The Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina prayer practices complement each other. Fr. Thomas Keating called this a “Liturgy of Lectio Divina.” In his article “The Four Approaches to the Practice of Lectio Divina” Fr. Thomas outlines a Lectio Divina prayer method progression for groups. Access the article pdf file here.
If your group wishes to include both Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina, Fr. Thomas recommended that Centering Prayer be prayed first to open us to hear the word of God with an open heart and open mind. The fourth guideline of Centering Prayer “At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes” prepares us for the Lectio Divina prayer time. After the few minutes, we are invited to open our eyes, pick up the Bible, lectionary reading for the day or other sacred reading, and say a prayer to the Holy Spirit expressing our intention for the Lectio Divina prayer time. Then, begin reading a short passage with openness to receive a word, phrase or verse.
When a group is new to praying Lectio Divina, the scholastic method of the prayer can be used. This allows time after each moment to share the word or phrase that touches each person, their reflection and their prayer. A final faith sharing on how the scripture passage informs our life is a powerful way to end the prayer time. As the group becomes comfortable praying in community with this prayer method, the facilitator can invite the group to move to the monastic method, with freedom to follow the four moments as the Spirit leads, with a community faith sharing at the end of the prayer time.
Although both Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina methods may lead us to the gift of contemplation, they are different. It is recommended that they are not intertwined in the manner of using the fourth moment of Lectio Divina as one’s Centering Prayer time. Why? In praying holy scripture in the manner of Lectio Divina, the moments of the prayer are participatory and active as we use our thoughts, images and insights to enter into conversation with God. In the first moment we listen and receive a word, phrase or verse from the scripture, which we repeat inwardly to reflect and respond during the remainder of our prayer time. In the fourth moment of Lectio Divina we may find the conversation we are having with God is brought to God’s first language – silence (contemplatio). This contemplation time in Lectio Divina differs from that of Centering Prayer as the Spirit may draw us to reflect on or respond to how the scripture passage informs our life at this moment of our journey. Thus, the rest of Lectio Divina comes and goes as we are drawn to engage with the word, phrase or verse that was received in the first moment of the prayer. (During a period of Lectio Divina we keep our word, phrase or verse. The word, phrase or verse will change with each scripture passage that is prayed.) Note that this kind of praying with scripture is not Bible study, which is another practice that is important to our relationship with God but has a different intention and process.
The Lectio Divina Service Team hopes this recommendation from Fr. Thomas is helpful to you when combining the two prayer methods in a common prayer time while still honoring both methods of prayer and both leading, God willing, to the gift of contemplation. Please feel free to contact our team if you have questions on integrating Lectio Divina into your community prayer time. May God bless your desire to share this ancient prayer practice with those in your group.
Lectio Divina Service Team Members
Lesley O’Connor firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Potter email@example.com
Nancy Stimac firstname.lastname@example.org
Therese Coen email@example.com
Curt Paddock firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathryn Ann Kobelinski email@example.com
Other Lectio Divina Resources
“Thomas Keating – On the Classical Monastic Practice of Lectio Divina.” Go here.
Lectio Divina Brochure by Contemplative Outreach. Go here.
Contemplative Outreach Lectio Divina webpage. Go here.
Contemplative Outreach Lectio Divina History webpage. Go here.