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Lectio Divina With Special Needs Kids, by Colleen Pressprich

We sat together, curled up in the big armchair, her head snuggled up in the crook of my arm. She had had a tough day, a tough week really. Lots of impulse control issues, a higher than normal baseline of anxiety. Our lectio divina time becomes even more important to me in times like this. It’s a time to quiet both of our hearts and minds and listen to the Voice of Truth.

Lectio divina has always been one of my favorite ways to pray, and it has become a favorite

way to pray with my kids. If you’ve not come across this method before, it’s a way of reading and interacting with Scripture through prayer. There are four stages: lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio. You choose a short passage from the Bible and read it several times through, looking for what is standing out to you in the words and why. It’s a way to teach kids (and adults) how to hear God’s voice and how to respond.

For my daughter with ADHD and anxiety, it is especially helpful. The structure helps her feel

secure: the steps don’t change, she knows what to expect. The flexibility offers an outlet to her creative mind; we can pause and linger over steps, stop for conversation and explanations, and if she doesn’t want to journal with words, she can sketch in her notebook.

It also offers something else we are often short on as she gets older: quiet moments to share and to snuggle. I get insights into her heart and mind when we pray together like this. Is she feeling confident? Lost? Unsure? Anxious? Peaceful? These things become clear to me in the way she responds to Scripture. I get a chance to reassure, encourage, and even teach, as we talk about the passage.

And sometimes it goes beautifully- she responds and shares freely and we have a spirited and fruitful conversation. Sometimes, like today, she doesn’t say much at all, and will only reply with a hesitant “maybe” when asked if anything stands out. But that’s okay, because even if she isn’t talking, she’s listening. As Isaiah 55 says, God’s Word never returns void. And I’ve given her two things she dearly needs in this time spent together: my full attention and God’s words of love. If you’re interested in trying lectio divina with your own children, here are a few tips to help the process:

  • Choose short passages that speak to your child’s needs: Honestly, the beauty of living in the age of Google is that you can search for pretty much anything. Self-esteem issues? Discipline? Encouragement? Anger? Anxiety? There are passages for them all!

  • Don’t be chained to the structure (unless it helps you!): Sometimes my daughter needs to follow the process to a T. But some days a passage speaks to her and she opens up about a topic or problem and we veer off the normal path. I try my best to follow her lead and trust that God’s grace is present.

  • Be authentic and share too: This one is the most important part. I may lead our lectio divina time, but I am still a participant. Which means that my prayer journal is out and being written in, and that when it’s time to share, I tell my kids what God is saying to me in the passage. This is crucial, not just because it allows me to guide the conversation, but because I model what it looks like to be actively seeking God’s input into my life.

Colleen Pressprich is the author of a free ebook about practicing Lectio Divina with Children that you can request HERE. She is also the author of Consecration for Families with Young Children. You can read more about her books and her other writing at Elevator to Heaven.

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