From God's fullness we have all received, grace upon grace
“Praying with the Bible – Lectio Divina”

“Praying with the Bible – Lectio Divina”

Lectio Divina, or divine reading, is an ancient and tried-and-tested form of praying with Scripture. Its origins lie in the third to fourth centuries, and it was popularised from the sixth century by the monastic communities that lived under the Rule of St Benedict.

Regular Bible reading and study gives us breadth of knowledge. Lectio helps us also absorb Scripture at depth: we listen to the text of the Bible with the “ear of the heart”, with the aim of nourishing and deepening our relationship with God. Though simple, it needs practice, as the slow ritual reading is very different from our modern habit of skimming text. As Fr Christopher Jamison wrote in his book Finding Sanctuary: “the text is seen as a gift to be received, not a problem to be dissected….. let the text come to you.”

Lectio involves the four simple steps of slow reading of a piece of scripture, meditation on the passage, prayer about what arises, and a time of silent adoration.

Choose the passage in advance of your prayer time, so you don’t waste precious minutes. Spend a few minutes settling down and let your breathing become gentler. Pray that your heart may be opened and receptive to the gift God knows you need today.

  1. Read the passage very slowly, aloud if you find that helpful. When a particular verse, phrase or word strikes you, put the Bible down.
  2. Repeat the phrase or word in your heart, gently rather than mechanically. The meditative repetition is to allow you to savour the phrase at an intuitive level. A longer phrase may shorten to a single word.
  3. In time you will become aware that the words have evoked a particular feeling or attitude. Now is the time to move to praying your response. Express this to God very simply: thank God for the gift of the words, express longings they have stirred, ask God questions, or remain in loving silence in God’s presence.
  4. Your prayer may move to a simple state of attention and attraction towards God as a compass needle points north.

If distractions set in, you can either return to your repetition to refocus your attention, or resume your reading, expecting to be touched again by another phrase. At the end of your prayer, bring the Lectio Divina to a close with thanksgiving or the Lord’s Prayer.

A form of Lectio Divina can also be used in a group setting, where it is about listening to the experience of each member and reflecting on your own journey in that light. Every Wednesday at 8pm a group meets on Zoom, and you are welcome to join us at, Meeting ID: 940 4683 2921, Password: lectio.

There are more Lectio-related resources on this blog, including a number of pdf leaflets to download.


This is one of a series of articles appearing in Exeter Cathedral’s monthly news, complementing the material I contributed to the “Explore Prayer” section of the Cathedral website. I hope you find them helpful.