Most evangelical Christians believe that reading the Bible is of utmost importance. Yet, the Bible is a somewhat intimidating book to read. For one thing, it’s enormous. For another, the Bible was written by over 40 human authors over a period of 1400 years. There’s a lot of cultural-historical contexts we don’t see behind the pages of God’s Word. This week, I want to share with you a relatively simple way to approach the Bible devotionally.
This method is an ancient one known as lectio divina (Latin for “divine reading”), and it’s been practiced by Christians for over 1,000 years. I personally use lectio divina in my devotional reading, and I can tell you from experience that it’s a great way to meet God in His Word and listen to Him speak to you through what you’re reading in Scripture. It’s not, however, the best way to do in-depth Bible study. It’s not inductive or based on precepts. It most likely won’t point you to the author’s original intent. I wouldn’t claim that the things I hear God speak during my devotional reading are universally applicable or that I’ve discovered the true meaning of the passage, and I don’t use lectio divina as a method of preparing for a sermon. It’s just what I do to spend time with God in His Word.
Lectio divina is traditionally based on four steps: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), oratio (prayer), and contemplatio (contemplation). It actually has a preparation step as well, of praying that God will speak and give you ears to hear what He says through His Word.
Lectio (reading). Read the passage slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully. Look for patterns, repetition, and words or phrases that seem to grab your attention. I like to read it aloud, if possible, and try to imagine how the human author would’ve spoken these words. Once you’ve read through it initially, reread it even more slowly. Pause where something seems to catch your heart and think about what’s being said.
Meditatio (mediation). Whatever part of the text seemed to stand out, that seemed to speak directly to you, might be something the Holy Spirit wants you to focus on. Go back and read the passage a third time, looking for how your phrase, sentence, or verse fits into the rest of the section. Stop and think deeply about why the Holy Spirit brought these words from this text to your attention. How might they apply to your life? As you meditate, what else comes to mind? Who else comes to mind? Is there a specific action you need to do (or stop doing)? A belief you need to change? A person you need to pray for or reach out to?
Oratio (prayer). Talk to God about what you read in His Word. Talk to Him just like you would talk to a friend sitting across the table over coffee. How does the passage make you feel? What challenges you? What excites you? What don’t you understand? What do you grasp more now that you’ve read–about God, life, yourself, etc.? Can you pray the Scripture back to God? Personally, I like to summarize my prayer in a couple paragraphs in a journal.
Contemplatio (contemplation). Ask God to speak back to you, and read the passage one more time with a listening heart, then be quiet and sit in silence before the Lord. Just be with God, aware of His presence, enjoying an intimate moment with Him. Over time, this silent communion with God will become one of the most (probably the most) meaningful moments of your day. During this time, resolve to do whatever God tells you to do–to put into practice what He has spoken to you through His Word.
I’ve found that these four simple steps have guided my devotional time with God, and helped me to develop a conversational relationship with God that has led to a truly personal connection with the Creator of the Universe. That connection is something I cannot live without. My prayer for you this week is that you would find the same thing as you approach the Lord in prayer and Scripture!