My years in Italy taught me a little latin. I mean, a smidge really, but enough to get by at a fancy monument and understand what they’re talking about at least. I mean, the numbers are a little rough, and the Q’s always seem to throw me off, but if you see it enough, you begin to understand.
One of my favorite latin phrases is Lectio Divina. It means “Divine Reading,” and it is a traditional Benedictine practice. To give you an idea as to why I call these things “ancient” spiritual practices, St. Benedict was born in 480. Like, more than 1500 years ago. I actually used to live about 90 miles away from where he was born. They have this wild boar sausage that’s typical there. So delicious. Seriously. Oh, and their cheese. But, I digress. Benedict was a fascinating guy, for sure. He was actually born the son of a Roman nobleman, but didn’t see much worth in that lifestyle. So, of course, he became a monk. (Cause, why not?)
Benedict is most known for the “Rule of St. Benedict,” a book that engages two aspects of life. One, a spiritual side. How to live a Christ-centered life here on earth. And the other half is on administration, or how to run an efficient monastery. While I often wish that my house was monastery-ish, it’s just plain not. So, we don’t really need to delve into that now, do we?
What I want to talk about is Lectio Divina. This concept is from Benedict and it is a way to engage with scripture as a way of communion with God. This is not some kind of theological analysis; we’re also not looking for reasoning here. This is getting to know Jesus more by inviting him into this place and listening as he shares the scripture not as a text to be studied but Jesus himself as the Living Word.
There are four steps to Lectio Divina, and we are going to practice them right here, together. They are 1. Read 2. Meditate 3. Pray 4. Contemplate. This isn’t some magical practice or crazy thing. It’s not some secret sauce to hear God’s voice or some magic formula to manipulate scripture. It is quite simply meditating on God’s word and listening to what He has to say to us so that we can become more like Jesus. Prayer is a two way street. So often, we do not listen to God’s voice. Here we are using God’s own words (scripture) to have a conversation with Him. People, this is one of my favorite ways to pray. For me, it’s truly savoring and absorbing God’s word. I find a lot of joy in meeting Him in this way.
Ok. What do we do? First, I suggest that you choose a time and a place. You can do this in 10 minutes in the morning, or you can spend an hour in the evening on it. You can have a picnic lunch among nature. Doesn’t matter. Pick a time. Pick a place. I like mornings on my couch with some hot coffee. I don’t have a lot of time in the morning, but it starts my day out right.
Next, pick your scripture. As you’re beginning this way of praying, I would definitely pick something short (a verse or two) and something that your’re familiar with. There are so many ways to choose your scripture, too. You can go through a book of the Bible a few verses at a time. You can use one of your favorite verses, as well. Or, you can use a reading plan, where there is a little for each day.
After that, get your heart in the right place. That’s where the coffee comes in. Just kidding. Well, kind of. Just relax. Enjoy the silence. Forget about your to do list or what you need to do at work today. Don’t worry about the baby’s colic or aunt Edna’s heartburn. Just be calm. Pray that the Lord would reveal himself to you. Be ready to meet him in the scriptures. And then, Read. Read the scripture. Read it and then read it again very slowly. What sticks out to you? What phrase, verse, concept, idea, or even word bubbles its way to the top? What are you hearing? Repeat that verse or phrase or word. Linger on it. Savor it. Sometimes I say it out loud. Sometimes I try to picture the author speaking it to me.
The next step is meditation. Unfortunately, many Christians have been told or taught to think that meditation is something “bad.” There are many examples of meditation in the Bible, and it is not the same as what some might call Eastern meditation. God gave us the ability to think deeply. Do this. Use that tool! Meditation helps us to integrate what we are reading with what we are living. Have you ever had a thought that just stuck with you throughout the day? A lie, even? As a woman, there are lies that I tell myself (generally about not being good enough in some way) that I absolutely cannot get out of my head. I replay it over and over. But Philippians 4:8 tells us to think about, “whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable. If anything is excellent or praiseworthy. . .” So, meditation is thinking on these things. Letting that direct our thoughts. It will change the course of your day, let me tell you.
The third step in Lectio is to pray. Pour it out. Let it go. Everything that you have been reading, thinking about, meditating on, give it to the Lord in prayer. We are broken. We are tired. We need to be able to present our lives to the Lord, and hear what he has to say back to us. Are you sad? Convicted? Burdened? Let him know. Talk to him like you would talk to an old friend.
I have an interesting relationship with the last step in Lectio. It is by far my favorite, but also the very easiest one to rush through and overlook. Contemplation. This is where we listen. Psalm 46:10. Be Still. This is where the stuff going through our heads gets firmly planted into our hearts. This is where we begin to live out what we have just learned/prayed/heard/thought. Interestingly, you will find (at least I do) a clear stopping point. Or at least a break. Sometimes I feel no clean break per se, but instead a desire to leave it hanging in the sense that this is going to follow me throughout the day. Surely you’ve been there, too.
So this is a little lengthy, but hopefully a thorough way to explain to you a new (old, very old 🙂 ) way to pray. If you don’t like it at first, don’t quit. Try a few more times. You may just learn to love it!
If you are someone who prays this way, leave your tips in the comments! If this is all new to you, please share your experiences with us! I would love to hear from you!