In fact, one of the most powerful of the many forms of prayer in the Christian tradition is reflection and meditation on the words of the Bible. And even within this form of prayer are a variety of specific ways of doing so.One form of praying with Scripture that’s very ancient but has also seen a resurgence among Christians over the last few decades is called lectio divina (LEK-tseeo dee-VEE-na), which is latin for divine reading. This is the approach that I (attempt to!) use, and I'd like to explain it a bit here.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="397"] Antonello da Messina, St. Jerome in His Study, 1460-1475[/caption]
Having originated in the sixth century A.D. particularly within the early monasteries founded by St. Benedict, lectio divina consists of four (or five) steps. Entire books have been written on this process (here’s a helpful blog post), and I’ll have more to say in future posts, but in summary, here are the steps:
- Reading: a slow reading of a passage from Scripture
- Meditation: a prayerful reflection on the passage
- Prayer: one’s attention now turns from the passage to God, addressing Him in light of the passage
- Contemplation: now instead of addressing God in prayer, one simply rests in His presence, contemplating Him
- (Some add Action: a resolution to a specific action based on this time of prayer)
Over the last four years lectio divina has been an important part of my own personal prayer, helping me listen more and talk less (a topic on which I have much to say, pun intended ;-).
What forms of praying with the Bible have you found helpful?