Visio Divina

“The experience of praying with icons and other images is quite different than praying with words.” —Christine Valters Paintner in Illuminating Mystery: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice, Reflections in Word and Image (Abbey of the Arts Press, 2009).

Rembrandt The Return of the Prodigal Son, The State Hermitage Museum

Rembrandt The Return of the Prodigal Son, The State Hermitage Museum

God speaks to us in many ways—through relationships, our experiences, sacred texts such as the Bible, and other avenues. Visio divina, Latin for divine seeing, is praying with images to listen to God’s words. It is similar to lectio divina, Latin for divine reading, in which we pray using sacred reading such as Holy Scripture. There are four steps we can follow to practice visio divina:

1. Sit quietly, close your eyes, and be aware of your breathing. Practice a body scan. Open your eyes and look at the image of art slowly, seeing colors, people, places, and things. Stay with the image for one to two minutes. You may want to jot down a few words about the image.

2. Close your eyes and breathe. Open your eyes. Take another, deeper look. Is there movement? Are there relationships? Use your imagination. What is the story? Can you place yourself in the story and in the image? Do you see deeper meanings than what is on the surface?

3. Respond to the image with prayer. Does the image take you to an experience, or remind you of a person or issue for which you want to offer thanksgiving or intercession? Offer that prayer to God.

4. Find your quiet heart center. Stay connected to your body. Breathe deeply. Relax your shoulders, arms, and legs. Rest in this quiet. Imagine God praying in you. God prays beyond words.

—From Kathyrn Shirey, “How to Pray with ‘Eyes of the Heart’ Using Visio Divina” at