The term means, at root, the "reading of Holy Scripture." In Jerome and in the Rule of St. Benedict, it meant the scriptural text itself, the lectio, the "lesson" or reading. In the middle ages it came to refer to the act of reading the Bible, the sacred text, for a sacred purpose. It was a principal ingredient of monastic spirituality. This monastic reading led to meditation and prayer, with wisdom and appreciation as its goals. It was distinguished from a scholastic reading, which led to questions and disputations, with science and knowledge as objectives. The ultimate end of lectio divina is compunction, the desire for heaven. The term is still used to mean the meditative and prayerful reading of the Bible for purposes of devotion, rather than for scholarly study.
Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.