Lectio Divina: An Ancient Contemplative Prayer

Lectio Divina: An Ancient Contemplative Prayer

Prayer styles and practices that lead to contemplation help us get out of the way of ourselves. They help silence our minds, so that we can listen to God. Here, the Benedictine Sisters and Oblates share their practice of Lectio Divina in the hope that it may help you listen, too. 

Lectio Divina – literally, Sacred Reading – was a practice formalized by St. Benedict that is still used in Benedictine monasteries across the globe today.

A 4-step prayer, it begins with reading a short piece of Holy Scripture and ends in silence, resting in God. (Simple instructions are offered at the end of this article.)

Contemplative prayer practices help me be more present to the moment, the person, the event,” Sister Margaret Murphy says.

“They help me see reality the way God sees it, so that in everything – dusting a table, sorting papers, writing a poem – I bring presence to that.”

Sr. Margaret will help teach an introductory program on Lectio at Benet House this fall. Another teacher, Benedictine Oblate Linda Clewell, will join her.

“Lectio Divina helps keep me grounded and in God’s presence,” Linda says.

“It’s most commonly done with Scripture, but also can be done with music, nature, poetry. You sit with the Word in God’s presence, then think about it during the day.”

Like Sr. Margaret, Linda says it helps keep her mindful of God no matter what she’s doing.

“You can do something – drive somewhere, maybe – and not see anything in particular. Just arrive.

"But if you are in the practice of contemplation you see everything and see it differently. You are awake not just in mind but in heart.”

How to practice Lectio Divina:

1. Quiet yourself. You can begin with a simple word prayer, or breathing exercises.

2. Open your Bible and read 2 or 3 lines slowly. In silence, let the words simply rest in you.

3. Read the text again. This time, interact with it. Ponder it. Speak with God about it. Is there a word or phrase that speaks to you? What is it saying to you?

4. Read the text again. This time, simply rest in the words. Thank God for being with you both in words and in silence.

As you go through your day, continue to ponder the reading and what you experienced in it. It will, as Father Michael Casey, OSB writes, provide "a place to which we can return momentarily to center ourselves and, perhaps, find peace in the midst of busyness."

What contemplative practices might you use to increase your awareness of God? How might you ready yourself to respond to the “wonderful contemplative experiences” all around?

We will continue to share more contemplative practices from the Benedictine Sisters in posts to come.

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