Sacred Reading

Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved reading. I read for all sorts of different reasons. I read to get information. Sometimes I read to learn new material. And I  also like to read to be entertained. I’ve learned that I can also let my love of reading draw me closer to God.

Today, let’s look at the spiritual discipline of sacred reading or as it is also called, Lectio Divina.

The type of reading that sacred reading emphasizes is not to entertain or even to learn.

It’s for an entirely different purpose, one that is explained in this quote by Thomas `a Kempis. “Do not read to satisfy curiosity or to pass the time, but study such things as move your heart to devotion.”

Now I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the other types of reading; they all have their place, but the purpose of sacred reading is to draw our hearts to our Lord. The idea is to come to this reading of a passage of scripture with no other agenda but than to hear what God wants to say to you. This is known as a meditative or devotional reading of the Bible that St. Benedict popularized as part of the Benedictine monks daily routine. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is living and powerful, so we can assume that through His word God can shape us, mold us and change our lives. That’s what we hope to see through Lectio Divina.

Choosing a Scripture

When undertaking this type of devotional reading, you’ll want to choose a fairly short ( 4 to 8 verses) portion of scripture. The Psalms are a wonderful place to start, as are any of the Gospels and Ecclesiastes. To begin, you’ll want your Bible and a notebook to record your thoughts in. You’ll need to find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Start by quieting yourself and praying that God will bless this time with Him, and that you’ll hear what He wants to say to you.

Four Steps of Lectio Divina

1. Read (lectio). Read your portion of scripture listening for the word or phrase that seems to jump out to you. You can write this in your journal if you’d like.

2. Reflect (meditatio). Read the same portion of scripture again and reflect on why you are touched by this word or phrase. Ask yourself, “What is going on in my life that caused those words to jump out to me?” or “Where do I see myself in this passage?” You may also record this in your journal if you’d like to.

3. Respond (oratio). Read the passage a third time. Ask yourself “How does God want me to respond to this?” You may pray something back to God. You may be convicted of a sin. You may be called to do something. Again you can journal your response if you’d like to.

4. Rest (contemplate). Read the passage the final time and then just rest in what you have learned and enjoy being in God’s presence. Resolve to carry this word with you throughout your day.

This is a simple but powerful way for God to change us and mold us into the people He wants us to be. One thing I’ve started doing lately is writing on a sticky note what it is that God has shown me that day, as well as writing it in my journal. You see, I resolved to carry it through my day, but I found that all to soon I forgot what it was God had shown me! By writing it on a sticky note, I can take it with me through my day and look at it repeatedly.

Feel free to share in the comments below if you’ve ever tried this spiritual discipline or if you plan on trying it. You can also share something God has shown you in your time of Lectio Divina if you’d like.

Pray on!

Be Still Prayer

Jane VanOsdol

Listening to God has always been a practice that has intrigued me–and scared me. I am intrigued by the whole practice of contemplative prayer where I learn to listen to God’s voice while trying to silence my own voice and the other distractions around me. What scares me about it is the fear that if I do manage to quiet my own thoughts and requests that I won’t hear ANYTHING. What if God doesn’t respond to me at all? Sitting in silence seems kind of uncomfortable and … risky.

Well, the  secular world has embraced the whole practice of quietness through the use of meditation. Many studies show the benefit of this practice from lowered blood pressure to stress relief–and that’s because God designed it to work that way. But, there’s a big difference between secular meditation or the New Age way and the Christian practice of contemplative prayer. God didn’t ever mean for us to pursue just the practice of meditiation; He meant for us to pursue HIM while we meditate on His word. And that’s a BIG difference.

A few years ago I became familiar with the practice of Lectio Divina, which is a form of contemplative prayer. This was introduced during a sermon one Sunday. A few months after that, I took a spiritual disciplines class at church and learned more about it. Then a few weeks ago, I purchased a book I’ve been looking at for awhile called BE STILL by Amy and Judge Reinhold. It’s a beautiful, little book that teaches the whole practice of Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina, I learned, is a Latin phrase and means divine or sacred reading, and this practice has been a part of church life for centuries.

This little book takes you through 31 days of learning how to incorporate meditative prayer into your prayer life. Basically, on each day you meditate on a new portion of scripture, rereading the same passage four times, as you let the Holy Spirit quicken God’s word to your heart. Then you record what God is impressing upon you–how it applies to you.

I have to say that my early fears have been unfounded. Each day I am learning new things and becoming aware of areas in my life that need some work! As I am halfway through the book, I am learning to appreciate the still time of waiting on God and what He has to teach me, instead of always being the one doing the talking. I still pray through my requests, but I just make sure to have listening and meditating time on His word as well.

And with the Holy Spirit as a teacher, there will always be a unlimited supply of exciting things to learn!

Have you ever tried this practice? I’d love to hear your experience on this journey of prayer.

Pray on!

45903: Be Still Be Still 

By Judge Reinhold & Amy Reinhold

461601: Be Still and Know That I Am God, DVD Be Still and Know That I Am God, DVD

Lectio Divina

Jane VanOsdol

Jane VanOsdol

One way we can grow in prayer is by learning to slow down and reflect on scripture. An ancient practice called Lectio Divina (Latin term for divine reading) helps us to do exactly that.

This practice teaches us how to focus on a passage of scripture.

  • First of all, choose a passage of scripture and read it slowly several times. Write down any words or concepts that stand out to you.
  • Next, meditate on the passage. Take time to let God’s Word work in your heart, concentrating on those words or concepts that stood out to you in the first step.
  • Open your heart to God and talk to Him about this passage. Why did these words stand out to you? What may God be saying to you through this passage?
  • Finally, contemplate how God wants you to apply this portion of scripture to your life. Are there habits you need to change? A commitment you need to make? Thank God and rest in His presence.

As we dig deeper into the scriptures, this practice will only enhance our prayer lives. Have you ever tried this practice? Let us know what you think about it by leaving a comment below. Thanks and pray on!

Thanks to Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana (www.gracecc.org) for the information on Lectio Divina.