“The first 1,500 years of church history were characterized by the practice of Lectio Divina. Since many people were illiterate and many that could read didn’t have Bibles, Lectio Divina offered a way of attending to Scripture as it was read in church, with an ear to listening for a word from God. A brief and memorable word or phrase became bread for the soul throughout the week. Devotional reading (Lectio Divina) is not an exercise in mentally critiquing or exegeting the text. It exists to further divine companionship. Lectio Divina invites us into God’s presence to listen for His particular, loving word to me at this particular moment in time.” – From the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
My first introduction to Lectio Divina that I can recall was during my first yoga teacher training. Daily meditation was a program requirement and Lectio Divina was one framework for meditation we were presented with to explore during our training. I remember reading about it in our training guide and thinking. ‘sure, that sounds great’ and then skimmed over to other options. It wasn’t until I was actually guided through the practice it at the end of a yoga asana practice I found out how much I enjoyed this way of soaking in scripture. To have the words read over and over slowly, as if savouring each one as a bite of the best meal, and to allow the words to speak to you and notice what comes up in your depths was simply inviting and captivating. One small piece of scripture was like a downpour of insight, love and connection to the Divine.
The practice of Lectio Divina is an opportunity for us to know God more and is a practice designed to grow your relationship with God deeper. It’s a little less about studying scripture (head knowledge) and more of an intimate, soul knowing where you allow the Holy Spirit and the words of scripture to meet you right where you’re at. It truly is a movement from head to the heart.
The traditional practice of Lectio Divina with 5 movements (which you’ll read more about below) is the most basic form. There are ways to also take this practice deeper by studying of scripture prior to Lectio Divina. During yoga asana classes, I will often present scripture at the beginning with our core lesson. Once we move through the class as an embodied way to express the lesson we are learning, we practice a shortened form of Lectio Divina on the same scripture used throughout the class. Having the opportunity to learn, move and breathe through scripture then practice Lectio Divina also adds another element to the practice to continually take you deeper into your relationship with God.
Let’s dive into the 5 movements of Lectio Divina so you can engage this beautiful practice right where you’re at!
First, start by finding a piece of scripture that you’d like to meditate on. I love meditating on Philippians 4:8
Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]. – Philippians 4:8 AMP
Then, we move onto the practice:
- Movement 1 – Silencio – Quiet preparation of the heart.
Find a comfortable seat, silence the noise around you. Slow down. Pray to God releasing tension and anything filling your mind over to Him. Acknowledge the presence of God meeting you in the place where you are. This is a great space to close your eyes, breathe and allow yourself to become present right here, right now.
- Movement 2 – Lectio – Read the word.
Read the passage of scripture you’ve selected slowly. Slower than you’d probably like to. Read it out loud if you can. Linger on words, let them drip out of your mouth slowly like honey dripping from a spoon. If a word or phrase catches your attention, stop for a moment and simply savour the moment of the living word of God speaking to you. Why does it stand out? Enjoy this moment.
- Movement 3 – Mediatio – Meditate.
Read the passage of scripture again. Outloud if you can. And, once more, savour the words you are reading as you read through the scripture slowly. Listen for an invitation God may be bringing forward to you through the words. Maybe something stands out again, maybe something is stirring in your heart. As things begin to light up to you, explore the invitation. In scripture we read of when Mary found out she was going to give birth to Jesus and scripture tells us in Luke 2:19 “But Mary treasured all these things, giving careful thought to them and pondering them in her heart.”
- Movement 4 – Oratio – Respond + Pray.
Read the scripture for the third and final time. Now you can enter into a personal dialogue with God. Notice what God is saying through the word and respond truthfully and authentically. What do you feel after reading? Where do you feel tension or peace? What words cultivated that inside of you? Talk to God about what is coming up for you in prayer.
- Movement 5 – Contemplatio – Contemplation.
Rest in the beautiful presence of God. Allow yourself time to sit and let what you’ve experienced sink in. If you’d like, you can turn what stood out to you most or perhaps what a take away from the practice was with you as a breath prayer for the day or you could put a reminder in your phone to go off a few times during the day as a reminder. Take at least 10 deep breaths here practicing contemplation enjoying the presence of God.
I’ve also included a link below to a Lectio Divina meditation on Philippians 4:8 which allows the space between each reading to rest in the presence of God and enjoy contemplating the prompt provided– noticing what is there for you in this passage of scripture. I’d love to encourage you to find a quiet space, a comfortable seat and enjoy as we allow this scripture to move from Head to Heart as we practice Lectio Divina Meditation together.