Lectio Divina is one of the most useful prayers that I have used in youth ministry. It is easily accessible for both teens and adults. Lectio is an ancient form of prayer that is still widely used today. Although these prayer pages are to be first practical, I think it is best to explain what it means first and where it came from.
Lectio Divina (pronounced Lehxio Diveena) is not something that was recently invented or is just a fad. Lectio Divina (from the latin: Lectio-reading, Divina-sacred) can be traced in Church history back to St.Anthony of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. Lectio has been a church tradition held onto mostly by Catholics but the form of prayer has found growing popularity recently by all denominations. The idea that is so powerful behind the Lectio practice is that we engage in the living word of God trusting that it can and will speak to us. Before I lead Lectio in groups I always remind the pray-ers that God’s word is as alive as ever and God can use it to speak to their particular situation in life. This is always a fresh reminder for me that the Bible is more than informative, more than a document to be studied, pulled apart and examined which is quite contrary to the way that many of us have learned to study the Bible. In no means is Lectio a replacement for careful study, but it is an addition to our Bible study.
Lectio has four main parts: Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio, and Contemplatio.
Before the first stage of the prayer is started, you must find an appropriate scripture to meditate on. Short passages work well, if they are too lengthy, it is harder to concentrate on finding a single phrase or word that stands out. Once a suitable passage has been found, it is a good idea to spend a few moments in silence to settle your thoughts and clear your mind. I often spend about two minutes simply noticing my breathing, which helps to settle me quickly.
- Lectio: simply read the passage paying careful attention to notice a single word or phrase that the Spirit may point out. Typically the passage is read through at least twice until you have noticed a particular word or phrase.
- Meditatio: this step of the prayer is simply repeating the word or phrase that stood out to you. While meditating on that word or phrase you can often find (with the help of the Spirit) that this word or phrase may have a specific meaning in your life, or that God is showing you something very specific that may or may not be related to the passage. Meditate on what feelings, emotions, or images come to mind when you hear that word.
- Oratio: This part of the prayer is quite simple. We pray ourselves empty. We offer up all of our thoughts that have come to us so far in the prayer of before the prayer. Speak whatever is on your mind and whatever has come to your mind to God. This is your turn to talk.
- Contemplatio: During this last phase of the prayer exercise, we simply rest in God’s presence, feeling neither the need nor obligation to think or say anything specific. We simply soak up God’s presence. My wife often uses the visual imagery of a child who has just finished crying, simply curled up in their parent’s lap. Allow God to do this for you. Allow him to hold on to you just for another moment.
Often times other steps have been added to this prayer, but this is simply Lectio with no additions. In a group setting it is nice to share what came to mind during the prayer time so that others can also benefit from the knowledge that God is working in other peoples prayers, but in private it may be wise to journal your thoughts for your own benefit.
As with all prayer practices, they are just that: practice. The best way to enter into these prayers is without any grandiose expectations of revelation, but simply the desire to be with God and His word. I hope that you find this useful and if you have questions, simply comment on this blog or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org