If your days look anything like mine, they start too early, end too late and barely stop for a moment in-between. Slowing down to let God speak to me sounds really right and good, but if I’m honest, it feels pretty inefficient. Lectio Divina is a spiritual practice that involves praying through the Scriptures. It’s Latin for “divine reading.” It’s slow and contemplative – the exact opposite of my natural tendency.
Instead of pausing, I find myself striving to get more things done as fast as I can. After I’ve got it all figured out, I invite God into my pre-determined, very specific plan for my time with Him. I give God a checklist of things I’d like Him to do for me. I never stop to ask, “God, what do you want of me? What do you have prepared for me?”
But time and time again, I’m reminded: His thoughts and His ways are higher than my own (Isaiah 55:8-9). Usually this reminder comes after I crash and burn from trying to do too much without God’s gentle guidance. In my state of exhaustion, God reminds me of my humanity and calls me to His good rest.
God is constantly calling us to lay down everything that makes us worry; everything that causes us to stress cry; everything that makes us angry, bitter, proud, hurtful, hateful, or tired. And He promises us rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30).
When God calls us to slow down and spend time with Him, He’s not toying with us to see if we can squeeze one more thing into our short 24 hours. Stopping to be reminded of who God is and who we are in Him is our fuel for the day–it propels us to take on the day He has made for us.
Lectio Divina is just one way to slow down, and it’s one that has been formative on my spiritual journey. Since My tendency is go, go, go, having a step-by-step process for resting and trusting helps.
If you’re up for it, I invite you to practice this ancient tradition with me.
How to practice Lectio Divina:
First, find a comfortable spot. You’ve been invited to spend time with a dear friend; you’re not being sent to the principal’s office. The One called Love longs to spend time with you, nurture you, and be in conversation with you. Silence the world as much as you can–turn off any music, silence your cell phone, unplug the TV. Close your eyes for a moment and take a few slow, deep breaths. You might even want to open your hands as a physical sign of opening yourself to what God might want to teach you.
Now we’re going to walk through four basic steps.
Pick a piece of Scripture and read it slowly. Try to not give yourself a goal of how much text to cover, but instead let God direct your time. Father Luke Dysinger, who writes a beautiful guide for Lectio Divina, suggests you listen “for the ‘still, small voice’ of a word or phrase that somehow says, ‘I am for you today.’” Perhaps you’ll have to re-read the same thing a few times – that’s OK! We don’t have an end-game here; being present with God is the only goal of Lectio Divina.
Take a word or phrase from your passage and focus on it. Ponder it. Memorize it. Repeat it to yourself. Let it into your world of worry, stress, anger, bitterness, pride, hurt. What distractions or memories are coming to mind? Don’t worry that you aren’t doing this right: the aspects of your life that continue to come to mind are parts of yourself asking to be given to God. Allow these distractions, these thoughts, these memories to become part of the conversation with God.
Pray to God. Do this with words, ideas, or images. Interact with Him as someone who loves and accepts you. There’s no need to cover up your true emotions or formalize the language you use. Give to God what you experienced during your meditation; ask Him to keep it in your heart.
Rest in God’s presence. As Father Dysinger says, “Learn to use words when words are helpful and to let go of words when they are no longer necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.” Continue to be still (Psalm 46:10) and know that God holds today in His hands. The One Who Loves you is with you throughout this day.
When you’re ready, get up from your comfortable chair, close your Bible, and walk through the rest of your day knowing that God is near. Though your day might still be chaotic and stressful, your heart will continue to hold the truth of God close. You’ll walk through the remainder of your day as one fully bearing the image of love and the stillness of His presence.