How to Begin Lectio Divina

Many people visit SoulShepherding.org to learn how to practice Lectio Divina in their private devotions or for leading a small group. I’m not surprised because of all the spiritual exercises that we use in our personal devotions and in our spiritual mentoring and retreats for others, Lectio Divina is one of the most helpful.

The ancient practice of Lectio Divina helps people to hear God’s voice through Scripture, pray about personal issues they’re struggling with, bond with others in a group, and grow in their intimacy with the Lord.

Learning Lectio Divina

I always tell people that the best way to learn to practice Lectio Divina — especially if you want to lead other people in it — is to start by letting someone who is trained lead you in the experience. This way you can absorb the tone, pacing, and spirit that are most important.

What do I Say to Begin a Lectio?

Of course, there is no formal, no “right” way to begin Lectio Divina. For people who are unfamiliar with this ancient way of meditating on Scripture, it’s good to provide them with a brief explanation. Our article on Lectio Divina explains it in detail and with examples.

I have found it helpful to begin Lectio Divina with a short transitional prayer based in Scripture, followed by a silent pause. Perhaps one of these examples will give you an idea:

  • Dear Lord, as we begin this time of Lectio Divina in your holy Bible we open our hearts to listen to you. We know that even a child can hear your voice. We pray with the little boy Samuel, “Speak Lord, for your servants are listening” (1 Samuel 3:9, 10).
  • You are the Potter, O Lord, and we are the clay in your hands. As we meditate on Scripture may your words form our hearts to be more like Jesus Christ. (Inspired by Isiah 64:8 and Psalm 33:15).
  • Lord Jesus Christ, “You alone have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). You are the Word made flesh (John 1:14). We come to you in this time of Lectio Divina, eager to hear from you.
  • Dear God, when you speak you impart life (Genesis 1). Your words are living and active (Hebrews 4:12). All of Scripture is inspired by you and useful to train us to become more like Jesus (2 Timothy 3:16). We ask you to speak to us through this Bible passage and help us to apply your grace and truth to our lives today.

A Sample Format

Opening Prayer (Group leader initiates group members reading out loud): “One thing I have asked of the Lord, this is what I seek; That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to behold the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

Silent prayer of seeking (community silence for one to four minutes, depending upon the comfort level of group members)

Declaration of faith (Group leader breaks the silence and all group member follow the leader in repeating out loud): “To whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God. Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory.”

Lectio Divina Passage (Reading and Re-Reading of Scripture): See my article, “Lectio Divina” for questions to guide each reading of the Bible passage and how to use silence and journaling.

Saint Patrick’s Prayer (group members repeat out loud):

Christ, as a light illumine and guide me.

Christ, as a shield overshadow me.

Christ under me; Christ over me;

Christ beside me; on my left and my right.

This day be within and without me,

Lowly and meek, yet all powerful.

Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;

In the mouth of each who speaks unto me.

This day be within and without me,

Lowly and meek, yet all powerful.

Christ as a light; Christ as a shield;

Christ beside me on my left and my right.

Intercession: Silent Prayer for those on your left and then on your right (about one minute each)

Benediction (group members repeat out loud): “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

More Lectio Divina

Quiet your heart to listen to God in Scripture so you can better hear the Lord’s voice and grow spiritually. These field-tested guides use Benedict’s classic approach to meditation. These Lectio Divina Guides are a great tool for personal devotions, spiritual mentoring, retreats, and small groups.

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