One of the most wonderful ways to talk with God is to hear him speak through his Word. During our Pray-May Challenge, we’ve used Scripture a number of times to form our conversations with God, from the Lord’s Prayer, to Mary’s Prayer, Paul’s Prayers, and the Psalms.
Today, I invite you to practice a way of prayerfully reading Scripture called Lectio Divina. Though unfamiliar to some, this will be quite common to others. Very simply, Lectio Divina (which is Latin for “divine reading”) approaches Scripture as the living Word of God through which the Holy Spirit speaks. Rather than approaching the Bible as only a text to be studied, we come ready to listen, expectant for God’s voice. Lectio Divina is not a “better” way of reading, but one among many–there will be times when the proper approach is to study the Scripture and figure out what it says through exegesis, discussion and a close reading. But then there are times when we can sit with gentle openness, ready to receive what the Father is saying. Lectio Divina helps us do just that. Though an awesome personal experience, Lectio Divina works very well in a group setting as well (in fact, I’ve done it more in groups than alone.)
Day 16: Prayerful Scripture Reading (Lectio Divina)
- Start by choosing a portion of Scripture. A short selection from the Epistles (New Testament writings of Paul, Peter, James, etc), the Psalms, or the Gospels work very well. For our purposes today, I want to encourage you to select a brief story of Jesus from the gospels. (Stuck for a choice? Mark 4:35-41 or Luke 5:27-32 are great.)
- Sit quietly for a moment, and then invite the Father to speak to you through his Word.
- Read through the selection you’ve chosen. And then take a few moments to let that story sink into you.
- Now, read it through again. This time, as you read it, be attentive to a phrase or a word or an image that stands out to you. It could be something a character speaks, or a striking visual image that the story evokes. When you have read it through this second time, again sit with it for a few moments, or longer if you like. Ask: “Father, what are you saying to me?”
- Confident that you are hearing God speak, read the story for a third time through. Read it slowly, leisurely, open to God’s loving voice. Watch for the word or phrase or image that may have already been highlighted for you (if there wasn’t a particular thing that surfaced, no worries at all–just keep receiving the whole story.)
- Finishing the 3rd reading, let the story rest in you. Chew on it, let your heart and mind focus on aspects of the story that stood out to you, or more generally the whole story. The temptation at this point is to begin analyzing the story; resist that temptation. Instead, consider what the Father is saying to you, how Jesus is speaking to you through the Holy Spirit. Perhaps he is addressing a fear in your life. Maybe he is inviting you into deeper friendship with him. He might be speaking of his love for you. Be open to hearing whatever he is saying to you.
- And then, to complete your time of Divine Reading, thank God for his Word to you. If there was a particular word spoken, praise God for that, and ask him to drive that deep into your heart and help you to live in that truth today. If you didn’t hear something specific, express your gratitude for God’s word and the time you have had to receive it.
Though Lectio Divina may seem to involve many steps (as I’ve broken it down), it is really very simple. You read through a portion of Scripture three times, pausing long enough to let God speak to you through his living Word. Another way of understanding the flow of Lectio Divina is through four steps: read, meditate, pray, and contemplate. As a prayer practice, Lectio Divina has experienced much development over the centuries, and if you are interested in doing deeper, this Wikipedia post will get you going.
I can’t wait to hear about your experiences with Lectio Divina. One word of warning: this practice may take some time to grow in you. You may try it today and think, “Well, that didn’t work for me.” May I encourage you to keep practicing this method of prayerful Scripture reading? I assure you, as you learn it and practice it, you will hear God speak to you and will be so encouraged and rewarded for your faithful insistence.
What an awesome truth: God speaks to us through his Word. May the Lord bless you today, as you listen to his voice through his Word. Father, speak to your people, revealing your Son to us. Holy Spirit, may you breathe into us your living words of power and love. And may we walk today with your words echoing in our souls. Amen.
New to prayer or to the Pray-May Challenge? The last 15 posts on my blog feature 15 prayer challenges for you. Scroll through and try a few that stand out to you. Let us know in the comments what you’ve done.
Do you think there are others who would benefit from more conversation with God? Invite them to join. Share this post or another one that has been helpful to you. I’d be honored, and I know others will be grateful, too.