A How To of Habits 01

Having looked at two habits – Bible Reading and Prayer – that might help us to bring ourselves closer to God, or rather, to make our faith ours, I thought that we might want to take some time to explore other habits that could help us to connect with God.
That is what this series is about.
We will explore several different habits over the coming weeks to see if we can cultivate a few that will deepen our faith and help us to connect with Jesus, to refresh and renew our relationship with him, and to help us get excited about practicing our faith again.
Today we are going to look at a very old practice:

Lectio Divina

You might be asking yourself at this point, ‘What is he talking about?’ And that is a fair question, I had no idea what lectio divina was for a long time as well. It’s not very well known today, but it turns out to have a long history. It has been around, at least in it’s basic form, since the 3rd Century and has been practiced and developed by influential theologians like Origen, Ambrose, Augustine, Benedict, and others until it was formalised in the 12th century by a Carthusian monk.

There are essentially four steps to the practice of lectio divina and they use cool, fancy Latin words:
1. Lectio
2. Meditatio
3. Oratio
4. Contemplatio

These words translate as:
1. Read
2. Meditate
3. Pray
4. Contemplate

In this post we will look at the first two, and in the next one – out in a few days -we will look at the last two, then move on to our next habit. I also want to make a small disclaimer here, or rather, offer some advice or clarity. These habits that we will cover in this series of posts are helpful for building your faith, and for making it yours, but they are not essential, they are not requirements for you to be saved, and they are not practices that you need to engage in to continue in the Christian faith, I am not trying to add unnecessary burdens on you, if you don’t find them helpful, then feel free to drop them.

Ok. With that out of the way, let’s look at the first two steps in lectio divina:

Lectio

This, as we said above, translates to ‘read’, but it is not the sort of reading that we think of today, where you try to read as fast as you can to get as much information as you can. Here you are reading very slowly, you are paying attention to each of the words individually, you are trying to gain an understanding of what each world means and what it might be trying to say to you. An analogy of this step today would be a close reading of the text. Because of this, it is a good idea to choose a shorter passage of scripture, rather than a longer one – remember we are not going for length, but rather depth.

Medatatio

So we have read the text once, and now we are familiar with it, we have an idea of what it might mean, now we meditate on it. This simply means that we worry on it, we bring it to mind and we turn it over and over. We look at it from different angles, we see if there is a section that sticks out for us, we try an place our own experience in the passage, and then to let the words sink deep into our heart. An awesome way of looking at this step is to think of it as like the way that a dog might gnaw on a bone. If you’ve ever seen a dog chew a bone, they work at it greatly, taking a lot of delight, and spending a lot of time digesting it, and experiencing the bone. This is how we might meditate on the scripture.

If you are looking for a resource to take you deeper into this way of reading, then I can recommend a good book for you ‘Eat This Book’ by Eugene Peterson.

Question: What passage of scripture might you read afresh in this way?

Featured image credit:
Russ McCabe

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