I stayed with my mission team in a little house within the Diriamba Mustard Seed Communities compound. Almost every morning, I woke up early with the rest of the girls from Slippery Rock to pray Lectio Divina at 6:00. The air was still crisp before the heat of the day settled in. The sun was rising and already shining sweetly. We sat in the grass near the compound’s rosary garden which had a painted statue of the Blessed Mother, rocks arranged to resemble a rosary, and a multitude of flowers. We used our Magnificats to pray Lectio Divina with the Gospel reading of the day. We would read and reflect on God’s word, and we discussed with each other what the Lord was telling us through scripture that morning. We talked about how good and loving our Father is and how much closer we’ve grown to him while on mission.

Praying Lectio Divina in the morning with my girls was just one of the ways that mission has changed me.

If you enjoy reading scripture, or if you’re looking for a place to start, or if you’re trying to find a new way to pray, or if you want to hear the Lord speak to you, I highly recommend Lectio Divina. Meaning “Divine Reading,” Lectio Divina involves praying with scripture in a contemplative way to allow God to speak to you in a personal way. I want to share with you the steps of praying Lectio Divina (which I found in my old Youth Bible from St. Mary’s Press!) and then give you an opportunity to practice it with a short passage and some guided questions.

How to Pray Lectio Divina
Before you start praying Lectio Divina, calm your mind and remove yourself (as best as you can) from any distractions. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to pray and to open your mind and heart to what God wants to tell you.

Step 1: Lectio involves reading or listening to scripture. Pick a passage from the Bible, maybe a psalm or one of Jesus’ parables. As you read God’s word, pick a word or phrase that stands out to you in a particular way. It’s best to read the passage two or three times to see if the same word or phrase stands out to you, or if you’re drawn to a few.

Step 2: Meditatio requires meditation on the passage, particularly on the words or phrases that stood out to you. These are standing out to you for a reason. Allow God to speak to you and touch your heart through these words.

Step 3: Oratio is a response to God’s word. This can be through prayer, or if you’re praying in a group, by discussing your reading and reflection with the rest of the group. This discussion allows God’s word to change you on a deeper level.

Step 4: Contemplatio consists of more prayer and contemplating on what God is telling you through scripture.

Step 5: Actio inspires you to react to God’s word. Discern what God is calling you to do after listening to his word and how you’ll respond to that call.

Now that you know the steps of Lectio Divina, try it with the following Gospel passage and the prompts and questions below!

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Lectio Practice
Luke 15:1-7~ The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them he addressed this parable. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”

  1. Lectio: Read this passage two or three times. Listen for a word or phrase that stands out to you.
  2. Meditatio What does this passage say to me? How is God speaking to me in this passage? What can I learn from this passage?
  3. Oratio How do I feel after reading this passage? How can I deepen my relationship with God? How can I know, love, or serve God more? What am I longing for from him? In what ways is he longing for me? How can I improve my prayer life?
  4. Contempatio Quiet your mind and rest in God’s hands. Allow his message to move you.
  5. Actio What is God calling me to do? What should I start doing or stop doing? How is God calling me to holiness? How will I respond?

If you enjoyed praying Lectio Divina and you want to do it again, I recommend praying it with the Mass readings of the day, particularly the Gospel readings! You can do this with a copy of Magnificat or online with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Also, you can use the blogs from my This Sunday’s Gospel series to pray Lectio Divina in preparation for praying the Mass!

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