Monday, February 28, 2005

Lectio Divina

In a few words, lectio divina is the art of praying the Bible. This may sound like gibberish or jargon, but I don't know if there's a better way to describe it. It involes slowly, mindfully reading sacred scripture and allowing yourself to be drawn into the flow of the text until what you are reading gives way to prayer.

Lectio divina changed my life.

I used to be a standard pew-sitter. I have a family, and so I came to church on Sundays. I sang. I passed the peace. I picked my daughter up from the nursery and went home. Then one Sunday I was reading the bulletin (probably during the sermon) and I saw an announcement for a class on building spiritual habits, and I decided to give it a try.

The "habits" were pretty standard: prayer, stewardship, fellowship, Bible reading.... But there was one that the instructor called "daily quiet time". So for the next week, I tried out this practice. It involved the following:

  1. Spend a few minutes in quiet prayer, asking for God's blessing on what follows.

  2. Take up the Bible and read until something catches your attention.

  3. Let the text that you have just read roam freely in your mind. Ask what God is saying to you.

  4. Respond to God in prayer.

  5. Take some time to savor what you've just experienced.

  6. Close with prayer.

After a week of doing this daily, I was hooked. I felt a closeness with God that I had never known before. It lifted me from the dryness of simple petitionary prayer and helped me to see the possibilities of communication with God.

I later learned that this was an ancient practice, dating back at least as far as the Rule of St. Benedict, and that steps 2 through 5 outlined above are the four traditional movements of lectio divina: lectio, meditatio, oratio and contemplatio. (Sometimes Latin is easy. Lectio is reading, the rest are what they seem.)

But the truly remarkable part of this for me was that it didn't just make my prayer life more satisfying -- it drew me out of my shell and transformed me into an active Christian. This is the chief reason that I revere this as a work of the Holy Spirit and not just a psychological trick. It's changed the way I think, the way I act and the way I see the world.

Thanks be to God for the wonderful gift of lectio divina.


Badger539 said...

wow, that's impressive. Do you mind if I post it into my question on the traditional christianity foruM? oh wait, your a blog, I'll post your link . . . .

LutheranChik said...

I have found lectio to be a very important part of my personal faith walk as well. I used to be so caught up in the "exegeting and hermeneuting" that I didn't listen to what the text had to say to me; lectio changed that.

LutheranChik said... of the best ways to do lectio is in the car, on a commute, with an audio. A couple of months ago I purchased an NRSV New Testament on tape that, upon first hearing I thought was horrible...cheesy, melodramatic readings with annoying background music more suitable for a self-hypnosis tape...and yet the message came through. Although I still have an urge to buy a tape recorder, sit in a soundproof booth and tape-record the texts myself, sans dramatic or musical embellishment.