This prayer style comes from ancient times, but has been revived in recent years. It is a wonderful way to pray with Holy Scripture. The Latin word “Lectio Divina” simply means Divine Reading or Holy Reading. It consists of four stages. The ideal total time for this prayer would be 20-30 minutes but can be done in a shorter time if you have time constraints. The four stages are as follows:
1) Lectio (reading): take a short passage of Scripture and slowly read it, preferably out loud. We read the Word of God slowly and reflectively so that it sinks into us. Possibly a word or phrase really stands out for us, speaking to where we are today on our spiritual journey through life.
2) Meditatio (reflection): We now use our minds to think about what the passage is saying to me today. How is it touching my life right now. We take from it what God wants to give to us for today.
3) Oratio (response): Now we move from our heads to our hearts and we talk to God as to a friend – we pray. This prayer is inspired by our reflection on the Word in the stage above. A possible help to speaking spontaneously to God can be found in the acronym: ACTS. A=adore; C=contrition; T=thanks and S= supplication (petitioning for ourselves and for others).
4) Contemplatio (rest): This finally stage can be challenging for us. Here we are invited to simply let go of all thoughts and words and to just “rest” in Jesus. It helps to close our eyes and try to just “be ONE WITH” the Lord. If we find our mind “kicking in,” it is helpful to slowly repeat a mantra several times to bring us back to quiet. A mantra is usually a 2-syllable word like Jesus, Abba, Shalom that we say slowly in rhythm with our breathing in on the first syllable and breathing out on the 2nd syllable. This helps us to empty our minds again so that we can truly “rest in the Lord.”
You may wonder, how much time do I spend on each stage? Don’t try to look at your watch or time it, simply move to the next stage when you feel ready, while always trying not to rush through the prayer.
The natural movement of these four stages of prayer is to lead us toward greater simplicity, with less and less talking and more listening. If you want to learn more about this prayer, which can be done alone or within a group, “googling it” will bring up many further resources.
Sister Joyce Marie Bates, SND
Spiritual Director of past Cursillos