Psychologist and author Larry Crabb wrote a book called 66 Love Letters: A Conversation with God That Invites You Into His Story. What a great description of scripture! Do you realize that God didn’t write His story to be merely observed from afar or studied like an encyclopedia? He wrote it to reveal Himself to those whom He loves! That’s you. Think of the Bible as a love letter written to woo your heart to God.
Can the ancient spiritual practice of Lectio Divina draw us into this type of intimacy with God?
“Knowing the Bible is one thing;
Knowing the Author is another.”
Because the word of God is actually alive (Hebrews 4:12), and because the Holy Spirit dwells in us, guiding and teaching us (John 14:26; I John 2:27), we can actually interact with God as we read His love letter to us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it this way:
“…just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart, as Mary did. That is all.”
Although I’m a huge fan of Bible study, I also find connecting with God through Lectio Divina to be life changing.
The Desert Fathers practiced this contemplative spiritual exercise as early as the 200s AD, followed by the Benedictines. However, it was Guigo II, a Christian monk in the French Alps during the 12th century, who described Lectio Divina in the four steps outlined below.
First, choose a short passage of Scripture. Some good places to start are: Genesis 16:6-15; Exodus 3:1-4; Psalm 1, 46, 63; Isaiah 43:14-19; Matthew 11:25-30; Mark 10:46-52; John 15:1-12; or Ephesians 3:14-21.
Then, make your way through the following steps:
1. LECTIO (READ)
Just read through the passage aloud once or twice and listen. What stands out to you? Does a phrase or verse intrigue? Raise a question? Or shimmer to you? Write it down if you are journaling (highly recommended).
2. MEDITATIO (REFLECT)
Why do you think the word or phrase stood out to you? What draws you into this thought? What are you thinking or feeling about God? How does that word or phrase connect with your life today? Don’t rush this. Write it down if you are journaling.
3. ORATORIO (RESPOND)
Read the passage one last time. Talk to God about what you think the Holy Spirit might have said to you or what came to you. Pray however you are led. You might thank God for something or ask God for something. Or just tell Him something. Write it down.
4. CONTEMPLATIO (REST)
Simply be with God. Enjoy His presence. You may wish to pay attention to God, pondering: “How did God SEEM in the passage?” What about God makes you want to worship him? What makes you want to be with Him? Sit in the companionship of God – the one who invites you to come away and be with Him.
Through this process, may you fall more and more in love with the God who loves you!