One of the gifts of the Benedictine tradition is the form of prayer called Lectio Divina or Holy Reading. In a world where speed reading is expected, skimming is required and glancing through summaries is de rigueur the monastic tradition is a contradiction.
Lectio diving requires us to slow down and read the text meditatively. There is a technique. The first aspect of the technique is that one is encouraged to follow the words on the page with your finger and either say the words out loud or at least move your lips. “Unless you become like a little child…”
This helps not only to slow you down, but it makes the words more physical. Words, after all, were meant first to be spoken and heard. Only much later were they written down and much, much later did we develop the ability to read silently and quickly.
Here is an explanation of the stages of Lectio Divina from a Carmelite website.
In the 12th century, a Carthusian monk called Guigo, described the stages which he saw as essential to the practice of Lectio Divina. There are various ways of practicing Lectio Divina either individually or in groups but Guigo’s description remains fundamental.
He said that the first stage is lectio (reading) where we read the Word of God, slowly and reflectively so that it sinks into us. Any passage of Scripture can be used for this way of prayer but the passage should not be too long.
The second stage is meditatio (reflection) where we think about the text we have chosen and ruminate upon it so that we take from it what God wants to give us.
The third stage is oratio (response) where we leave our thinking aside and simply let our hearts speak to God. This response is inspired by our reflection on the Word of God.
The final stage of Lectio Divina is contemplatio (rest) where we let go not only of our own ideas, plans and meditations but also of our holy words and thoughts. We simply rest in the Word of God. We listen at the deepest level of our being to God who speaks within us with a still small voice. As we listen, we are gradually transformed from within.
Obviously this transformation will have a profound effect on the way we actually live and the way we live is the test of the authenticity of our prayer. We must take what we read in the Word of God into our daily lives.
There are three strands to the Benedictine life: prayer, work and reading. Lectio divina reveals how prayer is reading and reading is prayer.
It is also true in the Benedictine life that work is prayer and prayer is work.
But that discussion is for another day.