James chapter 1 tells us to “humbly accept the word planted in you” and then promises that “whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do”.
Recently, as I read these words, I was struck by how similar they sound to the ancient practice of “Lectio Divina” (Spiritual Reading).
One important way to read the Bible is to study those things which we need to understand and believe. However, because the Bible is the unique Word of God, we must also make every effort to humble ourselves before the Word, seeking to remove all of the barriers that would hinder the Word from having it’s full impact on our lives. We want the Word to be like a seed planted in our hearts producing fruit in our lives. That reqires that our hearts be good soil. We need to make sure that we don’t skim over the Word and miss what God is seeking to communicate to us personally. This requires us to dwell on God’s words, looking intently into what God is saying to us.
Lectio Divina (Spiritual Reading) is a helpful tool for accomplishing this kind of reading. Lectio encourages us to take a deep breath, and slow down. John Wimber used to call this “dialing down.” In a quiet place we seek to get READY to hear God’s voice by inviting the Holy Spirit to come and speak to us.
Then, instead of trying to complete a long portion of Scripture, we slowly READ, and re-read a short portion of Scripture that we have selected. As we do so we take time to dwell on each word or phrase. All the while we are paying attention to the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit.
Next we take time to REFLECT on the word or phrase that we are drawn to. What feelings does this stir? Why is the Holy Spirit highlighting this phrase? As we meditate on God’s word, we may want to repeat the phrase or word over and over, allowing our hearts to ponder what God is saying.
With the things God is saying to us fresh in our hearts we begin to RESPOND. Sometimes this will be a time of worship, or adoration. Other times it will be a time of repentance or surrendering to God, and so on.
Finally we want to take time to REST quietly and soak in God’s presence, dwelling on what God has spoken. Psalm 46:10 the Psalmist says “Be still, and know that I am God.” Without words we center our attention on creating space in our lives to just be in God’s presence.
This week I encourage you to consider setting aside 15 minutes a day to practice Lectio Divina for a week. Take a few days to work your way through Psalm 23. Try out this way of reading Scripture and see if it might bring fresh life to your quite time.