You can prepare young children for lectio divina by previewing the Sunday Scriptures with them, or by doing a little sacred storytime with them. But even young children can try the basic movements of lectio divina following these steps:

Reading. Use a short story (the shorter the better, but definitely less than five minutes long) from a good picture Bible, a Bible-based storybook, or a children’s book about the lives of the saints. Help your child prepare to hear the story by allowing a short snuggling/settling downtime, and explaining what you’re going to do: “Now let’s read a story about God (or Jesus). While I read, you listen for what God (or Jesus) is doing in the story.”

Don’t worry about questions or interruptions; if they are about the text, then your child is already “meditating” on it; if not, address the distraction and gently redirect attention back to the story. You may want to read the story or parts of the story again, either immediately or during a later step.

Meditation. If your child doesn’t have questions or comments of her own, offer some comments and prompting questions: What is happening in the picture (or in the story)? Why? What are the characters thinking or feeling? How is God (or Jesus) acting in this story? (If God isn’t directly mentioned in the story, you may need to suggest some ways that God is quietly present.) Which character would you like to be? What would you do differently if you were that character? How would you feel?

Prayer. Invite your child to respond to the story in prayer: “You know, God gives us stories like this to help us grow closer to him. Let’s pray to God about this story. What would you like to say to God? Or what questions do you want to ask God about this story?”

Provide guiding prompts, if necessary. Be sure to offer your own prayer response, both to make the experience prayerful for you and to model prayer for your child.

Listening. With young children, the contemplation step can be described as listening to God: “Now that we’ve prayed to God about this story, let’s be quiet so we can hear what God might be saying back to us, inside our hearts.” Take at least thirty seconds to be silent. If your child is restless or noisy, do your best to complete the period of silence yourself.

Wrapping up. You can finish by asking your child whether they heard God speaking to them. If they say no, you can reassure her that it’s okay—sometimes we aren’t listening closely enough, and sometimes God just likes to spend time quietly with us. End by blessing your child.

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