This is a very brief “cheat sheet” on using lectio divina in times of personal solitude with God.
Be alone. Prepare your heart and mind. Then:
- Read – Out loud? Repeat.
- Reflect – Think it over. What stands out?
- Respond – Speak to God.
- Receive – Let go and listen.
Jesus often withdrew to be alone and pray. I find that in praying it is easy to speak but difficult to listen. Using lectio divina as a way to structure prayer time with scripture is helpful in getting started with personal times of solitude and silence in prayer that help to preserve our attachment as branches to the vine.
More details for each step are below.
Find a relatively quiet place where you can be alone and undisturbed. Make yourself comfortable, but not so comfortable that avoiding sleep is difficult. (If you fall asleep, don’t fret. Just resume where you left off.) Pick a passage of scripture that you will read, like Psalm 1. Or you could choose a parable or a natural section of the narrative in the books of Moses. Clear your thoughts. Some people find it helpful to focus on one special word, like “Jesus”. Others focus on their own breathing. The idea is to empty oneself of thoughts and concerns in order to be filled with the presence of Jesus. Ask Jesus for his presence.
Read the passage to yourself at least three times. Or listen to the passage on an audio device.
Reflect on what you read, asking God to draw your attention to the one word or phrase or idea from the passage that he wants you to focus on. What word or phrase stood out to you? Let this come easily, like air bubbling up to the top of a glass. Remember this word or phrase.
Ask God about that word or phrase. Or tell him what you are thinking about it. Bring to God whatever is on your mind or heart.
Stop praying your own words or thoughts to God in order to listen and receive. Focus for a moment on the word you chose earlier. Then, let go and listen in silence. If your mind wanders, focus on that word or phrase again. Make note of what comes to you. You may receive a clear impression of what God wants to say to you, or simply a peaceful resting time with God, or an emotion. Be open to whatever God brings to you. Close by expressing the idea to God: “Let it be with me just as you say.” If there is something specific that you believe you should do in response, be sure and follow up.
It is possible to work through these steps in just minutes. Longer, less hurried time is beneficial. Some find spending even an hour or more in preparation is very helpful. Centering prayer is a possible approach to this kind of preparation.
My purpose? To help people pay attention to God and respond appropriately.
For a longer time or restreat, check out an approach to personal spiritual retreat.
Check check this article on using lectio divina in groups.
Check this site for some additional resources for centering prayer and lectio divina.