Sunday, January 15, 2012

When You Want God to Talk to You

Announce that you practice "lectio divina" in a group of good solid Christians, and you may get some funny glances. It sounds a little too holy for thou & company.  But it is really wonderful ... and easy.  If you want God to talk to you, you have to listen.

Lectio divina is Latin for divine reading. It's a traditional prayer that combines the reading of scripture, meditation on that scripture and prayer. You read the scripture for formation, not information. It transforms the word of God into the Living Word of God as applied to your specific life.

Traditionally lectio divina has four steps, although my church often teaches the addition of a beginning and an aftermath.  The four steps are: reading, meditation or reflection, prayer or response, and contemplation or resting in loving relationship with God. If you are an ultra-Myers-Briggs J like me, you have to fight taking the four steps as four things to check off.  This is, like it or not, an exercise of relaxation in God's word.

Prepare: For this to work, you need to be calm. Go someplace quiet. Turn off the ringer on your phone. Perhaps put on some soft music. Invite the Holy Spirit to meet you in this time of prayer. (The Holy Spirit has a significant role in revealing the meaning of the Word of God.) In other words, "Be still and know that I am God."

Read: Slowly read a passage of the Bible, perhaps several times, perhaps out loud. Read it so you hear every word. You also can personalize it by inserting your own name into it rather than the generic "you."

Meditate or Reflect: As you listen to the Living Word, what comes to mind? What word or words catch your attention?  What is stirred up in your spirit?

Pray or Respond: Ask God why these words have caught your attention. What is the Holy Spirit trying to say to you? How does it apply to your life today? Listen for God's response.  (Any true response will be consistent with the Bible.)

Contemplate or Rest:  Rest in God's presence.  And don't worry if you got nothing out of the reading. Sometimes that happens. 

Return: Through the rest of the day, return to the passage in your mind and reflect on it.

If this sounds interesting to you, there are two easy ways to start.  "Solo" by Eugene  Peterson, the genius behind the Message translation of the Bible, is a wonderful introduction with well over 100 lectio divina meditations in it.  It's available for the whole Bible or just the New Testament. I also have it as an e-book on my Nook, so it's convenient for travel.

A podcast called "Pray As You Go" from the Jesuits also does lectio divina in the Catholic tradition each day.  It's available on iTunes as well.

God has something to say about your life. Lectio divina will help you to hear it.

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