Living daily with God

Introduction to Lectio Divina

They can be like a sun, words. They can do for the heart What light can For a field.
John of the Cross

In the early centuries of the Church, men and women would head off into the desert in order find solitude, not for its own sake but in order to listen to God. As they struggled with their own inner uncertainties and demons, they wanted to carry out the battle in a divine presence. They saw it in terms of being a refiners fire that strips a person down to their basics enabling the dross to be drawn off.

People would go out into the desert to meet these desert fathers and mothers, seeking spiritual wisdom and advice as to how they were to deal with not just daily problems but their lives as disciples. They would often ask for a word or a sentence that they could take away and ponder, mull over and pray about. This was the beginning of what we understand as lectio divina. They would take those words away and chew them over.

LD is the practice of being present to each moment in a heart-centred way.

In LD we invite God to speak to us in an unmediated way. Our memories, images and feelings become an important context for experiencing God's voice active in us, and we discover it when we pray from our hearts. Those words moving through us break open Gods invitation to us in this moment of our lives and call us to respond.

I believe that we have an inner contemplative dimension; in spiritual writings this is often referred to as my "inner monk". This part of me longs for hours of silence and the gift of simply being, rather than doing.

LD should not be seen as a some kind of formula that is followed to the end point which is contemplation. It is a practice of the heart that brings integration and meaning to our lives.

An invitation:
  • Be present to your breath, move into your heart centre, and read slowly.
  • Savour the text and pay attention to feelings, images and memories stirring.
  • Listen for the way your life is being impacted by this experience and for an invitation arising from your new awareness in prayer.
  • Release thoughts and images and rest into an experience of inner stillness.

Sacred Reading

The use of the word divine implies that the reading brings us to a kind of closeness with God's very being rather than with a sacred object one step removed. LD may be said to be a divine picking or choosing of a given sentence, phrase or word through which God speaks. It is a contemplative way of praying with sacred texts where we encounter God in a profoundly intimate and direct way.

The Growth of LD

LD has its roots in Judaism and flows from the Hebrew method of studying called haggadah, a process of learning a text by heart: Haggadah was an interactive interpretation of the Scriptures by means of the free use of the text to explore its inner meaning. It was part of the devotional practice of the Jews in the days of Jesus. The Jews would memorize the text in a process that involved repeating the passage over and over softly with the lips until the words themselves gradually took up residence in the heart, thereby transforming the person's life.

In the third to the fifth centuries, early Christians fled the cities to live in the spare and barren landscape of the desert of Egypt, Palestine and Syria. There they lived an often austere life focused on prayer and the presence to God, and many people sought them as wise guides and elders. The desert monks didn't have their own Bibles so they would memorize vast amounts of Scripture and in this way could meditate on the sacred texts throughout their day.

It was Benedict of Nusa who was said to have written: Listen readily to holy reading, and devote yourself often to prayer. He also prescribed in his rule that sacred readings should be set down for fixed times in the day.

The word that was used for this more monastic form of the LD was rumination. This is the word that is used to describe the soft chewing of the cud by the cow. The monk, like the cow, was to ruminate on the word of God, chewing over it quietly in his mind/heart. It was while they were ruminating that insight would come and contemplation take place.

In the 12th century, a Carthusian monk by the name of Guido 11 wrote a book called The Ladder of the Monks. In that book be breaks down the movements of LD into four parts. These are what he refers to as the rungs of the ladder by which we can climb to heaven.

In Judaism, the word PaRDeS means paradise, orchard or garden. If you leave out the lower case letters which in Hebrew represent the vows, we are left with PRDS. It forms an acronym made up of the first letters of these four words:

  • p'shat which refers to the literal meaning of the text.
  • remez which is the metaphorical or symbolic meaning of the text.
  • d'rash refers to the moral meaning
  • sud is the deeper or mystical meaning.

This Jewish method was taken up by later Christian monks and these four steps became the overall movement of the LD.

LD is based on some fundamental assumptions.

