The Divine Reading

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

In a previous post, I wrote about some beginning mediation practices, namely the Body Scan and Breath meditations. Both of these practices are useful for relaxation as well as increasing one’s ability to focus and concentrate. However, there is nothing inherently spiritual about them. A Christian, a Buddhist, and Atheist walk into a bar . . . and they can all sit down and do a breath meditation achieving the same physiological results.

As important as this is, some things are more important. For example, knowing, loving, and following King Jesus. Thus, it is vital that we go further in our exploration of meditative practices, which leads to the topic of today’s post: lectio divina.

Lectio divina and I have an awkward history. The phrase is Latin, meaning “the divine reading,” When I first heard about this practice in seminary, I hated it. You see, I was taught to read the Bible with an eye towards the grammatical and historical context. If you want to know what the Bible says, you study Greek and Hebrews with commentaries and concordances and other really big and heavy books. Reading the Bible without all of that? Well, you are opening yourself up to all kinds of trouble. You could make the Bible say what you want it to say and justify all kinds of obscene ideas!

As I have matured in my thinking, I have come to realize that Bible study and lectio divina go hand in hard–like chocolate and peanut butter. Both are good. Both can be abused. But a mature follower of Jesus Christ will use both with humility. For myself, I use the discipline of Bible study to hear what God said to the original recipients of the divine word, and lectio divina to hear what God is saying to me through that same word.

Some instructions on lectio divina use a lot of Latin words; however, I personally found that confusing, so I won’t bore you with them. Instead, I prefer to describe the steps simply: read, reflect, respond, rest, revive.

READLectio starts in the Word of God, the Bible. Because lectio tends to be a deep dive into scripture, it is best to use a small passage rather than a whole chapter. Take a paragraph or maybe even just one verse and read it multiple times slowly.

Reading slowly is important. So often in life we rush through things mindlessly. How many times have we scarfed down a meal without taking time to savor the food? Here we want to savor the words of scripture, not just scan them quickly so we can say we did it.

REFLECT — After reading the passage, we want to meditate on the passage. Just as with the Breath Meditation where we focused on our breathing, here we focus intently on the words we have read. What comes to mind? What emotions are evoked? What questions are raised? What is the Holy Spirit saying to us right here, right now through this scripture?

RESPOND — After meditating on the words, we enter a time of prayer. Here we bring our thoughts and questions to God. Don’t be surprised if some questions linger for awhile. God is a master teacher. He does not just download information into our heads. Rather, He instructs us with just what we need when we need it. The key is to be mindful and attentive.

We bring our questions to God, but we also bring our emotions. If a passage of scripture triggered anger, we bring that to God. Maybe it triggers conviction and we need to repent. Maybe it triggers joy and we are led to worship. All of this is expressed in our time of prayer.

REST — After praying, we ought to spend some time resting in the presence of God. This is called contemplation. We stop talking and wait for Him to speak. Sometimes He does. Sometimes He doesn’t. That is entirely up Him. However, we are content to be in His presence.

REVIVE — This is a new one that I am adding to the list. The idea is that after lectio we go forth in God’s grace with a desire to obey. If we are convicted to repent, we actually repent. If we are convicted to forgive, we actually forgive. We do not want to merely hear the word, we want to do what it says.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

James 1:22-25 English Standard Version

Practice lectio divina for a couple of weeks and let me know how it goes. In the meantime, I will share a few other Christian meditative practices I am learning. Keep in mind, I am not a master at any of this, just a disciple of Jesus trying to know, love, and follow Him more each day.

Published by Dr. Sam Draper

Sam has been with Greencastle Christian Church in Greencastle, Indiana since 2017. He is married to Jessie and they have one son, Joey. Sam completed his Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Formation in 2019. Sam’s favorite hobbies include biking, reading, playing board games, and eating Chipotle burritos.

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