If you were to ask me what is the single most important habit you could cultivate to grow spiritually, my simple answer would be to meditate on Scripture daily. There are so many benefits to this habit. Scripture is the primary witness to the amazing life of Jesus Christ and the faith of the people of Israel. It is also the primary way that God speaks to us. The Bible teaches that we receive faith through hearing the Word of God: faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)
Learning to Listen
What this means is that we really need to develop our skills in LISTENING. In the central confession of Judaism, the people are commanded: “HEAR O Israel, the Lord is one.” In the Bible, God is personal and speaks. God is not some impersonal force like the Platonic One. God is a God who enters into history, has a story, enters into covenant relationship with his people, and still speaks to us today.
We are called into a life-giving relationship with God, and the primary way we connect with the God who speaks is to listen to his Word. As we meditate on Scripture, we develop this skill of listening. True listening takes humility and time. We have to develop the skill of pondering or meditating on what the scriptures say. We need to pray deeply on the insights we find there, and finally we need just to be able to enjoy being in the presence of God.
Meditating on Scripture to Grow in Relationship with God
Over the centuries, the Christian church has developed a simple and accessible way to meditate on Scripture. This method is normally referred to by its Latin title: Lectio Divina. This simply translates to “Holy Reading.” It is a way of listening deeply to the Word of God. Lectio Divina has two purposes: to grow in love of God and in relationship with God, and to cultivate a heart of wisdom.
The Bible Isn’t Always Easy to Understand
The Bible is a hard book to read for most people. First of all, there are so many details! The pages of the Scriptures are packed with dozens of stories and hundreds of names and places we have never heard of. Because it is actually a library of books rather than a single book, there doesn’t seem to be a logical thread connecting the beginning, middle and end. There are so many different interweaving themes, literary styles and genres, that it can be difficult to keep them straight. How do we understand it all? Lectio Divina suggests that we don’t need to.
The vision of Lectio Divina is that we don’t need to grasp Scripture all at once. Rather, it is a much simpler vision of reading just a little, slowly and prayerfully every day of your life. You ponder the puzzles, make rich connections, gather insights, wrestle with ambiguities, and constantly ask, “How is God speaking to me in this?”
Meditating on Scripture to Take Our Place in its Story
We assume that Scripture is written ‘for them, but to us as well.’ To say it is for them is to admit that the Bible is NOT written for us. It was written for people who lived long ago in strange lands, referring to unfamiliar customs, and asking questions that were important for them, but not for us. Therefore, it is sometimes helpful to have a Bible dictionary or commentary handy to help us understand someone of the cultural things we don’t get.
We also assume that the Bible has an eternal voice. It is written ‘to us as well.’ It tells the story of God’s plan for the salvation of the world in Jesus Christ. The Biblical writers want us to see this story as OUR story as well. The story of the Bible forms our lives because it is the story of salvation.
The Lectio Divina Series
In this series, I am going to walk us through the stages of Lectio Divina. Some people teach this as a technique. This is not what I am trying to do here. Instead, I want to give you the principles that can guide a prayerful way of reading scripture. These principles can be used with a variety of different techniques. This way of praying scripture is very important to me because it is my daily bread and butter. I practice it everyday to grow closer to God and, hopefully, to grow in wisdom. And I am happy to share it with you.
- How Do I Meditate on Scripture? An Introduction to the Lectio Divina Series
- Steps of Lectio Divina: The Four Movements
- Slow Reading and the Bible (“Lectio”)
- Reading the Bible Prayerfully (“Meditatio”)
- Praying with Scripture (“Oratio”)
- Contemplative Prayer (“Contemplatio”)
- Praying with Psalm 131: A Personal Example of Lectio Divina
- How Do I Know What to Read in the Bible?