Lectio Divina – Divine Reading – Prayerfully Reading the Bible

From time to time people question me as to how they should read the Bible, is there a best way, or how do I even start?  Personally, I like to just listen to the Bible on audible until I hear from God. Lectio Divina works with an audio version of the Bible as well as the written. If fact Lectio Divina was originally a communal exercise with reading alternating with prayer and quiet contemplation.

Notable Christian writers and leaders during the first seven centuries are referred to as the Church Fathers. It was during the 3rd century in which Origen, a Church Father, talked of divine reading to his former student, Gregory the Thaumaturgus, Bishop of Cæsarea:

“3. Personal Appeal – Do you then, sir, my son, study first of all the divine Scriptures. Study them I say…. And do not be content with knocking and seeking, for what is most necessary for understanding divine things is prayer ,… May you partake in these; may you have an always increasing share of them, so that you may be able to say not only, We are partakers of Christ, Hebrews 3:14 but also We are partakers of God.(1)

“Divine Reading” refers to a specific practice. The next time you feel God leading you to read the Bible and you are not know how, try Lectio Divina.

Matthew 7:7 forms the base for this method of Divine Reading:

  7Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

John of the Cross, born 100 years after the first voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1542, put it this way:

Seek in reading
and you will find in meditation;
knock in prayer
and it will be opened to you in contemplation —  John of the Cross. (2)

An example – I sit down in a comfortable chair and ask God to speak with me as I open my Bible to the book of Jude. I then read “24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Then I would meditate – think about what the Spirit might be leading me to think about. At this meditate stage I might often repeat the verse or even memorize parts of the passage. Then I would pray – talk to God about the passage. I might ask God to show me more understanding in  (“make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy”). Then I would contemplate, wait quietly until God speaks. For me the main difference between meditation and contemplation is my action. In meditation I am active in moving my thoughts, while in contemplation I attempt to be passive, quietly waiting on God.

This may take a while or happen right away, it can be a small comfort or a pouring out as when Jesus opened the minds of those who heard Him.

The simple goal of Lectio Divina is to spend time in communion with God.


(1) Translated by Allan Menzies. From Ante-Nicene FathersVol. 9. Edited by Allan Menzies. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1896.Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1014.htm>.

(2) The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez, rev. ed. (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1991), p. 97