Guide to Lectio Divina
Praying with the Scriptures
This method of lectio divina is simple. Hang in there for about a week and you’ll have it down.
- Close your eyes and recall God’s presence in you: Let everything go from your day, your worries, tasks, and timelines. Let your spirit rest in God’s.
- Invite the Holy Spirit to be with you and guide you.
- Read the paragraph. If you are focusing on a single verse, read the surrounding paragraph with it the first time.
Think About the Text
Close your eyes and think about what you read. You can do this in different ways. Experiment with the different methods below and find which works best for you and the passage. Be attentive while thinking to hear what God might be “speaking” to you. His “words” usually come in the form of ideas or understandings that come to mind while you are searching for meaning in what you are reading.
This is the part of prayer where God shows you more about himself.
- Imagine that you are there. This works great especially when you are reading the Gospels or Old Testament stories. You could imagine that you are Jesus, or one of the disciples, or other characters in the story that are being healed, rebuked, forgiven, or welcomed.
- Think about the meaning. If you didn’t already, read the paragraph containing your verses and any footnotes you have in your Bible about the passage. Break the passage down into phrases and actively use your mind to discover their meaning.
- Think about how it applies to your life. Is it talking about forgiveness? Sin? Life? Loving your neighbor? Think about what it means for you in your every day life.
Have a Conversation with God
As you are thinking about what you read, you may feel something. Talk to God about what you are feeling. If you don’t feel anything, talk to God about whatever stood out most to you when you were thinking. If you feel at a loss as to what to pray about, use the ACTS acronym (Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication) spending a minute on each. Try to focus your prayer around the passage you read. Be attentive while talking to God to hear what he might be “speaking” in your heart. Sometimes it will be as simple as His peaceful presence.
Make a Resolution
What can you do so that you are changed by your experience and new knowledge of God? Make a precise, and practical resolution in response to your experience in prayer. Were you convicted of sin in your life? Think of how you are tempted and resolve not to put yourself in that particular situation any more.
- Thank God
- Entrust your resolution to God and/or a particular saint to whom you have a devotion
- Take with you a Word for the Day — some word or phrase that summarizes the substance of your prayer
- Make an appointment. Same time every day is helpful. In a quiet place alone. Resolve to pray every day.
- If you are distracted — persevere. Give it over to God. Ask your Guardian Angel to take care of it. Write it on a piece of paper. Whatever helps you return focus to God. God does not mind distractions. It is the love with which we return our focus to him that he desires.
- God won’t just pop stuff into your head. When you pray with the Bible, don’t forget you need to use your mind! He will show you things, but you have to participate.
- Prayer can be boring sometimes or seemingly “unproductive.” Maybe you don’t “feel” God. Sometimes improving the quality of your experience is something you have control over and sometimes it just is what it is. Sometimes, it might even be God — who knows — maybe he wants to stretch you in your perseverance. Some things over which you do have control, include things as basic as praying at a time of day when you are most alert or waiting to eat that cheeseburger and large fry until after you have prayed. Going a little deeper, there could also be some unresolved sin hanging over your head, which you haven’t acknowledged. This doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you and doesn’t want to be with you! Nothing could be further from the truth — God has the tenderest love for all and has a history of being abundantly generous to those who turn to him amidst their sin and brokeness. It’s just that, if you let a lot of junk sit around in your heart for a long time, it can be harder to pray. Examine your conscience and ask for forgiveness regularly. Go to confession.
- If you are easily distracted, foster a habit of quiet in your life by regularly shutting of your TV and radio. Learn to be comfortable with silence. Practice awareness of the presence of God within you.
- Often, when a person first begins to pray, God lavishes gifts and consolations upon them in prayer for encouragement. In time, these often dissipate and it can begin to feel more like work as you grow, not only in your prayer life, but in the life of discipleship into which God is drawing you. Be encouraged! In general, it gets better and easier over time. This doesn’t mean there won’t be trials in life and even crises of faith — there will be. But persevere. Your prayer and relationship with God will adapt and mature along with you as you journey through life.
Lectio Divina Resources
Order a Lectio Divina Journal. We have two. Journey Into God has selected verses that follow a topical progression, and Light for My Path can be used with your own reading plan.