  1. The desert monks believed that the scriptures were like love letters that have been written to us by God. They are living works, animated in an ongoing way by the Holy Spirit. They understood that these text speak to us in unique ways in the moment of our lives in which we encounter them. This means that every time we come to the text anew, it will speak to us in different ways, as God leads us to respond directly to what is happening at this precise moment.
  2. The scriptures are an inexhaustible mystery that offers us an unending source of wisdom. It is infinite in extent, no reading can ever reach the bottom. The ancients love to use various images: it is a vast sea, an unfathomable abyss. Augustine speaks of an immense weight of mysteries. It is an exploration that will never ened. No matter how much the mind reaches out and strives to understand, it can never encompass the full dimensions of a sacred text, that spans infinite mysteries.
  3. God is always praying in us. Through LD we make ourselves available to join this unceasing prayer already happening n our hearts. God is the one who initiates the dialogue. Our practice is to make space to hear this prayer already at work within us.
  4. LD is not about acquiring head knowledge of Scripture, but about a profound encounter with the heart of God. What is needed is a willingness to surrender ourselves to the process. The problem with a thinking mind is that we will try and control what unfolds, or analyze and judge what is happening. It is the heart that is the place of receptivity, integration and meaning making. It is in the heart that thinking, feeling, intuition and wisdom come together.
  5. When we pray the LD we see the words of Scripture as God's living words spoken to our hearts at this specific moment. It is a form of prayer that is an encounter with God who is already and always active and intimate with our lives. The primary action of this kind of prayer is listening for how god is already praying within us.

THE FOUR MOVEMENTS OF LECTIO DIVINA

Lectio - reading:

The traditional way of speaking of this first step is lectio which is the Latin word for reading. We settle into our place of prayer, begin the process of ridding ourselves of distractions and open ourselves up to the prayer experience. This may mean that we cease what we are doing some time before we begin our praying. The text is read through slowly, listening for a word or a phrase that calls out to us, seems to speak directly at us, unnerves us, stirs up something within us or seems to offer something special. Repeat the word or phrase that speaks to us. It may take more than one slow, reflective meaning to discover these stand out words or phrases.

Meditatio:

reflecting and stirring: The Latin word for this second movement is meditation and means reflecting or allowing the words to stir something up within our hearts. We read the text through one more time, savouring those words and allowing them to blossom in our imagination. We should pay close attention to what images, feelings and memories these words stir up and welcome these into your heart.

Oratio:

Summoning and serving: The Latin word for "addressing" or "speaking" is oratio. It is as this stage that we listen for the way in which the words we have chosen stir up some response within us, how they connect to some aspect of our present life. Importantly, prayer "happens" when we allow 5 our hearts to be touched by this entering of God into our experience and we are drawn to respond in prayer.

Behind this stage is the understanding that there are many layers associated with a text and somewhere in it there is a layer that is speaking to us at this moment in time in concrete ways. We have been savouring the inner dynamics of the text and now we are tuning in to an invitation from God as to what he is saying to our current situation. It is at these moments that we are being called to move beyond ourselves, our normal and accepted understandings. We ask for the graces that we need to change our hearts, the way we view life and understand what is happening. The changes that we seek are concrete transformations that happen under the guiding hand of God.

Contemplatio: Slowing and stilling:

This is the time when we slow right down and rest in the presence of God. The goal of this step is to be rather than to do something. We still ourselves in silence.

A practical presentation of the stages:

Lectio:

We find a comfortable place in which we can relax without distractions but remain alert. We begin to relax by focusing our attention on our breathing. Some find it helpful by slowing breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth and at the same time silently uttering the name Jesus or some other mantra. We do this until we are centred. If at any time during our lectio divina we find ourselves being distracted, it is always good to come back to this centred breathing.

We read our passage through once or twice - reading slowly, tasting each word and listening for a word or a phrase that seems to be significant in some way. The right word or phrase will eventually capture our attention. When we find this word or phrase we repeat in quietly over and over a few times.

Meditatio:

We read the text through again and this time we allow the word or the phrase that has spoken to us to engage our imagination. This is the time when we bring all of our senses into play sensing what smells, sounds, tastes, sights and feelings are evoked by those words. We listen for what images, feelings and memories that are being stirred up, welcome them into our prayer and savour them.

Oratio:

We read the text through again and this time we are attuned to the invitation that the words are extending to us. This is where the text and our daily activities connect and it may be that what is being offered is a new awareness of where God is in our lives along with a new possibility for acting.

Some Questions for reflection:

  1. What are some of the ideas that we have about ourselves that get in the way of prayer and our relationship with God?
  2. what does it mean to you when you are asked to allow God's imagination to work through you?
  3. what are the biggest challenges for you in "not-doing"? Of waiting? Or resting? Of being nonproductive, even for a short period of time?
  4. What do you most desire from your prayer practice?
  5. Have you ever heard the voice of God in your life experience? If so, what was that like?
  6. Have you ever felt the call to service? If so, how did you respond?

