Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina

“Let the world be silent in your presence, Lord, so that I may hear what the Lord God may say in my heart. Your words are so softly spoken  that no one can hear them except in a deep silence. But to hear them lifts him who sits alone and in silence completely above his natural powers, because he who humbles himself will be lifted up. He who sits alone and listens will be raised above himself.”

-Guigo II

✙Latin term for “Divine Reading” sometimes called “sacred reading.”

✙An ancient monastic practice that employs a particular method of reading. It is a unique approach to reading that enables you to open up the time you spend with the written word so that your reading becomes a doorway to meditation, prayer, and contemplation.

✙Goes back to Origen in the 3rd century, Benedict & his order in the 6th, and Guigo II’s formal instructions in the 12th.

✙Powerful tool for opening up to the presence of God in your life, in your interaction with sacred Scripture. Opens you up to allow God to lead you where He chooses. You do not choose. Don’t seek to control but rather to yield. The text reads you, as they say.

✙Not mere intellectual exploration, but actually becoming intimate with God. Not studying God, but getting to know God.

✙Before the printing press & modern ideas of scholarship, research, & academic pursuit of knowledge, those who wrestled with the words of Scripture did so to acquire a spiritual, rather than intellectual understanding of the text.

* It was not an exercise in “figuring out” Christianity, but rather a practice for encountering God through the medium of the written word. The goal of Lectio Divina is simply to create a space where God may encounter you via the  sacred word.

✙The ancient spiritual practice of Lectio Divina suggests that, in terms of fostering intimacy with God, there are approaches far more valuable than mere study and analysis. That may stimulate the brain, but not transform the heart. Knowing about God more than knowing God.

✙People are meant to live in an ongoing conversation with God, speaking and being spoken to.

✙Some say it is even dangerous to have someone read the Bible without teaching them how to read it.

✙The Bible is best engaged in a spirit of silence, of meditation and reflection, and most important of all, in the context of prayer in order to realize its power to transform us. Silence is key.

✙That which is infinite cannot be put into a finite container.

✙A new way if reading- it does not change the Bible, but how we approach it. That is the secret of Lectio Divina’s power.

✙Reading a spiritual text in the “normal” way of reading for personal mastery or control can sometimes have the unintended consequence of pushing God further into hiding.

✙An act of slow, deliberate prayer.

✙The frenetic chatter in your mind is what Buddhists call the “monkey mind.”

✙In contemplative prayer, you listen in receptive silence, and hold yourself open for the purpose of fostering the experience of God’s  presence within you. [Jn.14:17]


From Hearing God by calls Willard

If we humble ourselves and seek God, He will respond (2 Chron. 7:14).

3 general problem areas:

  1. God’s communication comes in many, various forms
  2. Wrong motives for seeking to hear from God
  3. Misconceiving the nature of our heavenly Father and His intent for us


Our failure to hear God has its deepest roots in a failure to understand, accept, and grow into conversational relationship with God.

Guidelines for hearing from God–it is two way!

  1. Love God with all our being–our communion provides context for communication
  2. Mere humans can talk with God, i.e. Moses, Elijah, David, Peter, Paul, Jesus. there is a “humble arrogance” in the question, “Who, me, Lord?” His communication with us doesn’t make us important.
  3. Hearing God doesn’t make us righteous. The infallibility of the Messenger and the message does not guarantee the infallibility of our reception.


From Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson

 Lectio divina is a way of reading Scriptures that is congruent with the way Scriptures serve the Christian community as a way of God’s revelation of Himself to us. To discipline us into appropriate ways of understanding and receiving this text so that it is formative for the way we live our lives, not merely making an impression on our minds and feelings. It intends the reading of Scripture to be a permeation of our lives by the revelation of God.

Reading the Bible, if we do not do it rightly, can get us into a lot of trouble. For one, we’ll use it ignorantly, endangering our lives as well as those around us. Secondly, intoxicated with power, we’ll use it ruthlessly and violently.

