Have you ever heard of the practice of Lectio Divina? It’s something I’ve been trying lately and although I’ve just begun to use it, it has had an impact on me and I thought I would share it in case it might be something that speaks to you as well.
~ Lectio Divina is a way of praying the Bible. Now, with Bible study, you may be setting a goal of reading this particular section or book of the Bible on day one and this next section on day two but not with Lectio Divina, I generally begin with a passage that resonates with me but if I don’t have a particular one in mind, I either flip open the Bible and choose one at random (is it really random though or is God leading me to it?) or I’ll pick a reading from that day’s liturgy or I may simply start at the beginning of a book of the Bible and work my way through it. But the passage you choose is just a starting point and how far you get with that reading and how quickly you get there is not set according to a schedule.
~ So, you’ve picked a scripture to begin with – now what? It’s really important that you get into a comfortable position. This experience is somewhat akin to meditation and you want to be able to focus on what you’re doing, instead of being distracted by your back pain or sore butt.
~ To get myself into a contemplative mood, I usually begin with some centering prayer. There are many ways to do this. You can concentrate on your breathing for a few minutes or repeat a mantra (a word or phrase) over and over. I like to use the Jesus prayer – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner or a meaningful Bible verse like – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me or the word Maranatha which means Come, Lord. You can pick whatever you want.
~ Now I begin to read the section of Scripture that I have chosen. I read it slowly, savouring each and every word. I start just with the first sentence. Sometimes I read it once and then sit with it, letting it sink in, letting it roll around in my heart and mind. Other times, I repeat it over and over again, almost as I did with the mantra I used during my centering prayer.
~ Here’s the key to Lectio Divina as I see it. You have to let go and let the Word (and God) take you wherever you’re going to go. This is where it can be difficult for me at times. I can be too much of a control freak at times, trying to dissect the words, to discern meaning from them, to sort them out and organize them into my own little filing system in my brain. But Lectio Divina is of the heart and soul, not of the mind. It’s about FEELING the words and absorbing them into your very being.
~ Stay with me here. I just reread what I wrote in the section above and thought, hmmmm if I were reading that this is the point where I’d completely abandon this blog post because I’d think that Lectio Divina just sounds too hard and would never work for me. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Think of Lectio Divina as free word association. As you slowly read the passage, don’t try to analyze it and figure out what is meant by it. Instead, pay attention to whatever thoughts, memories, and images come to mind as you read (and perhaps reread) the words.
~ How many passages should you read during Lectio Divina? That will vary from one time to the next You may feel like you just want to concentrate on that one particular passage or you may want to move on to another. Go with what feels right to you and trust that the hand of God is guiding you. The next time you return to Lectio Divina, you may want to return to this same passage or continue where you left off or you may feel compelled to go to something completely new.
~ Lectio Divina is considered a form of prayer – which means it’s a form of communication with God. Those words, images, questions, answers, ideas, and memories that may come to mind as you slowly ruminate on the text you are reading is God speaking to you. The hard part of that for me? God doesn’t always knock you over the head with big obvious truths. Your “conversation” with God through Lectio Divina may seem random and you may not see meaning in it right then and there. In our fast paced world we aren’t always prepared to move at God’s pace, which is often slower than our own.
~ At some point during this experience, you may want to talk to God. Maybe there are things that have come up during your reflection and contemplation that you want to speak to God about. Maybe you want to ask God for help in understanding it better. Maybe you want to thank God for being with you and sharing this experience with you. Or maybe you aren’t sure what to say to God and you want to recite a few rote prayers like the Lord’s Prayer. There are no wrong answers here. The key is to enter into a dialogue with Him. And remember, God is with you, even in silence. Maybe you want to communicate with Him simply by resting in His embrace.
~ Sometimes, this is it for me for this particular session. Other times, I feel particular moved by the experience and I feel the need to extend it into another activity. That may mean that I get out my journal and I write for a while. I might pull out some clay and muck around with it, my hands moving through the clay becoming another form of the prayer. I might paint or create collages or I might even put on some inspirational music and dance my prayer. Still other times, my head may feel like it’s spinning – so full of thoughts and ideas that it may burst. In that case, I generally need to get out in the fresh air and go for a walk to clear my head (or perhaps focus my head is a better way to put it).
One last thing – this sounds like a long process but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t let a lack of time stop you from trying it. Even if you only have 10-15 minutes to devote to Lectio Divina, that’s still ok. Do what you can with the time you have. You may feel like you’ve got “unfinished business” at the end of that time but that’s not a problem. You may continue mulling things over in the back of your mind over the course of the next few hours – or even days or weeks. You may see it appearing in other ways and other parts of your life. You may want to revisit it the next time you practice Lectio Divina.
In any case, I have found it to be a great way to deepen and enhance my relationship with God and quite frankly, with myself too.