Ways to Pray: Lectio Divina

by Emily Vanden Heuvel

Order and informing prayer

Lectio Divina is a Latin term literally meaning “divine reading” or “scripture prayer.” It dates back to the 6th century. When we use Lectio Divina as a practice, we reflect on God’s Word in order to steer and inform our prayers. In Guidebook to Prayer, Mary-Kate Morse writes the following about Lectio Divina:

The living Word, Jesus Christ, lives in us and continues to teach us and fill us with his grace and truth. Therefore, in prayer, we come to Jesus to see his mind. Study is important. Discussion with others is helpful. Scholars, teachers, and pastors guide us. The Lord is light in others and in history. However, we also need a prayer style for reflecting on truth in our lived experiences.

Climbing the prayer ladder

This prayer practice is not meant to replace proper Bible study; instead, use it as a tool to cultivate a deeper, reflective emphasis on pairing your prayer with God’s Word. Any passage of the Bible will work, but the Psalms are an accessible place to start. Select a shorter passage because you will read through it several times, and so you will be able to focus intently on how God is speaking to you. Imagine that you are climbing a ladder, with each rung offering a different focus on God’s Word and how it intersects with your life. As you “climb the rungs,” you may find journaling helpful.

First Rung – Reading: Slowly read the passage out loud twice. Listen for a word or phrase that strikes your heart or connects with a prayer concern.

Second Rung – Reflecting: Read the passage a third time; this time, silently meditate on the word or phrase that was meaningful.

Third Rung – Responding: Read the passage again. As you do, ask God to show you how you should respond to the phrase that connected with you.

Fourth Rung – Receiving: Read the passage one last time; as you read rest in the truth you received from God’s Word.

We pray that this practice of Lectio Divina will help you have deeper intimacy in your relationship with God. May you grow deeper in your love for God’s Word and for his people as you pray.