Lectio Divina

The method proposed for lay persons and monastics alike in the first Christian centuries was called lectio divina, literally, "divine reading", a practice that involved reading scripture, or more exactly, listening to it. Monastics would repeat the words of the sacred text with their lips so that the body itself entered into the process. They sought to cultivate through lectio divina the capacity to listen at ever deeper levels of inward attention. Prayer was their response to the God to whom they were listening in scripture and giving praise in the liturgy.

The reflective part, pondering upon the words of the sacred text, was called meditation, "meditation". The spontaneous movement of the will in response to these reflections was called oratio, "affective prayer". As these reflections and acts of will simplified, one moved on to a state of resting in the presence of God, and that is what was meant by contemplation, "contemplation".

Thomas Keating - Open Mind, Open Heart


  1. Begin with reading, stopping when a word or phrase really "shimmers", becoming a vibrant transparency of God for you. The intent is not to get to the end of a passage but to the bottom of it in God, to the word through which God touches you now, the word that becomes an icon for you. This is not always a strong awareness. . .

  2. Move toward an understanding of God in the word: the step of reflection. This step involves the use of your cognitive capacity to reflect on the possible spiritual meaning of the word for you life, and at times for the larger community's life. Do not try to force a meaning. . . .

  3. Move to active prayer: for your heart to open to God through this word in direct communion, and for your will to open to God in responsive action, as may be called for.

  4. Finally, move to a still presence in the spaciousness of God. Seek to simply rest in your larger identity in God, through and behind the images and feelings that may rise.

A rural Southern minister, not knowing this tradition technically but knowing it in his heart, summed it up succinctly when he was asked how he prays: "I read myself full, I think myself clear, I pray myself hot, and I let myself cool" (another version of his statement ends "let myself go").


Tilden Edwards - Living in the Presence