Sometimes, as this previous post outlined, we read Scripture primarily to understand the story or the event. Other times we read Scripture with desire so that Scripture can help us to grow spiritually, so that Scripture can help to shape us into who God is calling us to be. One approach that can help us read scripture for Formation is called Lectio Divina, which is Latin for “Divine Reading”. Lectio Divina is a four step process; each step is has a Latin name, but don’t let that deter you. No special knowledge of languages–Latin or otherwise–is needed to use this method. This method works best with short sections of Scripture (so it is a good approach to use if you are reading 5 verses a day_
The four steps are:
Lectio or Read: Begin with a brief prayer, like “Speak to me, Lord. I’m listening” Then read the passage through slowly, out loud if possible. Pay attention for words or phrases that stand out to you. Some practitioners of lectio read the passage two or three times before moving to the next step.
Meditatio or Meditation: begin reading the passage again, but when a word stands out to you or provokes a response in you, pause. Hold the word in your mind and heart. Ponder the word, what it means, and why you responded to it.
Oratio or Prayer: Offer the word and your responses up to God in prayer. Have a conversation with God about the word and/or the whole passage. It’s o.k. to say “I don’t understand this” or even “I don’t like this.” Be honest with God about your response to the passage, and listen to God’s leading.
Contemplatio or Contemplation: Rest in God’s presence; let your mind and soul be still and trust God’s presence is around you.
NOTE: Lectio is a very flexible pratice, and different people offer different approaches to it. For example, in Adam Hamilton’s book The Walk, he puts Contemplatio/ (Contemplation) before Oratio (Prayer), and for him contemplation is more about actively pondering and asking questions and less about resting in God’s presence.
If you would like a more detailed description/directions for using Lectio Divina, you may find this site helpful.