Pray a Word of Scripture–Lectio Divina

One of my favorite spiritual practices–especially during Lent–is to use a single word of Scripture to start a conversation with God. This practice is called lectio divina–divine or sacred reading. Lectio Divina has four parts: Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio, and Contemplatio. My version of lectio divina involves doodling (of course). To try it, you will need about four pieces of paper and a pen. If you like to use color, grab some markers, colored pencils, or gel pens. The instructions and example below are from Praying in Black and White: A Hands on Practice for Men. 

1. Lectio means “to read.” Choose a line of scripture.
Example: You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have given them bowls of tears to drink. Psalm 80:5 (BCP)

Write the passage on a piece of paper. Write it large enough so you can really see it. Ask God to give you a word for the day. Read the passage over and over again until a word jumps out at you. When you have the word, circle it. (If no particular word cries out, just choose one at random.) I chose the word bread.









2. Meditatio means to “meditate, chew on, or mull over.” My favorite definition is “marinate.” Meditatio is about marinating in a word of Scripture.

First, take the word you chose in the lectio step and write it in the middle of a piece of paper. Write down everything you know about this word. Brainstorm. Write down anything that comes to mind, even if it seems silly or far-fetched. If images or stories come to mind, write them down.










Now, take a new piece of paper. Write your word again in the middle of the page. This time don’t think about the word. Instead of teasing ideas out of your brain, listen to the word. Pretend it is a guest in your house. Let it speak to you. Listen for what God might say to you through the word. While you are listening, draw. Doodle around the word. Let the movement of the hand help you focus on the word and release anxiety. If you hear other things about the word, write them down. If the thoughts and words from the previous brainstorm come back to you, write them down again.









3. Oratio means to speak or to pray. In this part of the lectio divina, talk to God in the more traditional way of prayer. This is a chance to use words and have a conversation with God. You can ask God about the word “What do you want me to hear and learn from this word?” Even though this step is about oral conversation, you can have my pen in hand and continue to draw. Write down your thoughts and questions: “Help my unbelief.” “I’d like to know you better.” “Open my heart.” While you talk and write, continue to draw. Drawing during this step helps me to focus and to listen. Writing helps me to see what I’m thinking and feeling.


4.  Contemplatio means to “contemplate.’ This is the last step of lectio divina. I think of this step as the rest stop or the cool-down period before I go about the normal business of my life. Contemplatio is the step where I release the word I have chosen and all of the thoughts and feelings about the word. I give up all of the activity of drawing, thinking, and writing. I close my eyes, still my mind and rest.

So put down your pen. Sit in a chair or lie on the floor. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and release it. Stay in the moment. Breathe. Some people have huge spiritual “Ahas” during this time. Other people just enjoy the rest and the quiet time with God. My time with lectio divina never feels wasted. Sometimes my understanding of the Scripture passage is informed by the time I spent with the word. Sometimes I learn something new about myself or about God. At the very least, I know more about the word I chose than ever before. And I never hear the word in exactly the same way again.

Praying in Color—The Portable Edition

Paraclete Press and I have just released a new version of Praying in Color. It’s called the Portable Edition. It uses 5/8 of the original edition, 1/8 of the Praying in Black and White version and 1/4 new material. Instead of an almost square book like the original, it is a trade-sized paperback. We partly wanted to update the content, but also make it more marketable for hospitals, airports and other places that don’t like weird-sized books. Once again, I think Paraclete has loved this book into existence. With the prayerful and creative work of the production, editorial, and artistic teams, the book looks great.

Until April 8th, 2013 Praying in Color: Drawing A New Path to God (The Portable Edition) will be an extra 20% off the regular 10% off on Paraclete’s website. Click Here or on the image for the site. At the checkout enter the coupon code: PIC2013. Please pass this on to anyone who might be interested in an updated version or an introduction to praying in color. Thanks!


Praying in Color/Praying in Black and White News

1. Welcome to my new blog. Check out the rest of the website too! After five years, I decided needed a facelift. The wonderful designers at Paraclete Press have just finished several months of creative work; I’m pleased and grateful.

The new blog format allows me to add color, change fonts, and play a little more. My husband and co-author of Praying in Black and White: A Hands-On Practice for Men, Andy, will add occasional posts to the blog site, too.

2. If you’re in the New Orleans area this weekend, I’ll be leading a 3-hour workshop at Christ Church, Covington, LA on Saturday morning, March 10. Click here for more info. Tell your Louisiana friends to come pray.

Christmas Present Idea 2

Disclaimer or maybe it’s a Claimer: Christmas Present Idea 2 is self-promotional. With Christmas Present Idea 1 from December 9, I have absolutely no personal or economic stake. With this one I do. I want people to like it and I wouldn’t shun the $1 I get if someone buys it.

But that’s not just the reason I recommend Praying in Black and White: A Hands-On Practice for Men. If you are as stuck as I am for gifts for the men (and women) in your life, this might be a good stocking-stuffer. So here are some reasons to buy the book:


  • fits in a suit pocket or a fairly small purse (or a Christmas stocking)
  • costs $15 or less—depending on where you buy it.
  • is an invitation for men to pray when their words won’t come and they can’t sit still.
  • is a little tool kit for active prayer.
  • honors “guyness,” but can also appeal to women.
  • has short chapters and takes about an hour to read cover-to-cover.

Buy a marble-composition notebook (plain or graph paper) or a not too fancy sketchpad, a black pen and Praying in Black and White: A Hands-On Practice for Men . The trio becomes a full-fledged under-the-Christmas-tree gift. And it just might be an all-year boost to someone’s prayer life.

You can purchase the book at all of the usual online places. The image below will take you to the publisher Paraclete’s website.

Praying in Black and White

Several years ago, my husband Andy and I noticed that the ratio of men to women in my Praying in Color Workshops® was a little low. For every fifteen to twenty women, there was one man. That seemed strange because we think praying with pen and markers in hand is a good fit for many men’s temperaments. It is concrete, physical, and practical. It is a process and a product—a prayer time and a prayer drawing.

So we wrote Praying in Black and White: A Hands -On Practice for Men, published by Paraclete Press. Maybe the title seems corny, passé, or sexist. The book is designed for men (or women) who are unlikely to tote around pink, yellow, and mauve markers. The practice uses only pen and paper and encourages drawing/praying anytime, any place.  But more than the specifics of what drawing implement to use, it’s a special invitation for men who see prayer as just the gift or parlance of women. It’s an attempt to invite men who have relinquished their power as pray-ers back to the prayer table. Praying in Black and White has simple, step-by-step instructions for praying for others, for praying Scripture, for praying with the breath…. For people who might be embarrassed about reading a book on prayer, the black cover and paperback-size make it innocuous and pocket-ready.

Praying in Black and White: A Hands -On Practice for Men is available through all the usual suspects: Paraclete Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, Indie Bound–but not Borders :-(

If anyone is in Memphis on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, The Episcopal Bookshop is hosting an Open House from 10AM-6PM. Andy will sign books from 4:30-6 on Wednesday afternoon.