Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash
Most of us Christians look at the Bible as a “how-to” handbook, a manual that gives us straightforward instructions that would solve all our moral problems in life. What if I show you a way to approach the Bible that will put you in a place of communing with her Author? An approach practiced for more than 1,500 years by the church. The process is called Lectio Divina, a Latin phrase (pronounced: lex-ee-oh div-veenuh) that translates as “divine reading,” “spiritual reading,” or “sacred reading.”
Lectio is a simple way of prayer that opens us to a deep level of communication with God through a gentle unfolding. It is a way to approach Scripture where we learn about our Lord and engage him in conversation. Through an attentive listening of the heart, this process leads to an inner awakening to God’s faithful love, which dwells within us and is the answer to our many longings.
Lectio is an approach that builds on serious Bible study but moves to new depths as we open ourselves to God through the Bible. The goal in Lectio is not coming to the text to gather information but constant growth, embracing oneness, and maturing love.
The four steps of practicing Lectio Divina are:
Reading/Listening: Read a short passage of Scripture slowly, aloud, and repetitiously. As you read, listen for the word, phrase, or look for a picture that jumps at you, tugs at your heart, or, as we like to say, “gets highlighted” in your mind. To what is the Spirit drawing your attention?
Meditation: Repeat aloud the word or phrase to which you are drawn. Do you recall how Jacob wrestled with the Angel? In the same manner, wrestle with that phrase. Ask the Lord to show you the connections between it and your life. What is He saying to you through this word, phrase, or picture?
Praying: Now, take these thoughts and offer them back to God in prayer, giving thanks, asking for guidance, asking for forgiveness, and resting in God’s love. What is God leading you to pray?
Contemplation: Move from the activity of prayer to the stillness of contemplation. Simply rest in God’s presence. Stay open to God. Listen to God. Remain in God revealing himself to you.
As an example, let’s look at Isa. 65:1-2.
I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ All-day long, I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations…
Reading/Listening: As I begin to read these verses aloud, slowly, and repetitiously like, “I revealed myself to those, I revealed myself to those, who did not ask for me, who did not ask for me…”, and listen in faith, the Lord will speak to me where I am. For example, what might strike me, stand out or impress me is the phrase: “I revealed myself.” I realize that the Almighty reveals himself to me, even though my seeking is flawed by selfishness, and this suddenly awakens in me a sense of unworthiness and gratitude. Or the three words, Here am I, may create in me a fresh realization of the constancy of his presence in my life.
Often, in our group Lectio meetings, I’ve been amazed at how the Lord speaks quite differently to each people from the exact text.
Meditation: As I am drawn to a particular phrase, and I am beginning to reflect on its meaning for me, I have started to enter the next step, Meditation. Now I begin to speak aloud the phrase, the word, or the image to which I have been drawn. I turn it over in my mind. “I reveal myself” I might ask myself, “Why would God want to reveal himself to me?” Or ponder, “What have I done to deserve this? I am not worthy.”
As I let these thoughts take hold in my mind, I realize despite my selfishness, which is not just limited to my relationship with my Creator, but all those around me, how gracious and loving the Lord is to me. So, I let these thoughts lead me where they lead me, staying in God’s presence and coming back again and again to the phrase “I revealed myself.”
Praying: The natural process of the last step will lead me into a prayer I have already begun to formulate in my mind. First, I thank God for his mercy and love towards me, asking for forgiveness. Then, I ask him for a new sense of strength and guidance to overcome my selfish tendencies and be more gracious towards him and those around me.
Contemplation: So far, the governing factor has been my reading, listening, meditating, and prayer. In this stage, as I remember the love of God again, my activities stop, and I rest in that love. With words like “I love you, Lord.” I sit in God’s presence with an alert silence with no other words. I’ve already prayed. I simply sit before God. What happens in this stage is up to the Lord.
Please note that I use Scripture to commune with the Lord in this approach. There is no expectation of uncovering a profound theological truth, showing any exegetical proficiency, or parsing words in Greek and Hebrew. Like Mary, I am simply here to gaze upon the Lord’s beauty, be silent, and hear from him.
Invariably, some might ask, “What if you hear God wrong?” To which I say,
a. What makes you think your pastor or the commentator you’re reading is correct all the time? You’ve accepted them by faith.
b. Like you, I also trust the Holy Spirit to speak to me by faith.
c. Finally, what I’ve heard is between the Lord and me and not for public consumption.
Imagine coming together with a group of 5-6 fellow believers, not necessarily for more biblical information, but to read the Bible meditatively, hear from the Lord, and pray for each other. By the way, in a group Lectio, instead of praying for yourself, you’ll ask the person next to you to pray for you.
For more than 20 years, my wife, Karen, and I have taught and conducted Lectio meetings and have witnessed many lives changed through this simple ancient practice. If you’re interested in learning more about Lectio Divina, please contact me.