Contemplatio: 

Now we sit in the presence of God. It is good to reconnect with an awareness of our breathing and slowly bring ourselves back to the room around us. This is a transition phase and it should not be rushed. Many people often find it useful to begin a prayer journal and now is the time to write up our experiences.

LECTIO DIVINA AND THE HEART:

In the innermost depths of my heart I transcend the bounds of my created personhood and discover within myself the direct unmediated presence of the living God. Entry into the deep heart means that I experience myself as God-sourced, God-enfolded; God-transformed.
Kallistos Ware

Benedict believed that everything was sacred, with even the kitchen utensils were to be treated as reverently as the vessels used on the altar. The routine of fixed hour prayer, with its reading of Scripture and saying of prayers regularly throughout the day and evening, becomes a way of sanctifying time. This teaching of Benedict calls us to move through our day mindfully, remembering the sacredness of each act, each object, each encounter with another person. In a world where busyness is praised and productivity is the sole measure of value, the monastic path offers me support and guidance in choosing to live in a contemplative way, with more presence in everything I do.

Biblically speaking, the heart is the seat of our being. To be "whole-hearted" means to bring our entire selves before God - our intellect, our emotional life, our dreams and intuitions, and our deepest longings. The heart is both active and receptive. The heart listens but it is the heart which also hears; it savours and supplies nourishment to be savoured. The heart responds. The heart is the dwelling place of God:

God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 5:5

LS's structure is designed to form this essential centre of our being, which is our capacity for God, our disposition to act, our heart/will. Lectio asks that we lay our life issues alongside the patterns described in scripture and find there a template that helps us be who we are fully meant to be (Norvene Vest).

Heart - Centred prayer:

LD is the practice of being present to each moment in a heart-centred way. When we pray LD we see sacred text as God's living words being spoken to our hearts in the moment. It allows us to encounter God in an active and intimate way. The invitation of LD, therefore, is to cultivate a heart-centred intimacy with the sacred tests that is a different way of engaging them than pure interpretive reasoning. LD asks us to listen, savour and respond - not simply to understand their meaning. We gradually bring these qualities of being to the whole of our lives. When we do this, everything is potentially a sacred "text" through which God can speak to us....reflect on how exciting this is!

For the Hebrew people the heart was the locus of active-receptive relationship with god in spiritual formation. For the early Hebrews, the heart was the organ of capacity for God's very self: It was the locus not only of choice and motive but also one's fundamental orientation toward life. In the heart, we are formed and reformed into the person we most long to be.

In LD there is so much emphasis on the heart because from a Biblical point of view it is the centre, the source, the very taproot of our being.

Kallistos Ware:

For Biblical authors the heart does not signify the feelings and emotions, for those are located lower down in the guts and entrails. The heart designates, on the contrary, the inwardness of our human personhood in its full spiritual depth...The heart is on this way the place where we formulate our primary hope, where we express our sense of direction, our purpose in life. It is the moral centre, the determinant of actions, and so it corresponds in part to what we mean today by the conscience. It is the seat of the memory, understood not just as the recollection of things past, but a deep self-awareness at the present moment.

As Paul tells us, the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts and if we dare to pursue that metaphor, we can understand that this Spirit is coursing through our veins, flowing through us and meant to flow out into the world through service and love.

"Doing" hear-centred prayer: a practical exercise (found in many books).

It is important to understand that LD is not a programme for praying. Would that it were like changing a tyre on the car. Once we have worked out how to do it and had a couple of tries, we no longer have any troubles with changing the wheel. Prayer is not like that, though we can become very good at the recitation of prayer formulae.

In order to pray the LD we need to undertake a sustained discipline of entering into a life of prayer, for that is what LD is - it is a way of life where we become attuned to what God is saying to us, not only in the written words of the Scriptures but through the Scriptures to hear him speaking to us in all of the events of our daily living. As we are not used to doing that we need to practice the art of being still, of quieting our minds and our bodies, learning to sit doing nothing but rest in the presence of the God who is within us. The more we learn how to stifle the noises that are so much a part of who we really are, the more we begin to hear the soft, gentle words of God addressing us in this very moment of our life.

So do not become to anxious over the flowery language. It is all a part of learning a new way of thinking and allowing us to do some "feeling" in the presence of God. Find a nice quiet place and make yourself comfortable. Not so comfortable that you drift off to sleep but comfortable enough that you are not being distracted by aches, pains, noises, draughts and the like.

