I haven’t been looking forward to this post. After Friday’s post went up, Leah and I decided to hide from the world all weekend and try to recuperate. Physically, it was relaxing and as usual, the highlight of my week. Spiritually, however, it was another story. I felt like I had pushed my soul too hard last week and now I was just burnt out. Any time I thought about having to put a blog together I was struck by how empty and a-spiritual I felt. On top of that, my little post scheduler informed me that I was supposed to write about some kind of spiritual practice or discipline that I would be doing for the month of May. In my spiritually vapid state, this felt like the last thing in the world I wanted to be doing. I kept putting it off in the hopes that maybe I’d find the spark that would set my spirit ablaze. Then, before I knew it, it was time to go to bed. This happened three times over the course of the weekend, which is why I’m sitting at my computer and writing this on a Monday evening.
During one of my false starts over the weekend, I asked Leah what I should do for this month’s practice. She suggested Lectio Divina. Originally, I was resistant to the idea. I’ve done Lectio before and it was kind of neat… But an entire month of reading passages of the Bible to yourself? Most days I’m not even sure I believe in the Bible. What “juice” could there be in slowly reading scripture I’m not entirely convinced is divine? I’ve become a big proponent of the idea that things don’t have to be true in order to speak of Truth. When I thought about it, I realized that not reading the Bible because I questioned its veracity was ridiculous. I believe in a God that is desperate to communicate with us… Through movies, stories, conversations, good wine, art, and everything else. I suppose I can probably assume the same is true of the Bible.
So, what is Lectio Divina? If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a very old practice commonly associated with St. Benedict. “Lectio Divina” is Latin for “Divine Reading” and is a powerful way of interacting with scripture. Created centuries before the Age of Enlightenment, Lectio focuses on how the scripture affects us, rather than theological understanding. By reading the scripture, reflecting on it, and noting what catches our attention, the idea is that it may help us hear the whispers of God. I give a brief explanation of the process below, but if you’re really interested I strongly encourage you to check out the first section here. The entire page is beautifully written, so there are worse ways to spend your time than reading all of it.
Find somewhere quiet. Somewhere you can focus. Take a little time to quiet yourself. If you have a prayer word (this is commonly referred to as Centering Prayer), repeat it to yourself. If not, the Jesus Prayer is commonly used, but you’re free to pray however you like. Breathe deeply and focus on the wind as it moves into and out of your lungs. When you’re ready, begin reading your selected scripture out loud.
Your mindset here is important. You are not reading for the sake of reading. You are not reading to try and complete a story or a chapter of the Bible. While reading, you are to be attentive to the Spirit. Read until you feel compelled to stop. Take some time and reflect on the things you’ve read. What is being said? What does it mean? What does it mean to you? Read the scripture again. This time, listen for particular words or phrases that strike you. Ask God what he has for you today. When you find a sentence or phrase or idea that sticks out, repeat it out loud a few times. Ask yourself, “What might God be saying?” “What does this mean to me?” Enter into a dialog with God. Through prayer or conversation, simply discuss what he might be trying to show you.
Finally, take some moments to simply rest in his presence. He’s with you. Just be, together.
If you’re having trouble with distractions, realize these are just concerns that are trying to give themselves to God. Hand them over, and move on.
I know a lot of that sounds a little vague and ethereal. Below is a video of someone leading a Lectio. I encourage you to pop in some headphones and follow along.
Over the weekend, I was really dreading this process, but somehow through the course of today, that has changed. After the tumultuous events of last week, I feel like spending some time listening for God might be exactly what I need. I’m hoping that if nothing else, Lectio helps fill my tank back up. If you’ve read this far and are interested in trying Lectio, let me know in the comments. I’m no expert, but I’m happy to answer any questions or make suggestions if you’re having trouble with it.
May we all hear the whispers of God.
Paul Allen is the editor of Hunting for God. After growing up in an Assemblies of God church, he attended Johnson Bible College for two years before dropping out. In the time since, he has more or less figured out the whole “adulthood” thing, gotten married, and holds a steady job by day and writes movie scripts by night. He currently resides in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife Leah and two cats, Ego and Karma. HfG on FB