Lectio divina has a long history as a methodless method of study and prayer in the Christian tradition. It has enjoyed a recent revival among laity as they seek Scripture study and prayer for laity (as opposed to within religious orders). Thelma Hall provides an introduction that fits within the revival with several references to Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating, themselves each important in the contemplative tradition.
The strengths of this book include Hall's excellent selection of quotations to promote her views, her emphasis on a loving relationship as the model which prohibits a method, and her selection of potential texts for the initial practice of lectio divina.
The primary weaknesses as an introductory text is that it presumes the contemplative step is a "mystical" experience. This leads to discussions of the false-self / true-self dichotomy and of "dark night of the soul." This places the volume with the same audience as Merton, Keating, Pennington etc.. This is an audience with less need for an introductory volume than the "typical Catholic."
St. John of the Cross's paraphrase of Lk 11:9 is an accurate description of lectio divina "Seek in READING / and you will find in MEDITATION; / knock in PRAYER / and it will be opened to you / in CONTEMPLATION." However, the description of Dom Marmion reflects more accurately Hall's approach: "We read (Lectio)/ under the eye of God (Meditatio)/ until the heart is touched (Oratio)/ and leaps to flame (Contemplatio).
In this context, Hall provides 500 Scripture texts that are suitable for the initial practice of lectio divina. The readings are divided into 50 topics such as "Accepting Love," "Anxiety," "Discernment of Spirits," "Following the Lord," etc. She provides a citation for the full passage and a key phrase "summary" to allow the selection of a particular passage. This allows the novice to select quickly topics and passages that will be fruitful.
In short, this is one of several introductory volumes for lectio divina. If you flourish reading Merton and practicing Centering Prayer, this is an excellent choice.
I highly recommend this book. I have recently become interested in contemplative prayer, and as usual I purchased several books on the topic. This is the only book I found that bridges the gap between the depth of the topic, and the distractions of contemporary life. I have trouble quieting my mind, so I needed help in that area.
Thelma Hall proposes a four step process, in which you
-READ a Bible passage
-MEDITATE, or think about what it means
-PRAY about it,
-and then finally enter into CONTEMPLATION.
Somehow, this progression works. Try it. The book is very short. In fact, most of it is actually a collection of scriptures that have been arranged thematically for your convenience in finding a scripture to start reading.