  1. Sit down and become aware of your body. Notice how it is feeling - both good feelings as well as any discomforts. If there are areas of tension, see if can soften them.
  2. Shift your focus to your breathing, deepening it gradually. As you inhale, imagine God breathing life into you. As you exhale, allow yourself to experience a moment of release and surrender into this time and place, becoming fully aware. Take as many of these cycles of inhaling and exhaling as you need. Try and feel the rhythm as a life giving rhythm. Do not force it and do not try an do an analysis.
  3. As you breathe, allow your imagination to move you away from what is in your head, away from thinking, analyzing, judging and draw you into your heart. Again this is not something you can force. Give yourself permission to drift away from the rational to the experiential
  4. Place your hand over your chest, over your heart, to experience a physical connection with your heart centre and help draw your awareness to this place. Rest there for a while, conscious of the connection with the heart. Free yourself of any expectations of what to experience or what your experience my say to you. Be open to the surprise that God will be!
  5. Imagine drawing your breath down into your heart centre as you breathe in. begin to notice what you are feeling right now, in this moment, without judging or trying to change it. Allow your breath to soften the space around your heart. Take a few moments to be present to whatever it is you are feeling. Make room within yourself for this experience - whether it is grief, anger, boredom, joy, anxiety, serenity - all without pushing it away. All the fullness of who your are make its way into your awareness.
  6. Take another breath. Call to mind the spark of God that the ancient monks and mystics tell us rests in our hearts. Bring the infinite compassion of God that lives within you to whatever you are now feeling. You are not trying to change anything, but just gently hold yourself in this space. As you experience yourself filling with compassion for your own experience, imagine breathing that compassion out into the world and connecting to other hearts beating across the world in a rhythm of love. Allow that love to expand within you with each inhale. As you exhale, imagine allowing it to expand into space around you, getting wider with each breath. Fill with gratitude for whatever your experience has been and for the gift of a holy pause in which to simply rest in what is.
  7. Gently allow your breath to bring your awareness back to the room and take a moment to name what experience.

A tip: When you need to make a decision about something, try grounding yourself in this way first, connecting with your heart centre to access the wisdom of compassion that is within you. Try it out a couple of times a day for the next week and see how the process works and what you might find in this divine permission to do nothing but sit in his presence.

I have come to know that spirituality is eminently a practical science - it concerns what we do when we get up in the morning, how we spend our day, how we go to bed at night - and specifically how much time and energy we are willing to dedicate to the practice of prayer and meditation.

Cyprian Consiglio

The Spiritual life:

In our daily patterns of loving, caring and working, we are following a spiritual path of sorts, even if we are unaware of it. The shape of our lives reflects our priorities and ultimate values. We nurture intentional and conscious choices about how to shape these patterns and ways of being through commitment to regular spiritual practices of prayer.

We can help shape the persons we are becoming by the practices we choose to commit ourselves to and live into as they transform us....changing our habits can change our perceptions and ideas as well.

Our spiritual practices help form a way of life. When we participate in spiritual practices we are embodying a specific kind of wisdom about what it means to be human in relationship to God. This is why it is important to allow our lives to be shaped by intentional ways. It will not happen by some magical grace or pious wishing.

It is when we practice contemplative ways of praying and living, we slow down, which allows us to really see and hear God at work. We savour our experiences rather than consume them and we become more present to each moment and are led into an understanding of the luminosity of everyday life. They make us aware of the holiness of all things and that each moment and all events have hidden gifts waiting to reveal themselves to us.

Remember:

Spiritual practice will at times be challenging because as we slow down and more into silence we begin to hear our own inner voices that much more loudly. Our compulsions suddenly become more apparent. We will encounter boredom and anxiety, restlessness and the desire to be somewhere else. We will have to chose: do I stay present to the moment or do I get up and do something else? As we sit in solitude and silence we will most surely find ourselves wrestling with the demons of boredom and restlessness.

What can we do? 

We need to make a commitment to be faithful in our life circumstances even at the most challenging of times. We need to be committed to facing adversity, not run away at the first sign of difficulty. This might apply to a marriage or friendship, to our work life, or just to the day to day challenges with which we find ourselves confronted. There is no shortage of these kinds of hurdles to our spiritual life and without this commitment we will drift away.

Be aware of the reality:

When we first begin LD we might find that we have no major problems in making time for our prayer each day. But as time goes on, we find our attention wandering or life events interfering. What is needed is that commitment to begin again and again and even when we fall by the wayside, to pick ourselves up and start again.

