Lectio Divina is Latin for “Divine Reading”—reading scripture slowly and deeply. I love this definition: “It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word.”
I’m boiling soup bones as I write this—simmering them slowly to extract all the richness in the marrow. Reading scripture that way brings out the spiritual marrow—the juicy, vitamin-packed meaning that doesn’t reveal itself in rushing.
Pondering each word, as if it had a period after it, gives it space to bloom in the imagination, to reveal how God wants to help us right now in our present situation.
What’s it like?
I was crabby and little “down” yesterday. I hadn’t been getting enough sleep, I had been trying to make a project work in my time, not God’s time, and not exercising—as if my project depended only on me.
I slowly read part of Psalm 67 and it poured on me like fresh rain. Below are some of the thoughts that came while reading this psalm word-by-word. The psalm is in bold, the thoughts are in parentheses:
At your (only yours, no one else’s) bidding (you choose the time and the place) the rains came (you give water to thirsty souls), O God (you and no one else).
Your (yours and no one else’s) inheritance (that’s me, Lord—thank you!) was (used to be, but no longer) worn out (yes, Lord, only you know how much and thank you for caring about me so intimately) but you (you and no one else) refreshed (yes, you give me rest and pour new purpose into my soul).
All (not some, but every single one) your (yours and no one else’s) creatures (you and you alone made all things and saw that they were good) took up (we go up and we find you) residence (you are our permanent dwelling—please keep us in your heart and inspire us to never want to leave it) there (we need to move toward your expectations and plans and away from anything that is not yours),
In (not beside, but deep within) your (yours alone, God) goodness (let me look to you alone to see what goodness is) you (and no one else) made (you created all things and keep them in being, Lord) a place (I and everyone I meet today has a place in your Kingdom, a place where they are totally loved) for (you did this for us, Lord!) the needy (everyone is needy of this place of love in the heart of Jesus. Being needy for your love is a good thing. May this neediness grow in me every day).
Something different each time
Does it happen this way every time for everyone? No. Sometimes the words just blankly stare back at me. Sometimes inspirations rush in that are outside the meaning of the passage. It depends on what God wants to give us at the moment. Even when we feel “nothing happens,” we’re nourished because Scripture is the Living Word. And slowing down is always a good thing—it sets a calmer tone for the whole day.
You may think you don’t have time to read scripture that slowly. Well, you don’t—no one does—because it’s not a question of time, but of desire and willingness to be gently and powerfully transformed.
So start small with just a few lines and see what happens. God can do a lot with a little. It’s the love you bring to it that counts. If this way of prayer is for you, you’ll find your whole outlook on life will “bloom” along with it in the New Year.
Scroll down and comment below—I’d love to hear your experiences with this kind of prayer.
This is a very new idea to me. I have always read the Bible more as a text book. Your idea brings two things to me–and probably many more–there is always time; and when I take time, I learn so much more! I almost put off reading your message today. The holidays are big in our family with many gatherings for the holidays and for birthdays on the 27th and 28th. Today I feel like I have been run over by a truck yet have many things left to do. Then I decided to scan your msg. Like when we used to go to our boat in Southern Maryland and my shoulders relaxed at the first sight of the water, as I began to read your thoughts, I felt my achy body relax and felt warm all over from your dedication and the love of our God. Thank you. What a wonderful New Year’s gift.
May your New Year continue to be that peaceful. Thank you for your thoughtful comments!
There are numerous passages in scripture I read and recite as Lectio Divina: Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd . . .”, Numbers 6:24-27, “The Lord bless thee and keep thee:” and, of course, The Lord’s Prayer.
I also study scripture, for it clearly states my responsibility. Cain asks “Am I my brother’s keeper?” In Genesis 18 Abraham jumps up to welcome three strangers and offer them hospitality. He had no idea who they were, but he made the move on the assumption they were God’s creatures, worthy of being treated as kin. This appears in modern times on a tablet affixed to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” Jesus reaffirms this in Matthew 25:40, “And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
To me scripture contains everything: words to be read as Lectio Divina, human struggle with belief and disbelief, and marching orders for today. In modern terms it’s the tech/ref manual for being human, and therefore one of God’s creatures.
Thank you for the great examples of how the Word is living and active; ever ancient and ever new; timely and eternal.