I must admit that I struggled with this particular post on lectio divina.
As I began to prepare it last week, I ran into some scary thoughts that quite frankly made me close up my files and my computer. It would be better – EASIER – to just skip this post. Ignore it altogether. No one would ever know I even planned on writing it. They wouldn’t miss it.
Here ‘s what caused my abrupt halt:
- Lectio divina is a form of eastern-style meditation
- In lectio divina, you are coming up with a mantra-like word or phrase that has been extracted from a passage of Scripture
- According to contemplatives, if you repeat this word for several minutes, it will help you get rid of thoughts and distractions so you can hear the voice of God and feel His presence
- Lectio divina is NOT reading the Scriptures for understanding and edification
- Repeating a word or small phrase in order to facilitate going into “silence” is the real danger of lectio divina
The last thing I ever want to do is to lead anyone away from what is Scriptural; to endorse something that is not Biblical.
Coming across this information caused me to sit up and take notice. It caused me to question (which, I realize, is not always a bad thing).
During the days after this initial confrontation, my mind kept going back:
–first, to this disturbing information,
–then to my own knowledge and experience.
What I know: Currently, I am participating in a Nourish Your Soul 30-Day Challenge. The first verse in the challenge was “Let us draw near with a true heart” (Hebrews 10:22a), which I Verse Mapped. Part of my Mapping involved looking up the definition of the word “true.”
being in accordance with the actual state or conditions; conforming to reality or fact; not false:
real; genuine; authentic:
sincere; not deceitful:
firm in allegiance; loyal; faithful; steadfast:
being or reflecting the essential or genuine character of something:
conforming to or consistent with a standard, pattern, or the like:
I spent quite a bit of time with the Lord here.
- “Do I honestly draw near to Him with a heart that is in accordance with the actual state or condition?”
- “Is my heart truly genuine, authentic, sincere?”
- “Is my heart FIRM in its allegiance to Him?”
- “Does my heart reflect His genuine character?”
- “Does it conform with His standard?”
These are heavy questions. Hard questions to wrestle with. I’ve heard the word “true” so many times, but this time I was hearing it as it relates to my heart and how I draw near to God.
But wait… this wrestling; my time with the Lord and this verse were not meshing with the information I had run into that had literally frozen me in my tracks!
I had focused on a word, but not in isolation as if the word itself had any power. I had focused on it as it related to my heart, my relationship with God, and what it was teaching me about His character.
Then I came across this little notation I made several months ago about the spiritual practice of meditation:
The spiritual discipline of meditation is NOT the meditation of Eastern Mysticism, one of emptying your mind. It IS, rather the complete opposite. It is the filling of your mind with a verse or passage and letting it soak in deeply.
Can the same be true for lectio divina?
The spiritual discipline of lectio divina is NOT the lectio divina of Eastern Mysticism, one of emptying your mind. It IS, rather the complete opposite. It is the filling of your mind with a verse, passage, or truth and letting it soak in deeply.
Yesterday I discussed my mind’s battle over lectio divina with my husband. And he reminded me of what the Pharisees and the Sadducees did with prayer and fasting.
After several days of internal battle, I have decided to share the spiritual discipline of lectio divina with you. I pray that before you make the decision to engage in it (or any other spiritual practice), you will be confident that its practice lines up Biblically, that you understand its use and benefits, and that you are using it to grow your knowledge and heart for and toward God.
lectio divina – a traditional way of Bible reading and prayer to help communion with God
How to Practice Lectio Divina (One Approach)
- Reading: What does the text say? First, you read the text. At the most basic level, you ask: What is going on in this Bible passage? Sometimes a Bible commentary is helpful to enable you to better understand the context.
- Meditation: What is God saying to me through the text? At this point, you ask whether there is something that God might want to reveal to you through this passage. Often, it might connect with something in your life.
- Prayer: What do I want to say to God about the text? Tell God about your feelings. Be honest—and don’t worry: God can handle any emotions that you have!
- Action: What do I want to do, based on my prayer? Finally, you act. Prayer should move us to action, even if it simply makes us want to be more compassionate and faithful.
Another Approach to Lectio Divina
Choose a text of the Scriptures that you wish to pray or study.
Turn to the text and read it slowly, gently. Read it several times savoring the Word. Listen for a word that says, “I am for you today.” Do not expect thunder or lightning. Sometimes a word will jump out at you; sometimes not. Ponder the word; think on it. Look it up in a dictionary or thesaurus.
Talk with God about the word and about what it has to teach you about truth, His Word, His character, your relationship with Him. Interact with God – pray silently, pray aloud, or pray in color. Give to Him anything you have discovered during your time with Him and His Word. Give to God what you have found within your heart.
Rest in God’s embrace.
Sometimes in lectio divina, you may return several times to the printed text, either to savor the literary context of the word or phrase that God has given or to seek a new word or phrase to ponder. At other times, only a single word or phrase will fill the whole time set aside for lectio divina. It is not necessary to assess anxiously the quality of your lectio divina, as if you were “performing” or seeking some goal. Lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures.