Discerning God’s Will through Lectio Divina

An article by Fr. Gabriel Landis

The Early Desert Fathers practiced lectio divina or holy reading, a monastic practice through the centuries and a tool that the Church encourages her faithful to employ. In short, it is spending time in prayer either with Sacred Scripture or a good holy book. Many books have been written on lectio divina, but I thought I could share with you how I practice it. 

Let us start with Sacred Scripture reading from Romans 12:1-2: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Now that I have a couple of verses selected, I ask the Holy Spirit to be with me as I slowly pray over the reading. Note I said pray slowly. This is the Word of God speaking to us; so it is right that we enter a calm, unhurried state of prayer.

I read slowly, letting the Holy Spirit center me on the text. I may read it at least three times. Usually, some part of the text stands out from the rest. Whatever stands out is what I believe the Holy Spirit wants me to focus on.  So I center my prayer and contemplation on that. What stands out to me are parts of verse two: “Do not be conformed to this world….so that you may discern what is the will of God.” 

A thought—a question—just struck me:  “How have I conformed to the ways of the world? I have seen my spiritual life grow over the years, but what is hindering me from deeper growth, a deeper interior life now?” Ah. I can hear God quietly speaking or bringing those areas to mind where I need to let go. “Stop trying to be in control,” is what I hear. “You have ceded much control over the years to me, but you still hold on to so much of the lie that you can control events and circumstances around you. Renounce the lie, surrender more of this to me, your Father. Trust me.” 

Ironically, I often preach on the need for us to let go of the lie that we are in control of our lives. During homilies, this pastor often preaches to himself! 

I continue my meditation and reflect on the words “so that you may discern what is the will of God.” The more I surrender control or any other area of my life to God, the more I become attuned to God’s voice and how he wants my will to freely choose his will. Again, ironically, that is something I like to address in my preaching. (Looks like this article is a reminder to myself!) 

When we do discern what God’s will is through lectio divina, we are able to combine our will with his will.  When that happens, God will richly reward us with his graces and blessings. We creatures can never out-do God in his generosity. He knows exactly what is good and acceptable and perfect for us.  God wants us to share in his plan of redemption.  He wants us to make correct decisions.  He wants to perfect us. In short, by not conforming to the way of this world, God is calling us to a more intimate and loving relationship. He is calling us to a love beyond all telling. 

I discover these insights through lectio divina.  You can do it, too.