1. Come into the Presence and call upon the Holy Spirit.
2. Listen for ten minutes to the Lord speaking to you through Sacred Text.
3. Thank the Lord and take a "word."
Our Bible should be one of our most treasured possessions. We don't want to just leave it on the desk or put it on the shelf with other books. Rather, we want to enthrone it in our home, in our room, in our office. The Bible bespeaks a Real Presence, a place where we can encounter the living God whenever we will.
When it comes times for our lectio, we pick up our book with reverence. For just a moment we reflect on the wonder of the Divine Reality, present here in his Word in this book in our hands. And we turn to Holy Spirit. This Word is so special because Holy Spirit in a very special way inspired these writers to write all and only what God wanted to use to communicate with us. As our Lord told us at the Last Supper, Holy Spirit abides with us to teach us all things, bringing to mind all that he has taught us. So we ask Holy Spirit, who inspired these texts and who abides within us as teacher, to make them now a living communication with the Lord, to help us to understand all that the Lord now wants to communicate to us.
I have drawn this little method largely from a book of usages or spiritual practices from the year 1132. As we are in a living tradition, this book in its turn depends on earlier practice. In this book of usages, the author spells out the entrance into lectio, producing almost a liturgy: We take the book with reverence and kneel down. We call upon Holy Spirit for help. Then we listen to the first words on our knees and kiss the text, and only then do we sit down to continue our lectio. Such an elaborate liturgy might not suit us well today in our own lives, but it probably would help us to have some little ritual of our own for coming into the Divine Presence and invoking the aid of the Spirit.
We then listen for a designated amount of time. We listen. We don't just read. The Lord is present, speaking to us. We listen to him. And we respond.
When I was sharing Centering Prayer in Korea a couple of years ago, I saw a cartoon that I liked. It showed a flight of steps that went up and up and up. A little man stood on the top step. In front of him was a great big ear. This, I fear, is how many people think of prayer: ascending on high we pour out our troubles and our needs into the ear of God. I don't think anyone, even God, likes a one-way conversation. In lectio, we have the wisdom not only to give God a chance to say something to us, but to let him speak first and give direction to our conversation.
It is best to determine the duration of our lectio by a set time. If we say we will read a page or a chapter, we are so ordered to getting things done that there will be a real push from within to get to the end of the page or chapter. But if we have decided we are just going to sit here with the Lord for these few minutes, then we can receive the Word with a certain openness and sense of leisure. If the first word or the first sentence speaks to us, we can just sit with it, let it come alive within us, respond to it. There is no need to push on. The rest of the text will be there for tomorrow's encounter.
It is good to set a fairly short time for ourselves, something we can fit easily into each day. The Lord can say a lot to us in two minutes, if he wants to. If we choose a short time, we are more apt to be faithful to a daily meeting with the Lord in his Word. Even if we find ourselves at the end of a very full day and have not yet made time for our lectio, we can take two minutes or five minutes to sit with the Lord before crawling into bed. And certainly there would be nothing to forbid our prolonging the time whenever the leisure is available to us.
Before I came to China I spent a few years in our monastery in the Ozarks. This is one of the poorest areas in the United States. The people living in these mountains are very poor but often very devout. I found among the people there a very good practice. Do you know where they enthrone their Bible? On the pillow on their bed. This means that when they go to bed, they have to pick up their Bible. And they take a moment to get a word from the Lord to carry with them into sleep. Then they place the Bible on their shoes. In the morning, of course, when they rise, they have to pick up the Bible. And again they receive a word from the Lord to carry with them through the day. Clever people, those friends in the mountains.— M. Basil Pennington in Lectio Divina: The Ancient Practice of Praying the Scriptures