Frequently Asked Questions - Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina, literally divine reading,’ is an ancient Christian practice of praying the Scriptures. During Lectio Divina, a person listens to or reads the text of the Bible with the ‘ear of the heart,’ as if he or she is in conversation with God, and God is suggesting the topics for discussion. The method of Lectio Divina includes moments of reading (lectio), reflecting on (meditatio), responding to (oratio) and resting in (contemplatio) the Word of God with the aim of nourishing and deepening one's relationship with the Divine.

Like Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina cultivates contemplative prayer. Unlike Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina is a participatory, active practice that uses thoughts, images and insights to enter into a conversation with God. Lectio Divina also is distinguished from reading the Bible for edification or encouragement, Bible study, and praying the Scriptures in common, which are all useful but different practices.

Lectio Divina can be learned in several ways.  One way is by attending a local Lectio Divina one-day introductory workshop or a weekend or long-term Lectio Divina retreat. In addition, many regular Centering Prayer retreats include some form of community Lectio Divina.

There are also Lectio Divina immersion retreats.  You can search our online calendar to see if there is a workshop or retreat near you.

You can also learn the method through an online course.  Contemplative Outreach and Spirituality and Practice have developed an online, on-demand course that you can take anywhere, anytime you have internet access.  You can find more information here.

If you are a beginner to this prayer form it is suggested that you follow the scholastic form of Lectio Divina. This form involves reading the scripture passage four times while listening for a particular prompting.

Lectio – as you read the word of God be aware of any word or phrase that catches your attention. Pause for reflection.

Meditatio – as you read the Word of God be aware of any reflection or thought that comes to you. Pause for reflection.

Oratio – as you read the Word of God this time be aware of any prayer that rises up within you that expresses what you are experiencing in this Word of God. Pray this prayer.

Contemplatio – as you read the Word of God this time just allow yourself to sit with the Word and allow it to deepen within your heart.  

At the end you might just thank God for the gift you have received.

You might want to alternate reading the Word out loud.

As you gain experience, feel free to follow the monastic form of Lectio Divina by allowing yourself to freely move in any order from one moment to another as the Spirit guides you.

If a Centering Prayer Support Group is open to praying Holy Scripture; here is a suggestion on integrating the prayer methods into their time together. After your vestibule prayer, begin your time together with Centering Prayer.  After the prayer period, give a few minutes to slowly become aware of the movement into the praying Scripture. Begin with an invitation to pray including announcing the Scripture Passage which will be prayed. If your group is new to praying the Lectio Divina prayer method, use the scholastic method of the prayer by allowing time after each moment to share quietly the word or phrase that touched each person, their reflection and their prayer. A final faith sharing on how the scripture informed their life is a powerful way to end the prayer period. Over time, as the group becomes comfortable with the prayer method, the facilitator may choose to lead the four moments having a faith sharing only at the end of the prayer. The Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina prayer practices complement each other. We recommend Centering Prayer first when praying the prayers together, as its receptivity opens one to hear the Word and allow its deeper meaning to impact (touch) our lives. We also find that the Rest of Lectio Divina is a different method than that of Centering Prayer, so to keep the methods separate we don't recommend praying Lectio Divina and going into Centering Prayer as the last moment of rest.

Lectio Divina is primarily a private prayer. It is a way of praying the Scriptures. When prayed privately, the movements of the prayer are free-flowing, responding to the movements of the Spirit within. However, Lectio Divina can be adapted to a group setting. The primary difference is that the facilitator moves the group through the different moments as a group.  A prayer group leader can lead a Lectio Divina session, provided they have a basic understanding of the format of the Lectio Divina method. Another difference could be faith sharing.  Many groups take time to share the word or phrase that presented itself to them, or the ponderings that came up, or the prayer that came from their heart. Whatever it is that they feel safe to share in the group. This faith sharing sometimes continues the group’s pondering and informs their lives.

If you are not affiliated with a local Contemplative Outreach chapter, first seek permission from your church pastor or minister to host a Lectio Divina (Praying Holy Scriptures) Introductory Program (this program consists of the introductory workshop to Lectio Divina and six follow-up sessions). Then, contact the nearest chapter coordinator in your area and collaborate with the coordinator to present the introductory program. If there is not a chapter in your area, contact the regional representative listed for your region to assist in planning the program. You may search for local contacts under Community.