Caveat Lector. Reader beware. It’s not ours to do with as we please. It is God’s to reveal to us as He pleases. Luke 10:26 says, “How do you read?” not “What do you read?” It’s not a problem of what we read, but how we read it. The scholar wants to dissect and analyze, depersonalizing God’s word. But they are words to be listened to, submitted to, obeyed, lived. Jesus tells a story instead of inviting him to a Bible study. Scripture can’t be handled by means of definition now, but only by participation. Jesus answers questions with invitations. He insists on participation. Live what you read. Read to live. Lectio Divina cultivates this personal, participatory attentiveness and thus trains us in the discipline of reading Scripture rightly.

It’s bringing dead words written to life–resurrection. Lectio Divina is the deliberate and intentional practice of making the transition from a kind of reading that treats and handles, however reverently, Jesus dead to a way of reading that frequents the company of friends who are listening to, accompanying, and following Jesus alike.

Words written are radically removed from their originating context, which is the living voice. The moment a word or sentence is written, it is detached from its origins and lands on the page as isolated as an artifact in a museum or a specimen in a laboratory. Now we can label it and define it. The less context we have, the more exact we can be. Context contaminates and interferes with precision. But not so with words. The more “in context” we are when language is used, the more likely we are to get it. The word spoken is immensely more rich than the word written. We do not read the Bible in order to reduce our lives to what is covenant to us or manageable by us–we want to get in on the great invisibles of the Trinity, the soaring adorations of the angels, the quirky cragginess of the prophets, and…Jesus.

“Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

If we are to get the full force of the word, we need to recover its atmosphere of spokeness. Many times we find that mere words leave us empty, not taking root in our lives. Lectio Divina is the strenuous effort (formidable discipline) that the Christian community gives to rehydrating the Scriptures so that they are capable of holding their own original force and shape in the heat of the day, maintaining their contact long enough to get fused with or assimilated into our context, the world we inhabit, the clamor of voices in the daily weather and work in which we live. It is the task of Lectio Divina to get those words heard and listened to, words written in ink now written in blood.

A way of reading that guards against depersonalizing the text into an affair of questions and answers, definitions and dogmas. It abandons the attempt to take control of the text. A way of reading that intends the fusion of the entire biblical Story with my story. Living the text. Listening and responding. Joining. We recover the context. Lectio Divina is a way of reading that becomes a way of living.

Psalm 40:6 “Aznayim karith li”

The primary organ for receiving God’s revelation is not the eye that sees but the ear that hears–which means that all of our reading of Scripture must develop into a hearing of the word of God. Print technology, a wonderful thing in itself, has put millions and millions of Bibles in our hands, but unless these Bibles are embedded in the context of a personally speaking God, a prayerfully listening community, we who handle these Bibles are at special risk. If we reduce the Bible to a tool to be used, the tool builds up calluses on our hearts.


Lectio divina consists of:

  • Lectio (reading)
  • Meditatio (meditation)
  • Oratio (prayer)
  • Contemplatio (contemplation)


We hear before we read. We learn language via hearing. The written word has the potential to resurrect the speaking voice and listening ear, but it does not insist upon it. The word can just sit there on the page and be analyzed or admired or ignored. Just because we have read it doesn’t mean we have heard it. Just because we have looked the word up in our dictionary and have carefully cross-referenced it doesn’t guarantee that we have listened to and heard the voice of the living God.

Metaphor. If we don’t appreciate the way a metaphor works, we will never comprehend the meaning of the text (Rose of Sharon Song.2:1). If we assume “literal” is the only means to “serious” we are going to be in trouble much of the time. For a metaphor is literally a lie. Metaphor is a language that contains an “is” and an “is not,” held in irresolvable tension (Sondra Scheiners). It takes you to a deeper involvement, below the surface. If we suppress the “is” we kill the metaphor and end up with a mummified corpse of its meaning. If we suppress the “is not” we literalize the metaphor and end up with a junkyard of wrecked and rusted out words. Metaphor treated literally is simply absurd. But if we let it have its way with us, it pushes us to clarity at a different level. God’s action and presence among us is so beyond our comprehension that sober description and accurate definition are no longer functional ( a motive for metaphor). A metaphor is a word that bears a meaning beyond its naming function; the “beyond” extends and brightens our comprehension rather than confusing it. the language of metaphor demonstrates the interconnectedness of all words. This is “association” in mind mapping. That is why metaphor holds such a prominent place in Scripture, in which everything is in movement, finding its place in relation to the word that God speaks. Metaphor does not explain; it does not define; it draws us away from being outsiders, to being insiders, involved with all reality spoken into being by God’s word. We are residents in a home interpenetrated by Spirit–God’s, mine, yours. Each word draws us closer to where we come from. the word metaphor signals transcendence and encounter with the One who speaks everything into being. this is the kind of reading which Scripture, filled with metaphor, insists.


