When I was in college, I struggled through a pretty long spiritual dry-spell. Then I discovered something that drastically changed the trajectory of my spiritual journey.
This new way of reading the Bible and praying transformed my “prayer life” from one-way communication (me-to-God) into a two-way conversation.
I discovered Christian meditation in the form of lectio divina. I began to take my commitment to knowing God (not just knowing about God) more seriously.
I began to expect God speak to me through the Bible and practice discernment in my thoughts to see what was from me, and what might be from the Holy Spirit. I experienced a vibrant, refreshing, realness in my walk with God I had previously only caught glimpses of.
The ancient practice of Lectio Divina (“Divine Reading”) most likely originated with monks of the Benedictine tradition, although it is now an integral part of the spirituality many different faith communities.
The driving idea behind Lectio Divina is that Bible study is and should be an expression of your relationship with the Triune God. It is a method that emphasizes a certain conversational aspect of meditating on the Scriptures by providing specific times during your Bible study to both hear from God and respond to His word.
There are are four stages to the Lectio Divina process: Reading, Meditation, Response, and Contemplation.
Before you begin, take a moment to pray and ask for the direction of the Holy Spirit as you move through various stages of Lectio Divina. As with any method for Bible study and prayer, it will probably be beneficial to find a place that is quiet and free of distractions.
Reading. In this first stage of prayer, choose a passage of Scripture to read slowly and carefully. Don’t read too much…you want to really be able to focus on just a few aspects of the text that might resonate. On the other hand, it’s important to not just take one verse out of context, either. I generally try to go methodically through a book of the Bible, using either the pre-marked sections or chapter markers as my guide for each session. I’ve also found it to be helpful to write down verses that stand out or thoughts that come to mind while reading. If you keep these notes, they can become a valuable record of your spiritual journey over time.
Meditation. After carefully reading through your scripture passage, take some time to ponder the text. Go back over your notes, and perhaps adding clarifying thoughts and ideas as they come. Think about what this passage meant to the writer, to the original audience, and what it might mean for you. You might re-read the passage in order to glean further meaning and gain greater understanding.
Response. During this portion of the prayer, allow yourself to respond to the text. Think about how the text might change you. Does the text alter how you view the world, yourself, or God? What attitudes in yourself does the passage bring to light? Offer your response to the Father in humble submission to his will.
Contemplation. Simply focus lovingly on God. Words are not necessary in this part of the prayer, because you are resting in His presence. Don’t resist thoughts as they come to your mind…simply deal with them. If they are relevant to your conversation with God, then offer them back to him and pray for guidance. If they are not, dismiss them, and return your full attention to the One who gives you peace, rest, and understanding.
As with all disciplines, Lectio Divina takes practice and time. If you stick with it, though, it can be a life-changing way to pray the Scriptures and practice the presence of God.