Lectio Divina – An Ancient Way of Praying with Scripture

274832_6873I’ve been using Lectio Divina as an alternative to preaching and an alternative to the “traditional” bible study for a while now.  What follows is an instruction sheet for using Lectio Divina in worship.

Lectio divina refers in Latin to the practice of “divine reading.” This form of spiritual reading originated in the Benedictine tradition and involves a deeply personal and prayerful encounter with the presence of God through sacred scripture. Lectio divina invites us to listen individually and collectively to the word of God with our whole being and our longing to be touched, healed and transformed by the Holy Spirit.

In order to practice lectio divina, take time to dispose the group for prayer in whatever way is natural and customary. This may be a spoken prayer to God to be open more fully to the Spirit, a gentle relaxation process that focuses on breathing, singing or chanting, or simply a few minutes of silence to empty persons of thoughts, images, and emotions.

In the space of a worship service I might provide textas, paints, paper & playdough or other material in the space to help people meditate on the words, children in particular are great at using the material to help them contemplate the reading and questions.

If you’re using the process in worship feel free to add a chorus or hymn between each stage, but make sure you’ve allowed for enough time to reflect on the text before you, don’t be afraid of silence and feel that you’ve got to hurry up and add the song straight away. That being said, please don’t assume that because you’re using this in a worship service that you need to use music, have faith that the process will allow the community to worship and connect with God in a different way than you may do so normally.

Step 1

The passage is read aloud once in a prayerful and unhurried way. Invite persons in the group to simply take in the passage during the first reading and allow it to “register.”

Pause for a couple of minutes after the first reading.

Before starting the second reading invite persons to listen for a word or a phrase that “shimmers” or reverberates in them. What is the word that attracts, touches, or even disturbs? Read the text again, this time a little slower than the first reading.

After the second reading, ask each person to share the word or phrase that has touched them. Allow this to be a slow movement with ample time between the speaking.  You might also allow for some time for people to paint, draw, mould their word in the material you’ve provided.

Step 2

The passage is read aloud a third time (perhaps by a second person)

Invite the persons in the group to attend to the way this text connects to their life at this moment. Consider how it relates to what they have seen and heard this day? How does it speak to what is happening at home, at work, in their leisure time, in their community, in the world?

After the reading take an extended time if desired, to explore this connection in thought, in journaling, in art, or in movement. How is God present to you there? What is God like for you in your life? Is God calling you individually or collectively to any particular response in your present situation?

Briefly share with the whole group what you have heard or discovered.

Step 3

The passage is read aloud a fourth time (perhaps by another person)

Invite the group to listen for an invitation in the text, consider if there is something in the text that is inviting something of you.

Take an extended time , if desired, to explore this connection in thought, in journaling, in art, or in movement.

Briefly share with the whole group what you have heard or discovered.

Close with an extended time of silence, simply resting quietly in the presence of God. A spoken prayer or blessing may complete the silence.

*Note: I’ve regularly left this question unanswered so as to allow it to hang in the community’s minds as they leave the space, or so as to talk about during coffee or tea after the service.


*Instructions sourced and adapted from the Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project

Download instructions as a Powerpoint file for use in worship

Download instructions as a Keynote file for use in worship

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