Maybe you’ve experienced meditating on a Bible passage using the spiritual discipline of Lectio Divina. Maybe you also have a small group or a friend that you meet with for prayer. Why not combine these two practices? What a blessing it is to open God’s Word with soul friends so we can listen to the Lord together, share our hearts, and pray for one another.
In our Soul Shepherding ministry we teach people how to guide others in the Lectio Divina process to facilitate quiet prayer, listening to God, and personal sharing. This elevates a small group into a community for transformation in Christlikeness! Guiding the Lectio Divina process is something you can learn to do, first in your own personal devotions and then with a friend or small group. (See our video online course: “Growing Deeper in God’s Word“)
The beauty of guiding the Lectio Divina process is that the Spirit of Christ is the real Leader! As the guide, you’re simply assisting the Lord.
Once all the group members have arrived, greeted one another, and settled into being in the group then you’ll want to make some opening comments. If people are new to Lectio Divina then give a brief introduction to the discipline. (See our article, “Lectio Divina Groups.”) Also, it’s a good idea also to introduce the Bible passage briefly, saying a few words about the context.
Then you may want to open the Lectio Divina experience with a brief orienting prayer to help everyone transition into the space of being quiet and attentive to God. “How to Begin Lectio Divina” offers some sample prayers to get started.
Inviting the Group into Quiet Prayer
It is tempting for those who are new to Lectio Divina’s quiet, reflective way of Scripture meditation to rush the process. This is also true if you’re new to leading others in Lectio, even if you’ve had lots of personal experience with it. I urge you really to fight any sense of hurry and progress slowly through the experience.
When you’re reading the Bible passage out loud for the group look to Christ to help you to yield to the gentle, relaxed pace of His Spirit. Before you start reading it’s good to pause and take a deep breath or two, doing this as a prayer to relax your body in God’s presence. This helps you and the group members to wait upon the Lord and prepare your hearts to listen to God speak through his Word.
For reading I encourage you to leave a significant period of silence for listening, meditating, and resting in God’s words. Being quiet and still in a group may be new and difficult for some members. They may feel antsy and distracted. It takes practice to learn to let the community hold you in God’s presence — but what a blessing it is to learn this! For those who are new to Lectio Divina, it’s good to verbalize this difficulty and the learning opportunity.
I’m going to share my recommendations for how long to keep silent in the group after each reading, but you need to be prepared to adjust this according to the needs of the group or the time limitations of the meeting. During the Lectio Divina process notice the nonverbals of group members and if they seem to be struggling with the silence then you may want to shorten it some. Also, notice how long people are needing to journal and consider adapting to that. If the group needs to move on but someone seems not to be ready you might give a gentle notice of this by saying something like, “We’ll give one more minute for quiet reflection.”
The Scripture Readings
In the first reading, we focus on listening for the Holy Spirit to give us a word or phrase from the Scripture passage to meditate on. After this reading, I usually leave about five minutes of silence before inviting group members to pray out loud their word or phrase, verbalizing only that single word or phrase. I encourage a quiet pause between members sharing so that everyone can “feed off the fruit” of one another’s meditations.
After the second reading, I leave eight to ten minutes of quiet for everyone to listen (and journal about) their emotions and their life circumstance. It is important to encourage the group not to get intellectual with this but to really let their hearts hang out to God in their journaling and then the group, as each one has the opportunity to pray their response. Keeping this time with silence and then praying a response, rather than talking, helps everyone to stay connected with Christ and not get distracted or fall back into the “talking about” mode.
For the third and last reading, I leave ten to fifteen minutes of silence for listening for an invitation from the Lord and journaling. I encourage people to write down what God might be saying to them (in the first person) or a prayer of thanks for what they’re learning. Then you have a choice whether or not to invite members to pray out loud in the group the invitation they received from the Lord (either the message they heard or their prayer of thanks). Usually, I do not do this, but transition into a time of group sharing by offering a verbal “Amen.”
Personal Sharing and Group Bonding
When it’s time for group sharing, consider taking the lead to share first in order to set the tone for honest, deep, and vulnerable sharing. As we said before, avoid sharing intellectual thoughts, principles, and information about the passage. (Save that for a time of Bible Study.) Instead share how the Holy Spirit is convicting or inspiring you today and how this relates to your relationship with God, others, the life you are living, or the life that He has called you to live.
After each member has had a chance to share personally their invitation from God close the group with an opportunity for them to offer a prayer about their experience and/or for other group members. You’ll want to thank God for his invitations and ask that he help everyone to continue venturing on God in the days ahead, listening to his voice, and looking for his hand to move.
I encourage group members to keep their Lectio Divina sheets and writings in a folder or binder so they can refer back to them, as this has been so helpful to me.
A Last Word
In summary, when you’re leading a group in Lectio Divina the key is to cultivate their intimacy with Jesus, the Living Word. Pray, read the Scripture, and share with openness and emotion, engaging with Christ in the moment. Personal discoveries and group bonding will occur in this context. Group members’ experience of connecting deeply with the Lord will stay with them in daily life much better than typical Bible studies or small group discussions.
Our Lectio Divina Guides are one-page handouts that go step-by-step through guiding the Lectio Divina process for specific Bible passages with identified spiritual formation themes.
Lectio Divina Online Course
The best way to learn Lectio Divina is by having someone who has experience guide you through it. We offer this for you in our online video course “Growing Deeper in God’s Word.” Bill and Kristi show you how to meditate on Scripture, use a Breath Prayer From the Bible, listen for God’s voice, and engage in Soul Talk. They also talk about using Lectio Divina in small groups. The online course features seven videos of about 10 to 20 minutes. It also includes handouts and a small group leader’s guide. It’s easy to use and inexpensive!