How to Revive Your Prayer Through Lectio Divina

How to Revive Your Prayer Through Lectio Divina May 15, 2023

If you’re honest, sometimes your Bible reading and prayer life can get a little dull. Here’s how to revive your prayer through Lectio Divina.

How to revive your prayer through Lectio Divina. Little girl praying
Image by Tep Ro from Pixabay

 

What is Lectio Divina?

Whenever I teach Christian spirituality, I like to use the ancient framework of Lectio Divina (Latin: “Divine Reading). At one time, all Christians were taught the practice of Lectio Divina. As the tradition declined, it was kept alive in the monastic tradition. Lectio a way of fully absorbing the Word of God, waiting on God, and praying God’s word back to Him. As an example, I often use Psalm 136 to teach this practice.

 

How to Revive Your Prayer Through Lectio Divina

There are four steps in Lectio Divina. The praying person should flow freely from one step to another, effortlessly and patiently. Personally, I like to spend about an hour in this practice. I’ve chosen Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26 NIV to give an example of this.

 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords:

His love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders,

His love endures forever.

who by his understanding made the heavens,

His love endures forever.

who spread out the earth upon the waters,

His love endures forever.

who made the great lights—

His love endures forever.

the sun to govern the day,

His love endures forever.

the moon and stars to govern the night;

His love endures forever…

He remembered us in our low estate

His love endures forever.

and freed us from our enemies.

His love endures forever.

He gives food to every creature.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of heaven.

His love endures forever.

 

I use this passage because it’s easy to tell which phrase stands out above the rest. “His love endures forever” becomes a message that being repeated over and over, works its way from your head to your heart. By the time you’re done repeating this scripture, you fully grasp that God’s love endures forever.

 

  1. Lectio, or “Reading”  

    Let your prayer time begin with the Bible. Choose a scripture and read it deliberately and unhurriedly. I like to read it phrase-by-phrase, pronouncing each word slowly as if I am savoring its taste. This allows me to take time with the words, rather than skimming the verses. When you reach the end of your exhale, inhale slowly and take time to reflect on what you’ve just read before you continue reading the next bit on your next exhale.When you’ve finished reading the scripture the first time, read it again. Ask God to show you a word or phrase that stands out from that scripture. Don’t look for an entire verse—this is too long. Look for something shorter than that. Maybe just a word, or short phrase. This will be God’s special gift to you.

    Then, repeat the scripture again. Read it through several times. If you’ve carved out an hour for Lectio Divina, then let this step last about a quarter of that hour.

2. Meditatio, or “Meditation”

Take this word or phrase that you’ve found in Scripture (in this case, “His love endures forever,”) and repeat it to yourself. Breathe in slowly, whispering the phrase. Breathe out slowly, whispering the phrase. Repeat this for several minutes. Personally, I like to do this for fifteen minutes or so if I’m doing Lectio Divina for an hour. Just allow the phrase to sink in.

Some Christians are opposed to repetition, citing Jesus’ injunction against “vain repetition (Matthew 6:7).”
 “Vain” means pointless or ego-centric, and this repetition is neither. It’s a way of breaking through to my stony heart. Jacob Riis writes in Reader’s Digest:

“I look at a stone cutter hammering away at a rock a hundred times without so much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the 101st blow it splits in two. I know it was not the one blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

God’s word is like that. Repeat it enough, and it finally breaks through.

 

3. Oratio, or “Prayer”

If you’ve allowed an hour for the entire process of Lectio Divina, then spend about fifteen minutes in prayer. But don’t just go through your prayer list. Instead, pray about the word or phrase that God has given you. In this case, our phrase is “His love endures forever.”  So, spend your prayer time talking with God about enduring love. Thank God for it. Praise the divine Lover for it. Ask God for more of it. Give your enduring love back to your eternal Parent. Ask God to give enduring love to others. Let enduring love be the theme of this prayer. This is a free-form prayer time, without any script, without any right or wrong way to pray. Just allow the time with God to flow freely. If you wish, you might mark your transition from prayer to contemplation with the simple phrase, “In Jesus’ name, amen.”

 

4. Contemplatio, or “Contemplation.”

Simply put, contemplation is resting in the “amen.”  Instead of letting your “amen” mean “Ok, I’m done praying now, so I’m going to hang up the phone,” spend about a quarter-hour resting in it. “Amen” means “let it be.”  It is a word of simple reliance, trust, and resting in God’s ability to do all that you could ever ask or imagine. Psalm 46:10 (NIV) says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  Contemplation is being still, waiting on God. It’s trusting the Creator to complete what has begun in you. Contemplation is uncomplicated in that it involves no reading, no repeating, no forming your own thoughts into words. It is simple resting in God’s presence.

 

It’s Not About You

The thing to remember when practicing contemplative prayer is that it’s not about you. In fact, in contemplative prayer, the ultimate goal is to empty oneself and be in God’s presence. This doesn’t mean that you’re “opening your soul to whatever spirit wants to come in,” as some people have suggested. It means that you’re emptying yourself of ego, realizing that “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20 NIV).”  Instead of filling your mind with the things that you want or think, simply rest in the passive attitude of a person who truly means it when they say “amen.”  Let it be.

 

When Your Mind Wanders

You may find your mind wandering as you sit in silence, trying to think nothing and simply listening for God’s still, small, voice. If this happens, simply say your sacred word or phrase one time. Don’t repeat it as before. Just say it once, allowing it to bring you back to a place of silence. Sit quietly. Trust God. Listen to God. Let God fill you.

 

Revive Your Prayer Through Lectio Divina

Many Christians say that their prayer life is boring—a routine of going through their prayer list and saying “amen” before they get about the business of their day. Lectio Divina is an ancient prayer method that refreshes your soul every day. Instead of being self-centered, this practice is God-centered. I invite you to try it for yourself and see how it will revive your prayer life.

 

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