Lectio Divina Centering Prayer
Participatory Receptive
Active Passive
More Concentrative More Receptive
Word of Scripture has content Sacred Word has no conceptual content except intentionality
Use thoughts, images, and insights Let go of thoughts, images, insights
Stresses our relationship w/God Stresses ones’ intimacy with God
Supports the motivation for the practice of Centering Prayer Supports the motivation for practice of Lectio Divina.
Rest comes and goes; is not permanent Rest sustained by use of sacred word
Focuses on the terms of the relationship Helps us overcome the obstacles to living the terms of the relationship
Group or private Group or private

 

Summary

Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina are two distinct prayer forms.  If used together there is always a break between these two ways of praying.  It is helpful to have a period of Centering Prayer before a period of Lectio Divina if the group is familiar with both kinds of prayer.

Gift of Centering Prayer to Lectio Divina

There are three obstacles to the journey; over conceptualization, hyperactivity and over dependence on self.  Centering Prayer helps us get beyond these obstacles and settle into the quiet as we listen to the scriptures, Lectio Divina, in a contemplative manner.  Centering Prayer opens us to new thoughts, new action and a deeper dependence on God.

Gift of Lectio Divina to Centering Prayer

Lectio Divina, the praying of Sacred Scripture, deepens our personal relationship with God.

It calls us to rest in God’s transforming presence.  Lectio Divina teaches us who God is and who we are.

A.  Formation Training Program for Presenters of Lectio Divina

The present design of the formation training for Lectio Divina presenters is to give the future presenters an experience of an introductory workshop.  This is followed by a two-hour session clarifying the contents of the presenter’s handbook, giving the participants an opportunity to facilitate a group prayer experience, and answering any questions that might arise.  This formation is “piggy backing” on the formation for presenters of Centering Prayer so it can be understood as an additional module of the basic training of presenters.

If the training program is conducted in a chapter setting, it is recommended that the coordinator assist the presenters-in-training by offering a one-day opportunity for the presenters-in-training to practice with each other, giving the introductory workshop.  This will give the presenters-in-training an opportunity to give at least one of the talks and respond to the questions of the other presenters-in-training.

B. Criteria for Qualified Presenters

In order to become a qualified presenter of Lectio Divina under the auspices of Contemplative Outreach a person must meet the following criteria:

  1. Is committed to a daily practice of Centering Prayer.
  2. Is committed to a regular practice of Lectio Divina.
  3. Is a commissioned presenter of Centering Prayer
  4. Attended a Lectio Divina Introductory Workshop and presenter’s formation at the end of the workshop.
  5. Attends foundational workshops and retreats offered by Contemplative Outreach.
  6. Accepts the Contemplative Outreach Vision Statement and Theological Principles.
  7. Where applicable, is recommended by the local coordinator or by one of the resource personnel.
  8. Becomes familiar with the bibliography on Lectio Divina reading some of the books and viewing some of the videos.
  9. During this time of training the presenter needs to have a mentor (either a commissioned presenter of Lectio Divina or someone from the approved mentor list.

C. Process of Commissioning Presenters of Lectio Divina

After fulfilling the aforementioned criteria, a person may become a commissioned presenter of Lectio Divina by completing the following process:

