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Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina is an ancient Christian practice in which we chew on a small tidbit of scripture and trust that God is with us as we see how that scripture reverberates with our experiences and personality. Lectio is Latin for reading, so Lectio Divina is Divine Reading. The word divina is meant to convey a kind of closeness with God rather than a sacred and distant object. In past times monks shared an  image of cows chewing their cud to get every bit of nourishment out of the grass.

Lectio Divina is not about acquiring head knowledge of Scripture (although that is important too), but it is about a personal encounter with the heart of God. Lectio assumes that God is present and in the present, that God will inspire our attention and is indeed already praying through us.

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What are the steps?

First: Find a comfortable place where you can relax and remain alert. Pray a short prayer that God be with you during this time. Relax your body and gently release your thoughts by becoming aware of your breath. If you find a thought creeping in, return your attention to your breath.

Reading (lectio): Read a short story or poem from the Bible or hymnal or prayer book or other inspirational text. Read it slowly, aloud if possible, and listen for a word or phrase that seems to jump out and be noticed. Gently repeat this phrase to yourself.

Reflecting (Meditatio): Read the passage again and allow the part that presented itself to you to spark you imagination. Are there sounds, tastes, feeling or smells in it? Welcome all the emotions that come.

Responding (Oratio): Read the passage a third time. Let your heart respond to God. This response is your prayer. (Oratio means speech.) This is your conversation with God. What are you taking away from this.

Resting (Contemplatio): This movement is about slowing your thoughts and resting with God. The idea is to BE rather than trying to DO anything. This is a time for gratitude and closeness with God.

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What sources should I use?

First and obviously the Bible. If your church uses the Common Lectionary you might want to find the verses for next Sunday.
But there are other ways to ponder God. Think about using your hymnal or a book of prayers. Branch out from that. Have you heard a song, read a book or a blog post, or seen a painting that prompted a yearning for God? A flower or a tree branch or a pebble might have God’s writing all over it.

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Where can I find more information?

The Order of Carmelites has some information on this interesting website.

Spirituality and Practice has a less formal approach.

This is another good article by a Benedictine monk.

An excellent book is Lectio Divina – the Sacred Art  by Christine Valters Paintner, PhD.  You can find it here at Amazon.