Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading)

Rev. Deborah Hart


One way to enter into meditation is through Sacred Reading, or Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina is an ancient way of devotion, based on the Scriptures as a living reality interacting with one’s life and revealing a word from God for this particular time and place and person. There are four basic steps in the process, known as: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation, in the sense of reflection), oratio (prayer) and contemplatio (contemplation).

  1. Lectio (reading): To begin, one chooses a passage of scripture, perhaps a daily reading or one reflecting some theme. Read the passage slowly, and preferably aloud, and expect a word or phrase to speak to you. When it does, either note it and continue the passage or simply stop when that word or phrase is encountered. Learning to read devotionally, and not for information or to “get finished” takes some practice. It is counter-cultural. Take time and “listen” for God to speak to you through the divine Word.
  2. Meditatio (meditation): This second step involves spending time with the word or phrase and wondering why it spoke to you. It is a dialogue between the word and one’s own life. Ask God for some insight. Search your own context that may reveal some sadness, happiness, stress or difficulty. Are you trying to make an important decision? Do you need to forgive or be forgiven? Are you looking for a pathway forward? Perhaps this is a word of blessing. What’s happening in your life or the life of the world right now that caused this word or phrase to speak to you? Explore it without fear, knowing God walks the journey with you.
  3. Oratio (prayer): Once the word has touched your heart or mind or whole being in some way, a response is natural. We are led to pray. That may be in word or gesture, a response of joy, a tear of sadness, lament or thanksgiving, a prayer for one’s self or prayers for others or the world. This is the mutual heart-to-heart time with God that can be rich and honest and intimate.
  4. Contemplatio (contemplation): Finally, when the space grows between the words and one’s thoughts and feelings have all been expressed, one simply surrenders in love and in silence to God. This is where the contemplative experience of prayer enters in. One just comes to “be” and to “rest” in God’s presence.

The Lectio Divina way of devotion and prayer can be revealing, healing and transforming. It can deepen our self-understanding as well as our relationship with the Divine. It is beneficial when done alone, but also creates a deep bond when done with a group – as people are invited to share their responses in steps 1,2,3 aloud if they wish to do so. It is amazing to hear how God, through the Scriptures, speaks to each of us in so many different ways.

Recommended Reading: Too Deep for Words: Redescovering Lectio Devina 

For additional resources and how-to essentials for Lectio Divina, visit Contemplative Outreach