I have felt a desire to return to the holy, poetic words of scripture. As a preacher and a pastor, I have had the honor of struggling with these sacred words and trying to make sense of them for this present moment. It isn’t always easy and I will never be quite certain that I’ve hit the mark — but the desire to encounter theses sacred stories and wonder about their meaning has always been a constant for me.
Perhaps, like me, you haven’t found the opportunity or the space for such wonder outside of worshipping with a broader community. Perhaps it’s not something you’ve chosen to do on your own. Right now, it’s what I need and so I’ve been reading through the Book of Exodus in my morning prayer.
Sometimes all this practice involves is reading until I feel saturated and then pausing to wonder what it all means for me right now. Sometimes that message is clear. Other times, like this morning, it’s anything but clear what God is showing me through these sacred words. On days like these, I’m reminded that there is an ancient practice that might help my heart and mind to hear God speak through these strange, old stories.
Lectio Divina literally means “divine reading.” This holy reading is a way of praying the words of the Bible. Early Christians used lectio divina as a meditative tool to go deeper with God and these holy texts. To use this tool, there are few things required including:
- A Bible
- A short passage (no more than one chapter in the Bible)
- A quiet place
- An open heart
The steps are as follows:
1. Read the text slowly and carefully. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Let your mind focus on this one task of discovering what God is saying to you. Read it out loud. Let the words wash over and enfold you.
2. Reflect on the text. Just as Mary “pondered these things in her heart,” let the words cause your mind to wonder, to excite, to revel. Read it silently to yourself. Pause and reflect. Read it again.
3. Pray. Open your heart to God. Now that your heart has meditated on the passage, let your heart focus on God. Let God illuminate the words you read in prayer.
4. Rest your mind. This is when you can really listen for God’s voice. Don’t try to pray or concentrate on the scripture you read. Rest.
5. Action. Bring your meditation to life. Did God give you a challenge? Did the ancient words bring new light to a tired situation? Just as the Gospel proclaims God’s love, go out and do likewise.
These steps have been lovingly borrowed and tweaked from the United Church of Christ. I don’t set a time limit on this practice though it can be as quick as a mere 10 minutes while your morning coffee is brewing. I find my heart takes a little longer and so I don’t worry as much about the time but wait for when my heart is full to end the prayer practice with action.
Have you tried lectio divina? What have you found helpful in this ancient practice for holding the holy threads of your life?