There will be times when our chosen scriptures prove to be dry and not in the least stimulating. There will be other times when our inner voices seem to drown out what we are trying to do. There will also be times when we come across deep revelations into ourselves where God is leading us into ways we do not want to go, insights we might well have hidden away for decades.

Cyprian Consiglio makes the following observation:

It is possible to become obsessed with technique and lose sight of the working of grace, of God's initiative. Prayer is not "magic"...we do not conjure up God, we do not bring God down from heaven, and we do not make ourselves holy. We dispose ourselves, we stop, we listen, we wait, we watch, we make ourselves available, and we put ourselves in situations and environments that are conducive to prayer and meditation. And then we wait for the working of grace, like the bride awaiting the bridegroom.

Beware our expectations!

We begin LD because we desire to experience inner peace, clarity and wisdom; we want divine guidance and we generally want it right away. It is quite possible that we think the fruits of meditation will come if we simply show up. The reality is that there will be many days when nothing special seems to happen. We are not moved by a word or a phrase; when our inner response feels dry and desolate. Sometimes our insights will seem to be trite and inconsequential. There will times when God does not seem to be saying anything and many more times when he seems to be telling us things that we do not want to know.

Generally, these frustrations arise from being overly task oriented in our approach to LD, when it is successful only when we receive something we can measure and say with certainty that this is of value.

Esther de Waal:

You will find stability at the moment you discover that God is everywhere, that you do not need to seek Him elsewhere, that He is here, and if you do not find Him here it is useless to go and search for Him elsewhere because it is not Him that is absent from us, it is we who are absent from Him...It is important to recognize that it is useless to seek God somewhere else. If you cannot find Him here you will not find Him anywhere else.

Listening for God

Interestingly, the root of the word obedience is "to hear". To obey God is to make a commitment to listening to God's voice in the world and respond when you hear God's invitation for us to act.

This is helps us to understand that LD is a two-pronged approach to life. We have to first of all become aware of the voice of God speaking to us (hear) but then we need to respond. Are we willing to not just make the time to hear God' call but also to respond with the fullness of our lives?

Sometimes..... obedience means praying as we are led, rather than praying as we set out to do. The four movements of LD can be helpful to move through in a linear way when we are learning the practice. However, sometimes our payer, especially prayer of the heart emerges in more of a spiral with different aspects of the prayer call us for attention at different moments. Remember, that LD was not codified into its four stages until the Middle Ages. See what Maria Lichtmann says on this:

Each stage is present to and within all the others like the interdependent parts of a mandala or a circle dance. If we see each aspect of LD at the corners of the mandala, they can all point us to the centre, the sacred. We can invert Guigo's ladder metaphor to one of descent or deepening, or we can bend it to 12 form a never-ending circle. The journey of contemplation is not so much a straight-forward journey, charted in stages of progress, but a spiraling round the centre of one's own being and life. In the view of a contemporary Carthusian, the ladder of LD is a journey towards the heart. Guido's ladder, then, is an intuitive one, the destiny of which is the heart's intimacy and openness to and with all.

CONVERSION

Conversion means making a commitment to myself, that I will always be open to the possibility of being surprised by God. As we are all on a journey, life is forever changing. God is always offering us something new.

What we must never be encourage to do, although all of us are guilty of it over and over, is to force Scripture to fit our experience. Our experience is too small; it is like trying to put the ocean into a thimble. What we want is to fit into the world revealed by Scripture, to swim in its vast oceans

Eugene Peterson

When we come to our LD we need to bring with it a commitment to conversion, remembering that there are always more opportunities for growth, that the sacred texts offer us an endless depth of wisdom that we can never exhaust. We come to our prayer setting aside expectations and enter into a willingness to be surprised by God; even if we have read the scriptures many times before, we open our hearts to transformation again and again.

Conversion calls us to release our hold on our certainty...and move more into an openhearted place of unknowing and accepting the great mystery that pulses at the heart of everything.

The trouble with soul work is that it is always challenging and calls us beyond our comfort zone. "Prayer is not about baptizing the status quo" (Painter) but entering into dynamic relationship with the God who always makes all things Scripture challenges our ingrained patterns of belief, our habitual attitudes and behaviour. Conversion is about maintaining what the Buddhists call "beginner's mind", a reminder that we are called to approach our practice with the heart of a beginner.

Our encounter with God in the text is one that ...

drags us beyond our own comfort zone into new territory and new adventures, it is an act by which we are drawn or even compelled to leave behind the boundaries that our selfhood has imposed upon our lives. We are called to transcend our own limited vision of the good life and accept something of the all- inclusiveness of God's plan for human fulfillment. The greatest enemy to this is our own willful refusal to budge beyond the closed circuit of our settle prejudices and pious routines.

