In chapter 13 of What’s So Amazing About Scripture? I explore an ancient way of reading the Bible that focuses attention on prayerfully listening to God and allowing him to transform us, called Lectio Divina. Here is how to engage in this practice on your own and together with others in a small group.
An ancient way of reading the Bible that focuses attention on prayerfully listening to God and allowing him to transform us is known as Lectio Divina. It consists of five phases:
- Silencio — Prepare your heart to hear from God by slowing down. Get settled in one place and begin to quiet yourself before the Lord. As you cast your cares on him, intentionally begin to let go of the hurry and noise that often prevents us from listening to God.
- Lectio — Select a passage of Scripture and read it slowly and out loud. Slow it down even more. Resist the temptation to analyze or judge the text or use the text to develop a message for someone else. Focus on listening as if God were speaking directly to you.
- Meditatio — Read the passage again, pausing to let the words sink deeply into your mind and heart. As a particular word or phrase catches your attention, repeat it several times. Without trying to overspiritualize the meaning, ponder what God seems to be saying to you through these words. How does this word or phrase connect with your life right now?
- Oratio — Respond by praying the passage as you read it a third time. Enter into a conversation with God. Honestly and truthfully talk with God about what he seems to be saying to you through this passage. Now is the time to respond to God. How does the passage make you feel? What action or attitude is God calling you to embrace? Respond from your heart to what God is saying.
- Contemplatio — Rest and wait patiently in the presence of God. As you give God’s Spirit time to work in your life, yield to him. Entrust your past, present, and future to the Lord in light of what he has spoken. Ask the Lord to continue to do his transforming work throughout the day as you continue to listen. Conclude with a prayer of thanksgiving.
(Adapted from chapter 12 of Scott Duvall and Daniel Hays: 2012, Grasping God’s Word, Zondervan)
Here is my adaptation of Lectio Divina to small groups of people. To do this, you need a facilitator, a reader and a chosen text of about 15 verses:
To begin, the facilitator should explain the concept of Lectio Divina and outline the process of how to do it, perhaps saying something like, “Lectio Divina means “divine reading”. It is something the church has been doing for centuries. It is best described in 2 Timothy 2:7: “Reflect on what I am saying, and the Lord will give you insight into it.” As you gather to take some time to reflect, ask the Spirit to give you insight. This method may not be the best way to draw doctrine from a passage, but it is a great way to let God’s Spirit draw our attention to specific things in the passage that apply to us. In this practice, we want to experience God’s Word more than merely analyse it.”
Before a reader slowly reads aloud the text twice, the facilitator explains:
“During the reading, everybody else can close their eyes and let the words wash over them; asking God to cause just one phrase or verse to stick out for them personally. Nobody needs to panic or feel any pressure to find something profound in the Scripture, sometimes (most times in fact) God will cause the simplest phrase or word to stand out.”
“After the passage has been read aloud twice, allow for at least five minutes of silent reflection. In this time, everyone simply reflects or meditates on one phrase or verse that has stuck out to them—just one. As each person goes over their chosen excerpt again and again, mentally rewinding then replaying it; trust that many valuable insights will emerge.”
At the end of this exercise, allow people, should they choose to, to share their select phrase or verse and any insights that came to them during their reflection. Then pray together, marvelling that God can take one passage of Scripture and say something so personal to each person through it.