Ancient Paths for Seeking God (Part 1)

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In the last few years, I have discovered some well-trod paths for seeking God and enjoying His presence. Some are centuries old. Others are millennia. I have found them so valuable that I want to share them in the next few posts. This first one is called lectio divina.

Lectio divina is the Latin term for "sacred reading" or "reverent reading." It is a way of interacting with the Bible that begins a conversation with Jesus, deepening into a friendship. Although reading through the Bible and Bible study are helpful in their own ways, this way of approaching Scripture is different. 

The origins of lectio divina can be traced back to Origen in the 3rd century AD with his idea that the Word Himself (Jesus) is the interpretative key to understanding the Word of God. In the 6th century, St. Benedict organized this way of approaching the Bible into a daily habit for monks. It has been used throughout the centuries since then by both Catholics and Protestants and is still very much alive today.

There are four steps in lectio divina (the Latin terms are given next to the English ones):

1.  Read (lectio): This is a slow reading of a small portion of Scripture (usually 1 or 2 verses) several times, letting the words sink in. 

2. Meditate (meditatio): This is pondering the passage, thinking about what the words may mean, seeking to discover the truth in them. Notice words or phrases that jump out at you and go there with your meditation.

3.     Pray (oratio): Take the passage and begin to pray it back to God using your own words and feelings. This begins the dialogue of lectio divina. God speaks to us through His Word, and then we respond back to Him.

4.     Contemplate (contemplatio): Stop and rest in the silence before God. Let His words stain you. Let His presence enliven you. Let His love come near you.

These four steps have been a powerful force for healing in me. Much of my life has been a terrible divide between my head and heart. It comes out of my story of being so wounded as a young man. To survive the onslaught, I shut down my heart and lived in my head. So when I began to read the Bible seriously, I wanted it to come into my heart and change the way I felt about myself and God. But too often it would just stay as concepts in my thinking. How many times did I read of God’s love for me, but how much of my life was spent living outside of that love.

When I discovered lectio divina, it was one of the important ways God used to heal the divide between my head and heart. The Scriptures moved from my left brain to my right. They moved from my cognitive awareness into my affective. I began to feel the truths of the Bible because I began to feel God’s presence and love in ways that have stained me forever.

The best way to discover the power of lectio divina is to try it yourself. The process can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as you wish. Journaling about what happened afterwards can also be beneficial. Try it for yourself and see.

Feel free to respond back with questions. I would enjoy interacting with you about this.

In the next post, I'll talk about an ancient way of being in silence.