As a means of discovering or re-discovering the importance of God’s Word in our daily lives, we might consider an ancient but always timely Church practice called Lectio Divina. In his Apostolic Exhortation, The Word of God, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, speaks of Lectio Divina as the reflective and prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture in the context of the Church’s understanding of the Word of God.
This method of praying with Sacred Scripture, either alone or in a group, through the grace of the Holy Spirit leads to meditation on the Word of God and contemplation of God present to us. While meditation and contemplation can sound intimidating, the beauty of the practice of Lectio Divina is that it develops our ability to listen and “draw from the biblical text a living word which questions, directs and shapes our lives” (Blessed Pope John Paul II, On the Coming of the Third Millennium, 39).
The first practice of Lectio is attributed to Saint Benedict, the founder of monasticism in the West and the saint whose feast we celebrate today. Benedict wanted to help his followers take the Word of God they heard proclaimed at Mass and ponder it as they went about their work during the rest of the day. Benedict desired that these monks, most of whom could not read, would commit Sacred Scripture to memory, but also see how the Word becomes a living word in their own lives and the life of the community. Over the course of its long practice in the life of the Church, Lectio Divina has been practiced in a variety of forms. This standard form is easily adaptable for individual and communal use.
Choose a text of Sacred Scripture for your prayer. Taking the Gospel passage from the Mass of the day is an effective way of praying with the Universal Church.
Be silent and quiet your mind. Place yourself in a comfortable position for prayer.
Read the text through slowly and carefully. Select a word or a phrase that makes you stop or strikes you as beautiful, inspiring or challenging. Read the text a second time, again, slowly and with attention.
Repeat the word or phrase. Think about it in the context of your own life and experience. Consider that God may be sharing this word or phrase with you as an invitation to conversation or a new awareness of his presence in your life.
Speak to God, offer to God words of petition or thanksgiving. Share what is on your mind and in your heart as if you are speaking with a close friend or a spouse.
Be silent again and rest in the presence of our loving God. After a few minutes, read the passage a third and final time. Remain quiet.
Close your Bible and move toward the next part of your day, carrying your word or phrase in your mind and heart noticing how it “directs and shapes your day.”
Lectio Divina and all forms of prayer, when they follow the patterns of Christ’s prayer, have a transforming effect in our lives. We cannot pray well unless we are prepared to change in our lives those things that separate us from God. Genuine prayer is a part of the whole rhythm of life and thus affects the way we live.