Formation Fridays: Experiencing Love through Lectio Divina
What comes to mind when you hear the two words “bible study”? Lively small group discussions? Shame from not keeping up with a bible reading plan that feels tired and stale? Parsing out Hebrew or Greek? Groups, plans, knowledge of biblical languages, and historical context can all be helpful tools in studying scripture. Yet, we often tend to approach the text with post-Enlightenment scientific, linear thinking, as detectives trying to piece together a sacred, historical puzzle.
There is another way we can engage with scripture that creates space for us to experience God, to hear the still small voice of love within the text, and allow it to move from the page to our hearts. This can be done through the fresh lens of lectio divina.
Lectio divina is an ancient practice that goes back to the desert fathers and mothers of the 3rd century early church, who withdrew to the desert to seek God and live a simple life. The words lectio divina are latin for “divine reading”. This method of scripture reading has its roots even further back in Jewish culture, as meditating on scripture. The psalms are full of references to meditating on God’s word.
Lectio divina is broken down into four stages: Read (lectio), Meditate/Reflect (meditatio), Pray/Respond (oratio), and Contemplate/Rest (contemplatio). I like the way Jan Johnson* describes the process by starting with a moment of contemplative silence and ending by taking it with you throughout the day or week:
- Relax and refocus (silencio)
- Read (lectio)
- Reflect (meditatio)
- Respond (oratio)
- Rest (contemplatio)
- Trying it on (incarnatio)
Relax and refocus (silence) Start with centering yourself by breathing slowly, in and out. Take time to allow your muscles to relax.
Read (lectio) Read the passage to yourself silently, slowly, and reflectively. Allow yourself to sink into it and it into you. Listen for what God may want to give you.
Reflect (meditatio) Ask yourself: What words or phrases stand out to me? How is this passage resonating with my life? Is there some idea, feeling, or intention I need to embrace from it? What might God be inviting me to be, know, understand, feel, or do?
Respond (oratio) Take a few minutes to respond to God in prayer. Allow your heart to speak or ask God questions. You may want to write out your prayer in a journal.
Rest (contemplatio) This is where we let go of our own ideas and plans and we rest in God’s presence. We listen at the deepest core of our being to God’s still, small voice speaking within. As we listen, we gradually become transformed by God.
Trying It On (incarnatio) We now take what we have read and experienced into our daily lives. You may want to reread this passage again throughout the day or week, asking: Where am I seeing or experiencing this truth in my life or in others?
It is best to engage lectio divina with shorter passages. You might try one of these to get started: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; Psalm 46; Psalm 63; Matthew 4:17-22; Mark 1:21-39.
May you be blessed as you meditate on God’s Word. And may you experience Love through time in God’s presence and Word.
Pastor Becky Elliott
*Jan Johnson, Meeting God in Scripture: A Hands-on Guide to Lectio Divina, InterVarsity Press, 2016.