From day one in the Christian faith, if you’re anything like me, you were probably taught about the importance of reading the Bible everyday – of having a plan or a devotional that takes you through the Word and means that you are reading and digesting something from it every day.
It’s true – it is so important that we have the Word inside of us, and that we let the truth of it shape our lives. I believe that to do that, we need to be reading the Bible regularly, on our own and in community, and we need to be allowing it to shape the way that we think, and pray, and love.
But – again, if you’re anything like me, it’s so easy to get stuck with something in the Bible: to not quite be able to understand something properly, and to allow that to stop us from engaging with it; or, to skip books or chapters entirely that we fear we won’t understand. I’ve known Jesus for ten years, and I read through the book of Job properly for the first time this year.
These days for me, studying the Bible and producing bits and pieces of writing from what I’ve read is a part of my day-to-day work: I’m a church worker, and a blogger, and a writer, and so I spend a lot of my day with my Bible open on the desk next to me.
And yet, like anyone else, I still hit these bumps: these verses that I can’t quite get my head around, or the passages that I can’t seem to grasp. It actually happened today, while I was trying to write a teaching session for our church – and in that moment I was reminded of a practice that we learnt about in university – Lectio Divina – which is a great tool for hearing God through the Word. In that moment, I moved over to a comfier seat with a cup of tea, and I spent a few minutes going through this practice with the passage that I was trying to get my head around.
I found those few minutes super helpful – and so I wanted to share this practice with you:
What is Lectio Divina?
Firstly, it’s not as “spiritual” or as difficult as that name might suggest. Lectio Divina is a Latin phrase, meaning Divine (Divina) Reading (Lectio): it’s a traditional spiritual practice around scriptural reading, meditation and prayer – essentially it doesn’t treat the Bible as texts to be studied, but as the living word, to be heard and internally received; it isn’t an intellectual study of the Bible, but as a means of communion with God.
There’s something about this that I really love: in some ways, the act of studying the Bible intellectually is something that we can be good at – it relies on us – whereas Lectio Divina is about asking God to speak, reading the text as it is, looking for the things that God is speaking through it and processing that with God.
Like I said, Lectio Divina is one way of reading the Bible: it’s not better, or more important, or more “spiritual” than anything else, and spending the time studying the Bible academically is awesome, too. Don’t @ me, please.
So, here’s how it works:
Before you do anything, grab a cup of tea, and your Bible, and find somewhere to sit that is quiet and free from distraction. For me, my preferred spot is on the sofa, with a big fluffy blanket and an animal curled up on my lap – but you might prefer to be outside, or at your lovely desk. All of this is about positioning yourself so you’re looking at God, and giving Him space to speak – and we can see the importance of this all the way through the Bible (be still, and know that I am God – Psalm 46:10).
This is exactly what it sounds like. Pick your passage – I’d recommend looking at a few verses or a chunk of a chapter – and read through it, to yourself. You can do this out loud, or to yourself – but it’s meant to be slow, and methodical, without rushing through to get to the end of the exercise. It can be helpful to read the whole thing two or three times over.
Now we read through the passage again, but thinking about what it says a little bit more. I usually look for a word or a phrase that jumps out at me – you don’t need to think about it too much more at this stage, but just be aware of what you’re noticing.
The next step would be to read through the passage again, with that word or phrase in your mind as you do so, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak about those words. It’s not a time to analyse the passage, but it might show you something from a different perspective.
This one is simple – have a chat with God about some of those things that you’ve been thinking about. Prayer is a dialogue with God – so it’s a great way of processing some of those things that have come up in the process.
The final step is about contemplation – basically, restful prayer – sitting in God’s presence with the Word still fresh on your mind. This might be a time when you think about things a little bit more with God, or when you consider the ways that it might apply to your life; give yourself space to just be here, and see what God does.
Have a Go?
I would love to hear about your experiences around Lectio Divina – I’d encourage you to carve out half an hour, and give it a go. Leave a comment, or drop us a DM to let us know how you get on!