Michael Casey

Another couple of tips:

Claim a space in your home where you can engage in LD. All you need is a comfortable chair, maybe a candle, a journal, a pen, an icon or whatever it is that helps you in the process of LD.

Establish a time: The Benedictines use the word assiduitas (assiduity) when speaking of LD. It brings out the idea of constancy, continuity, perseverance. This assiduitas has four aspects:
  • Making time.
  • Regularity.
  • Repetition.
  • Perseverance.

Some points to ponder
  1. What have been your most enduring commitments in your life and what has helped you stick with these commitments? What have been the biggest challenges in maintaining those commitments?
  2. Have you ever felt called to action in ways other than you originally planned? What was the source of the call?
  3. When in your life have you felt "surprised by God"?
  4. How would you define wisdom?
  5. How are the significant and wise elders in your life?

St Benedict observed in his journal always we begin again... We are called to recommit ourselves again and again. Each time we drift away, we are invited to return with our whole hearts. Sometimes we spend so much energy in criticizing ourselves for not achieving something perfectly that we give up and do not return to it.

Some more helpful hints:

Create an opening ritual and/or gesture:

Begin your practice by creating a ritual for your LD experience that you will repeat each time you enter prayer. For example, turn off the phone, step away from your e-mail, lock the door or tell people that you do not want to be interrupted for the period of time that you have set aside. Light your candle, don your yarmulke or whatever it is that assists you. Some people do something such as ring a bell as a way of indicating to themselves that they are now moving into a different space. It is very helpful to have a prayer that you use to begin your session (or a series of prayers). After a while it would be good to be able to write your own LD prayer.

The disciple's ear, open and attentive, can hear God speaking in the bus-queue, in the supermarket, in the conversation of a tiresomely boring or demanding person, and know instinctively how to respond. That is the supreme spiritual art. Haven't you learned it yet? Of course you haven't! It takes a lifetime to learn it.

Cyprian Smith OSB

Repetition in prayer

When it comes to praying the LD, repetition can prove to be very valuable. Repetition is a "right brain" activity; we do not grasp the entire content immediately but in a circular manner. We read and advance, then we go back and read again. With each repetition, something new may strike us.

Remember that the desert monks learned the scriptures off by heart. They had no enduring written texts that would survive in the deserts and in the remote places they chose for themselves (even if they could read!). When we commit a passage to memory, we bring it into our being, integrating the words more deeply into our lives.

And so, once a text is chosen for prayer, take time to memorize the text prior to entering into the practice of LD. Repeat the passage gently to yourself during the day; when in the train, driving the car, walking along the road, gardening, cooking the meal or washing the dishes. Put it onto a sticky note and attach it to the computer and when you go out for a walk, walk to the rhythm of the words, especially when you associate it with your breathing.

LISTENING TO GOD'S VOICE

We begin our LD with reading but it is a different reading to the reading we do when we peruse the papers in the morning. This first step in LD is about awakening our body, mind and heart to God's presence, listening for God's voice not merely on the surface of the words and phrases, but between them, around them and deeply within them. Rabbi Avi Weiss writes of the Jewish tradition:

The black letters represent thoughts which are intellectual in nature...The white spaces, on the other hand, represent that which goes beyond the world of the intellect. The black letters are limited, limiting and fixed. The white spaces catapult us into the realm of the limitless and ever-changing, ever-growing. They are the story, the song and the silence.

In this light, LD could be understood as reading the black letters in order to hear the invitation to enter more deeply into the mystery of the white spaces in between. In this first movement, we read our selected passage slowly, deliberately and repeatedly, listening for God's voice to emerge from the words and shimmer within us.

Father Bede Griffiths writes that God is not an object of prayer. The subject of prayer is God; the purpose of prayer is not so much to make contact with God, but to remove everything that prevents you from listening to God speaking in you. In ascetic practice we strive to release even the ideas we have of God and allow God to come unbidden, new and fresh. This is how we enter into our Lectio Divina.

Meditation moves from looking at the words of the text to entering the world of the text. As we take this text into ourselves, we find that the text is taking us into itself. For the world of the text is far larger and more real than our minds and experience...This text is God-revealing: God creating, God saving, God blessing...There is always more to anything, any word or sentence than meets the eye; meditation enters into the large backgrounds that are not immediately visible, that we overlooked the first time round.
Eugene Peterson in Eat this Book