  • A Candidate for Presenter-in-training attends a Lectio Divina Formation Workshop and Training following the recommendation of their Chapter coordinator (if applicable). The Formation staff of the Lectio Divina training program gives each qualified Candidate a copy of the Commitment Sheet and the Commissioning Approval Form and reviews the commissioning requirements with them. The Presenter-in-Training is responsible for his/her Commissioning Approval Form document throughout the training period.
  • The Candidate selects a mentor, either a commissioned presenter of Lectio Divina or a resource person from the list in the Resource Manual, to mentor them as they give workshops. The Candidate completes and signs the Commitment Sheet accepting commissioning as a Presenter-In-Training for the Lectio Divina Introductory Workshop and gives this to the Formation staff.  
  • Formation staff sends the list of qualified candidates who have accepted commissioning as a Presenter-In-Training to the Contemplative Outreach Resource Center (CORC), together with their Commitment Sheets.  Candidates are coded on CORC database as Presenters-in-Training for Lectio Divina Introductory Workshop.  CORC notifies the candidate’s mentor and coordinator of the candidate’s commissioning as a Presenter-in-Training and that the candidate will contact them soon.
  • Candidates contact their mentor and inform their coordinator that they are a Presenter-in-Training for the Lectio Divina Introductory Workshop.
  • Ideally, the mentoring is done by observing the Presenter-in-Training give at least one workshop on Lectio Divina.  If this is not possible, due to distance or other factors, other ways may be substituted such as: audio or video recording of the presentation for mentor evaluation or the mentor may appoint the local coordinator or a commissioned presenter to observe the presentation.
  • The Mentor observes the Presenter-in-Training giving the workshop.  They review the evaluations and the Presenter-in-Training writes a one-page reflection note on their personal experience and what they’ve learned in giving the workshop.  This is shared with their Mentor in the month following the workshop.
  • If it is not possible for the Mentor to be present to observe the Presenter-in-Training’s presentation, the Presenter-in-Training can send the evaluations and their reflection note to their Mentor.  The Mentor responds by critiquing the evaluations and reflection note of the Presenter-in-Training and sending the Presenter-in-Training their response.  
  • Presenters-in-Training are to have at least two experiences of presenting or co-presenting a workshop.  During these two workshops the Presenter-in-Training needs to present each of the four conferences at least once.
  • When the Presenter-in-Training feels ready to be commissioned and has presented at least two workshops, he/she indicates the workshops given on the Approval Form, has it signed by his/her Mentor recommending full commissioning, then sends it to the CORC.
  • The CORC sends an appointment letter to the Presenter-in-Training indicating full commissioning as a Presenter of Lectio Divina Introductory Workshops.  The person is coded on the database as a Lectio Divina commissioned presenter.  Individual files are kept at the CORC for each person who has been commissioned.  A copy of the appointment letter is sent to the Presenter’s Coordinator. 
  • The Coordinator of the newly commissioned presenter of Lectio Divina is encouraged to help the new Presenter schedule Lectio Divina workshops in their area.
  • A Presenter-in-Training need not wait to practice skills until a Lectio Divina workshop is hosted.  They may:
  • Present to small prayer groups as a refresher
  • Present at a Day or ½ Day of Prayer
  • Present to a group of presenters or facilitators
  • Present at a leadership gathering as a spiritual enrichment opportunity.

D. Sharing Lectio Divina with Others Without Commissioning

Although the above criteria and commissioning procedure is required of those who want to represent Contemplative Outreach, Ltd in presenting Lectio Divina, there is no restriction on your presentation of Lectio Divina without associating it with Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. If your desire is to make Lectio Divina available to fellow parishioners, as many churches have been encouraging, then there are plenty of materials available for a parish to have a successful program without the Contemplative Outreach, Ltd name being attached. For example, Stephen Binz has written books on Lectio Divina that can be used with small groups. Since one does not need to be a practitioner of Centering Prayer in order to practice Lectio Divina, you can work with your parish to have a seasonal Lectio Divina program using one of Mr. Binz’s books or any other resources you find helpful.

There are important reasons why a commissioned presenter of the Introduction to Lectio Divina Workshop is required to be a commissioned presenter of Centering Prayer. The following are the principal reasons for this requirement:

  • Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer are the two core practices of Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. They compliment and support each other, yet they are two distinct practices, each with its own integrity. Therefore, it is important that a presenter of the Lectio Divina Introductory Workshop be experienced in both practices, and in their presentations, so that their distinctive differences can be clearly articulated.
  • The presentation of these workshops is more in the nature of a transmission rather than a presentation. One teaches from the depth of one’s experience of the prayer, rather than from certain knowledge one has gained through study.
    • The Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. presenter training is a 6-day intensive residential course that instills presentation skills in the presenters, as well as deepens and forms their practice, so that they are better prepared for this transmission. Presenters work in small groups to learn about group dynamics and how best to transmit the prayer in the manner that maintains the integrity of the teachings of Fr. Thomas Keating.
    • While the subject matter is different, the actual manner of presentation of Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina is much the same. Therefore, we rely on Centering Prayer training to provide the necessary skills and experience in presenting that can easily be adapted to the presentation of Lectio Divina.
    • The experience of presenting the Centering Prayer workshop during the course of commissioning provides valuable experience that will enhance one’s presentation of Lectio Divina.
    • If we did not require that a presenter of Lectio Divina first be a commissioned presenter of Centering Prayer we would need to have a separate 6-day training to properly form presenters as outlined above. In addition, many presenters would lack the depth of experience and knowledge that a commissioned presenter of Centering Prayer has developed.