LECTIO DEVINA (HOLY READING)
This exercise is not intended to introduce you to something new. It is meant to allow you to
experience and feed on what you know. Regular reading of the Bible extends the breadth
of our familiarity with Scripture. In 'holy reading' we absorb the Word in depth.
- Spend a few minutes settling down and pray that your heart may be
opened and receptive to the gift God knows you need today. Only the
Breath, the Spirit of God, can bring the word to life. Let your own
breathing become more deep-seated, gentler, from lower down, as you
invite the Spirit to pray in you afresh.
- Begin reading at the place you have previously chosen, and read on very slowly indeed with an open mind. Don't study the
text, just read it slowly, aloud if you find that helpful. This is the "lectio", or reading.
- When a particular sentence or phrase or single word "lights up"
or "rings a bell", seems striking or inviting, put the Bible down.
Resist the temptation to go on, and do not start thinking up reasons
why the phrase has claimed your attention. Here the reading stops and
the "meditatio" begins, the absorption through repetition. So, for
example, you might be reading the tenth chapter of John's gospel where
Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd. As you come to verse 14,
these words seem to have a special allure, "I know my own, and my own
know me". This is the verse you now meditate with.
- Gently repeat this phrase or word again and again within the
heart. Don't project them outward. Let the repetititon be gentle and
not mechanical. There is no need to conjure up any mental picture to
accompany the words or to try to make yourself feel any particular
emotion as you speak them. Resist the temptation to force particular
lessons or meanings from the words. You know what the word means well
enough; the repetition is to allow you to savour and relish them at an
intuitive level. After some time you may find a longer sentence or
phrase has shortened itself to a single word. Gradually allow yourself
to be absorbed in the word. So, "Peace be with you. As the Father sent
me, so I send you," might become distilled into the single word "peace"
In time you will become aware of an impression that the words have made on you. They
have evoked a particular feeling or attitude. When you have become aware of this there is
no need to prolong the repetition. Now is the time for "oratio", the praying of your
- Express to God in the simplest way the impression the words have made on you. You may want to thank God for the gift
they convey, ask the questions they have stirred in you, put into words the longings and needs they have brought up. Keep it
simple, praying spontaneously. Or you may want to respond by remaining in loving silence in the presence of God, appreciating
the grace or attitude the word of scripture has instilled. Your prayer may move into contemplation, a simple being in Christ
with God in which all you are aware of is that you are being attracted towards God like the needle of a compass finding the
- After some time you will not be able to sustain your spontaneous praying or state of loving awareness. Distractions set in.
You may bring the prayer time to a close with thanksgiving or by reciting the Lord's Prayer. If you have time and opportunity,
you may feel drawn to begin the process again by returning to the Scripture. Begin at the point where you left off and continue
with the reading expecting to be touched again by another word.
A word about repeating the phrase. There should be nothing artificial and mechanically
regular about it. The words of an Orthodox monk teaching about the "Jesus prayer", in
which the name of Jesus is repeated many times, are helpful. The repetition "may be
likened to the beating of wings by which a bird rises into the air. It must never be boring
and forced, or hurried, or in the nature of flapping. It must be gentle, easy and - let us give
to this word its deepest meaning - graceful. When the bird has reached the desired height it
glides in its flight, and only beats its wings from time to time in order to stay in the air ...
The repetition will only be resumed when other thoughts threaten to crowd out the thought
of Jesus. Then the invocation will start again in order to gain fresh impetus."
EXERCISE OUTLINE 1
- Make yourself at home in your room, create a sanctuary, a place in which you will feel comfortable to meet with God.
- Spend some time collecting and relaxing yourself in God's presence.
- Pray for the grace of a renewed and fresh confidence in God's personal love for you.
- Spend time with JOHN 17 : 20-26; praying the scripture (you can substitute any reading this is merely an example).
- From time to time during your time of prayer you may want to express your feelings and thoughts to the Lord.
- Take a break and review the exercise; write your experience down in your journal. The notes on the review of our prayer
may help you in this part of the exercise.
EXERCISE OUTLINE 2: (You have 20-30
- Open your bible to Matthew 5: 1-16. Leave it open in front of you.
- Enter into God's presence in prayer, asking that His Spirit will bring His word to life for you.
- Slow down. Consciously slow down your breathing; breathe deeper, more gently, invite the Holy Spirit into your life.
- Read the scripture (Matthew 5: 1-16) slowly. (Do not analyse or study it.) Allow the Holy Spirit to
- When a word or phrase "lights up" or "rings a bell", put your bible down, concentrate on God's word to you by repeating it
(gently, not mechanically). Do not force any response/emotion; allow the Holy Spirit to work.
- As you become aware of the impression (feeling/attitude) God's word has made on you, respond to God in prayer, or in
silence if you wish. Be with Christ, bask in His love.
- As distractions set in, close your prayer off in whatever way you want (you may wish to say the Lord's Prayer).