We live in a culture of immediacy and often take that same thought process into our prayer life. We don’t want to sit-down and read the whole bible…we want it to be summarized in three short sentences.
Lectio divina can help curb that habit, especially in regards to the first step in the divine reading of scripture: lectio or “read.”
After a selecting a short passage of scripture (it could be the Gospel passage for today or the first chapter of a book in the bible), the first step in lectio divina is to simply read the text.
Now that may seem obvious, but it is important that you don’t blaze through the reading with the same speed you read a text message or e-mail. This is God’s word and he is trying to tell you something. Think of it this way: imagine your loved-one sent you a love letter. Would you read it as fast as you could? Or would you hang on every word, savoring what he or she is writing to you?
The bible is “God’s love-letter” to humanity and we should not rush through it, especially in prayer. God wants to speak to us, but we must have ears to hear.
This means when you sit-down to read a passage from scripture for lectio divina, you must do so slowly, examining each word and placing yourself inside the passage. It is recommended to read and re-read the passage several times to become familiar with it.
For our purposes, I have chosen Luke 12:22-32 (RSV-CE) to help us put into practice this teaching:
And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass which is alive in the field today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O men of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be of anxious mind. For all the nations of the world seek these things; and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things shall be yours as well.
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
After you have read it once or twice, read it again….slowly. What words stand out to you? What passages jump out?
This first step naturally progresses to the meditatio or “mediation” stage, which we will cover in another article. Until then, read this passage and become familiar with it, noticing what God might want to tell you.