Meditation moves from the words of the text to the world of the text. The world of the text is far larger and more real than our minds and experience (Rom.11:33). Meditation is the aspect of spiritual reading that trains us to read Scripture as a connected, coherent whole, not a collection of inspired bits and pieces.

The Scriptures are the revelation of a personal, relational, incarnational God to actual communities of men and women with names in history. Meditation is the primary way in which we guard against the fragmentation of our Scripture reading into isolated oracles. It is the powerful employ of imagination in order to become friends with the text. It must not be confused with fancy or fantasy. It doesn’t make things up.

Rumination–letting the images and stories of the entire revelation penetrate our understanding. Fancy creates a new world for you; imagination gives you insight into the old world. No text can be understood out of its entire context. The most “entire” text is Jesus. Meditation discerns the connections and listens for the harmonies that come together in Jesus.

We meditate to become empathetic with the text.


The response to God of, “Oh, this has to do with ME!”

The foundational presupposition of all prayer is that God reveals Himself personally by means of language. The essential reality of prayer is that its source and character are entirely in God. The Scriptures, read and prayed, are our primary and normative access to God as He reveals Himself to us. Prayer detached from Scripture, from listening to God, disconnected from God’s word to us, short-circuits the relational language that is prayer.

Our primary shaping influence for prayer is Psalms and Jesus.

Prayer is engaging God. For most of us it takes years and years to exchange our dream world for the real world. Prayer is offering ourselves, just as we are, to God. Prayer is access to everything that God is for us: holiness, justice, mercy, forgiveness, sovereignty, blessing, vindication, salvation, love, majesty, glory.

Hebrews 7:25. This is the most important thing to know about prayer, not that we should pray or how we should pray but that Jesus is right now praying for us (Heb.4:16, Jn.17).

We come to be formed and defined not by the sum total of our experiences, but by the Father, Son, and Spirit to whom and by whom we pray.

God’s word reveals a reality so much bigger than our ego-centered world, that we aren’t expected to grasp it all at once. He is patient with us. Prayer is the way we work our way out of the cramped world of self into the self-denying but spacious world of God. It’s getting rid of self so we can be all soul-God-aware, God-dimensioned. Prayer is the process of getting use to God’s world, God’s reality as He made it. God never said it would be easy, but it’s the way things are–this is the way the world is, the way we are, the way God is. Do you want to live in the real world? This is it. God doesn’t reveal it to us by His word so we can know about it, He continues the revelation in us as we pray and participate in it. We pray what we read, working our lives into active participation.


Living the text. Becoming aware of the total surrounding context. To live the words in the presence of God.

If Lectio Divina is to have currency in the Christian community today, contemplation simply must be reclaimed as essential in all reading and living of Scripture. Not an option, but necessary.

The assumption underlying contemplation is that Word and life are at root the same thing. There is no word of God that God does not intend to be lived by us. All words are capable of being incarnated, because all words originate in the Word made flesh. Contemplatives look around and within for the foot that fits the footprint (Scripture).

Contemplatio, unlike the other three, is not something we self-consciously do; it happens, it is a gift, it is something to which we are receptive and obedient. Infused. You can’t produce it. You can only be ready and prepare for it. Relax, rest, and receive.

Lectio divina is not a methodical technique for reading the Bible. It is a cultivated, developed habit of living the text in Jesus’ name. This is the way, the only way, that the Holy Scriptures become formative in the Christian church and become salt and leaven in the world.

It’s amazing how many ways we devise for using the Bible to avoid a believing obedience.

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