Lectio Divina is not intended to be a hard-set law of prayer. There are steps, but the way in which these steps look may vary from person to person, or situation to situation. Group Lectio will look different than individual Lectio.
It is important to note that Lectio is not about interpretation of Scripture. What you gain from Lectio Divina is for you. It is not meant to be a way to understand what God is saying to His Church or in a broader sense. Instead it is a way to facilitate valuable time of prayer with God.
Below are the steps for Lectio and an explanation of how it might look.
LECTIO (Reading): The first step of any Lectio Divina is to read. This is not reading for knowledge, or for pleasure, this is not intended to be speed reading. This is meant to be the beginning of a conversation with God. This reading should be intentional, slow, meaningful, with ears open. Take a short scripture, and do not try to tackle too much at one time. One of the readings for the day, or a parable, or short segment from the scriptures. Take each word one at a time, listening to what is being said.
MEDITATIO (Meditation): The second step is to meditate. For some this is best done reading the passage again, taking time to pause after a sentence or two, listening for a word or phrase to strike you. Take time then to ponder what this means. This is not time to be looking interiorly toward yourself, but to meditate on what God is saying to you at this moment with this phrase, this word, this passage. Some will immerse themselves into the story, meditate on what it would be like to be a part of this passage. They might think about who they are in the story, what the words mean to them, how they are responding to the story.
ORATIO (Prayer): The third step is prayer. This is a response to that which we meditated on. An opportunity to speak to God about what this passage means to you. This is time of silence, no reading or anything else during this time. This is a time to commune with God. Tell Him what you are thinking, what is going on in your life that this speaks to. Give to God your reaction to that which was read.
CONTEMPLATIO (Contemplation): This final step is the time to listen to God. You might read through the Scripture one last time to hear if God is saying something to you directly through this. You take time to silence your heart and listen for the words of God to enter in. You ask God what change must take place within you because of this reading. You make a commitment to change, to grow, to do what the Lord is asking of you.
Use this method often in praying and in reading scripture. It will take a lifetime to develop, but as you grow in this prayer, you will grow in relationship with God.
Lectio Divina for Children
Lectio Divina can be used for all ages. It is appropriate to adapt Lectio (either by time, amount of scripture, or guidance) to the age your are praying with. Below are some ways that you can do each step with a child.
LECTIO (Reading): Read the scripture to the children slowly. Make sure that you are just choosing a couple sentences for them to focus on, or a good story they can immerse themselves in. Before reading to the children make sure to tell them to listen to each word for God to speak to them.
MEDITATIO (Meditation): Ask questions about the reading. Ask questions such as: what word is God using to speak to you? What do you think the meaning of this scripture is? What would it be like to be______?
ORATIO (Prayer): Children can have silent time. It is ok to let there be some silence. Before the silence let the children know that they are to talk to God at this time. They should tell God what they think the scripture means, they can tell Him what is going on in their lives. Then let there be a few minutes of silence.
CONTEMPLATIO (Contemplation): It is good to read the scripture again slowly. Tell them to think about the scripture and what God is asking of them, how they are supposed to be different after the prayer. After reading the scripture give a few more minutes of silence.
St. Ignatius of Loyola gave us a wonderful way to pray with Sacred Scripture by using the gift of our imaginations. Both adults and children can do this as a way to encounter the Lord in a powerful way through imaginatively meditating on God's word.
As a first step, we ask the Lord's help to pray well and we should ask for a specific grace. Next we carefully read a Gospel passage, and then place ourselves in the scene using our imagination. For example, we can imagine that we are in the place of St. John at the Last Supper, resting our head on the chest of Jesus.
Imaginatively use all the senses. For example, you can imagine you feel the coarseness of the Lord's tunic, and actually feel his heart beating. With your sense of smell, imagine the scent of oil burning in a nearby lamp. Taste the wine that the Lord has shared with you multiple times during the passover meal. Listen to the breathing of the other apostles growing heavier as they become tired at the end of the day. And most importantly, with your sense of sight, look into the eyes of Jesus and receive his gaze of unconditional love for you.
Then, after contemplating the scene with our imagination, enter into a heart-to-heart conversation with Jesus, making sure you allow time to listen and receive whatever the Lord wants to share with you. This is just one example of the Ignatian method of praying with Scripture.
For a more detailed overview, click here.