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Lectio Divina

How does one read and study the Bible on their own? I heard you on the radio talking about "Lectio Divina"...is that how you read it? Can you explain that to me? I want to pray the Bible but don't know how.

Reading and praying the Bible are not necessarily the same thing. That's why i'm glad you asked this question. Basically, there are several different "methods" of Bible Study. Some are designed to give you merely head knowledge, others heart knowledge...and some do both.

I love Lectio Divina for precisely that reason...if you do it correctly, you'll find that God is forming your head and your heart.

Now, I'll outline the four steps of "Lectio Divina" below, but remember, it's vital to take time to read the Introductions to Biblical books and also the footnotes as you go along. Those facts develop the head along with the heart. There's great info in there, so take advantage of it!

The Lectio Divina is an ancient art of “praying the Scriptures,” practiced at one time by Christians. This is a slow, contemplative encounter of the Word of God. This form of prayer has been a large part of the Christian monastic tradition, especially by Benedictine monks and oblates.

Lectio – Reading/listening

The first step is “lectio,” which means to read. Now, don’t confuse this with the “reading” you do in textbooks or emails…that’s more like speed-reading or “scanning”. No, in this first step you are to listen as you read. You can read slowly and intentionally, “listening” to the words you are saying aloud (that’s right, reading out loud) and hearing them as if God is saying them directly to you, because He is doing just that.

The key is not “to read as much as you can in the time you have” but to immerse yourself in the text. Reading it aloud is different than reading it in silence, and hearing it aloud is different, as well. Offer the words you proclaim with reverence, use your mouths to bless the Lord with your speech in this way, and you will bless your own life in the process.

Meditatio – Meditation

The second step is “meditatio,” or meditating on the words you’ve read. Key into the word or phrase that really “spoke” to you, that enlivened you or challenged you or filled you with hope, anxiety or love. In this step you’re called to “chew on” (ruminate) the scriptures, as Jeremiah did (Jer. 15:16). The Scriptures tell us that the Blessed Virgin “pondered things in her heart” (Lk 2:19). We are to do the same, to take instances and encounters with God, in His Living Word, to prayer and allow them to take deeper root in our souls. In this step you won’t be reading the whole passage again, necessarily, but maybe you will, until you find that one word or phrase that stirs your soul.

Oratio – Prayer

The third step is “oratio,” which means prayer. Prayer is a dialogue with God, not a monologue. That means you are not only to talk but to listen. There are formal prayers that some recite at this stage in the process, but you don’t have to offer formalized petitions. It’s important for you to see this step as an opportunity to just talk to God and to let God your Father (Mk 14:36) talk to you in the most intimate recesses of your soul.

Don’t be afraid to let Him go first and don’t be afraid to let Him have the last word, in fact, He should. Have a conversation with God about what you’ve read, what you do and don’t understand, what “jumped out” at you (meditatio) and what it may or may not be calling you to change in your life and faith walk.

Contemplatio – Contemplation

The final step is “contemplation,” which means contemplation. You might be wondering, “What is the difference between contemplation and meditation?” Good question. Contemplation is less about your active “meditating” (step 2) and more about resting in God’s presence, allowing Him to move through and arrange your thoughts and prayer.

You can think of it like this: when you meditate you are trying to “connect the dots” with God’s help and when you contemplate you sit back and let God connect them for you, all over again, but in a new way. When you contemplate you stop “doing” and you learn how to be.

I'm really proud of you for asking this question, and I want to encourage you to keep reading and praying.

Like any exercise, the lectio divina takes practice before you might feel like you’re in the groove or learn how to “listen”. Unlike other exercises, however, you will start to see the difference in your spiritual health and “feel the burn” (Lk 24:32) almost immediately.

Make the time to try this form of prayer and every part of your prayer life, family life and social life will be blessed by it. God is never outdone in generosity; give him some time and He’ll give you a whole lot more in return.

Also, if you haven't checked it out yet, you might want to take a look in the Life Teen Store for "T3: The Teen Timeline". It's a DVD series created specifically to help you learn how to navigate the Big Picture of the Bible...and the host of it is a really great guy...if he does say so himself (which i do).

Happy reading!

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