This is the first in a 5-part series called Ways to Worship. In this series, we’re going to look at 5 different ways to read the Bible and connect our heads and hearts with God.
People often tell me I’m a slow eater. Most times, the other people around me have already finished and I’m still halfway through my dinner. Sometimes people think I’m not enjoying the food on my plate. But, in fact, it’s just the opposite. If I’m eating something delicious, I slow down. I savour every bite, soaking in the flavour, the smell, the texture. I want to experience this food as much as I possibly can. The first Bible study method we’re looking at in this series is Lectio Divina. Depending on your church background, you may or may not have heard of this one. At it’s heart, it’s about slowing down and listening to God. Like that delicious meal, savouring each word. Experiencing it deep within you. Resting in God’s presence.
Lectio Divina is an ancient form of Bible study, spanning back to the early monastic communities through to the Middle Ages. This tradition was strong in the monastic order of St Benedict, who spoke about listening with ‘the ear of our hearts’. The steps as we know them today were developed by a 12th century monk called Guigo, in his book The Ladder of Paradise.
What do I need?
a quiet space
a candle can help create an atmosphere of sacred reflection
How to do it?
Lectio Divina is made up of four steps. These steps aren’t meant to be followed rigidly, rather they are fluid and free flowing. It’s perfectly okay to move through these steps as the Spirit leads, going back to a previous step as many times as needed. Each of the four steps originally had a Latin name, which I’ve included in case you’re interested – because everything sounds fancy in Latin!
1. Read (Lectio)
The most important thing in this step is to read slowly – read the passage carefully, reverently.
It’s best to choose a short passage, maybe only a verse or two, rather than reading a whole chunk
Read the passage again, and again – notice if any words or phrases resonate with you or touch your heart. Read those phrases out loud, emphasising different words each time. Each rereading will bring you into a fuller meaning than the last.
2. Meditate (Meditatio)
This is the time where you reflect on what you’ve just read. Don’t rush, but allow yourself to savour the word, let it sink deep within your heart.
Remember those words or phrases that resonated with you. What do they mean? Why did they resonate with you?
Let the words meet with your thoughts, your desires, your memories. How is God speaking in to your life through these words?
3. Pray (Oratio)
Prayer is part of a dialogue between us and our God. In response to what God spoke to you through the word – now it’s your turn to speak to God.
Talk to God about what he revealed to you through these words – were there any questions raised, anything new you learned or experienced?
Ask him to help you live this word out – let it change you at your deepest, most personal level
4. Contemplate (contemplatio)
This final step is challenging for our fast-paced, goal-oriented society. We end Lectio Divina by just resting in God’s presence, basking in his love for us.
Don’t worry about doing anything, let go of your own ideas or your plans for the rest of the day and simply be with God.
Even good things can be dangerous if we don’t keep them in their right place. The biggest danger of Lectio Divina is to approach it purely with our heart and emotions, and leave our brain at the door. It is a very heart-felt, emotionally aware way of reading the Bible, but we still need to engage our brain. The message we feel God speaking to us – does it match up with Scripture? I believe that having a solid head-knowledge of Scripture will help us to discern and connect with our heart.
Why do this?
It seems in our society that there’s always a push to be doing, to be achieving. Even Bible study can get like that if we’re not careful. Lectio Divina is like a deep breath amidst the rush, allowing us to slow down and reflect, allowing us to just be with God. It lets us experience the Bible’s truth through our heart, our emotions and our inner most thoughts. Lectio Divina teaches us to be comfortable in silence, and to listen to the still, small voice of God.