AROFPM: Lectio Divina

This is the final installment of A Really Old-Fashioned Prayer Meeting. Sunday begins Holy Week. Until Easter, we’ll be using the Scriptures in prayer, following a method called lectio divina, or holy reading.

Lectio Divina

photo credit: divina dates back to Benedict of Nursia in the fifth century. Benedict established monasteries under the guidance of his little book The Rule. In the 48th chapter, he encourages the monks to keep “specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading.”

Five centuries later, Guigo II, a Carthusian prior, codified prayerful reading of the Scripture as lectio divina. In a letter to Brother Gervase, known as Scala Paradisi, he sets out four steps or rungs on the “ladder to heaven.”

Ladder to Heaven

Read: “looking on Holy Scripture with all one’s will and wit.”

  • This is devotional reading of Scripture.
  • In this step, we make observations about the text we’ve chosen.
  • We ask, “Do I understand the basic meaning of the text?”

Meditate: “a studious insearching with the mind to know what was before concealed.”

  • This is meditative consideration of the personal impact of that Scripture.
  • In this step, we seek the intersection between what the text says and our own experiences.
  • Now we ask, “What does it mean to me?”

Pray: “a devout desiring of the heart to get what is good and avoid what is evil.”

  • This is our verbal response to the reading and meditation.
  • Now that we’ve listened to the text and to God in meditation, it is our turn to talk.
  • We decide, “What do I want to tell God or ask God as a result of what I’ve heard?”

Contemplate: “lifting up of the heart to God.”

  • This is our nonverbal response through active and passive reception.
  • On this rung, we stop processing and talking and rest with God.
  • Our questions become, “How will I wait with this conversation? How do I stay with it and rest in it?”

Resources for Practicing Lectio Divina

You can find a more in-depth guide to these steps here. You’ll find concordances and dictionaries for understanding what words in Scripture mean as well as commentaries and other resources here. Sometimes reading a passage in multiple versions adds light to your understanding. You can find versions here.

Not sure what to read? How about following the daily office Gospel readings through Easter:

What Next

Homework: Practice lectio divina.

Pray More: Perhaps you’ve found something in these five weeks of Lenten prayer that you’d like to try again. Perhaps your prayer habit got giggled out of a rut and you’re ready to reengage. Perhaps you’ll join a small group for more prayer, fellowship, service and study or you’ll introduce prayer into your existing group.

Continue Online: If you liked the online influence, encouraging you to prayer, you might like Prayer Light: 30 Days of Playing with Prayer. This is an online prayer project beginning Easter Monday (April 9, 2012). It will reflect the celebration of Easter tide with easy, light, fun, playful prayer projects for each day. You can find it here or on Facebook’s Ten Ways to Pray page.


“You yourselves are a letter, . . . known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, . . . written with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor 3:2–3 NIV).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s