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Lectio Divina? How Slowing Down Speeds Up Your Journey to Experiencing God

Flashy! New! Quick fix! Life-Hacks! We love these words. Why? It’s human nature. It’s why “as seen on TV” products have a market. It’s why Instagram influencers get paid.

Despite what experience tells us, we want to believe that if we do, buy, or discover the right thing, we’ll have an easy solution to whatever problem is in front of us.

And the worst part about this mindset? Many of us are tempted to look for these same shortcuts in our relationships with God. We’re on the lookout for the best new devotional, journal, or study tool to unlock the perfect quiet time. To really experience God and engage with his word in ways we never have before.  

But what if one of the best, “new” ways to read the Bible isn’t new at all… what if it’s been around for centuriesYou might have missed it, though, because it’s the exact opposite of a “quick-fix life hack.” 

Instead, it’s slow. It’s counter cultural. And it’s incredibly effective

I’m talking about the ancient art of Lectio Divina. 

What’s so great about slow?

One spiritual discipline that doesn’t get a lot of attention is the discipline of slowing. Why? Because it takes a while. The world around us is getting faster and faster. And slow is not in. 

But slowing is a good thing. It helps you notice what you might otherwise miss. It lets you appreciate what’s happening right now. It frees you from worry about what’s next. It allows you to fully engage in your life as you’re living it. 

The goal of the fast and most efficient is to get you more time… but what good is more time if you never slow down enough to enjoy it? 

Lectio Divina requires you to slow down and wait for the Holy Spirit.

It invites you to change how you read and pray so you’re not just talking at God. You’re talking with God, giving space for a response. 

Imagine you’re passing through a city where a close friend lives. You haven’t seen this friend in a while, so you want to be sure to connect while you’re there. 

You have two options on your itinerary. You can either meet them at a coffee shop near the highway and chat with them for 30 minutes before you get back on the road. Or you can add a day to your travel, stay the night at their home, and spend a full 24 hours catching up. 

Which of those options is more convenient to you? Which one will be better for your relationship with your friend? 

Now think about your life with God—are you prioritizing convenience or relationship? 

If you want to rip through a study and check your requisite time with God for the day off your to-do list, you’ll hate Lectio Divina.

If you want to experience God differently, in a way you never have before, check this out.

What is Lectio Divina? 

Lectio Divina is Latin for “divine reading.” 

The concept has been around since the second century—both Origen of Alexandria and Augustine of Hippo were fans. And it became an official practice for Christians in the middle ages, established by Benedict of Nursia (and his Benedictine monks, around 500 AD).

Why does that history matter? Because it’s a testament to Lectio Divina’s effectiveness. If Lectio Divina wasn’t worth the effort, it wouldn’t still be a thing 1700 years later.

Lectio Divina is a process of prayerfully reading the Bible that occurs in four parts.

1. Lectio (Read)

Read a short passage (10 verses max) multiple times so that you really know what it’s saying. Try changing up your reading style, put emphasis on different parts, recite it aloud. Then notice what sticks out to you.

2. Meditatio (Reflect)

Think about what you just read. Don’t blow past it. Notice your emotional responses (or lack thereof). Ask yourself why. What is this passage drawing your attention to?

3. Oratio (Respond)

Take your conclusions to God. Use them as a jumping off point for more prayer. Talk to God about what you read, inviting him into your meditatio

4. Contemplatio (Rest)

You know that sweet point in a relationship where two people can sit in silence together without needing to talk? This is it. After all that thinking, just stop and be with God. It’ll feel weird and awkward until it doesn’t anymore. Then it will be wonderful.

A Guide to Lectio Divina by Dallas Willard

Give Lectio Divina a try. Follow the prompts and questions below to guide you through this ancient approach to scripture and prayer.

This guide is from Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God by Dallas Willard.

First, prepare your heart to receive God. Close your eyes and breathe out slowly. Ask God to give you an openness to hear whatever the Spirit wishes to bring to you today. 

Lectio (Read)

Read the passage slowly.

Now that the words are familiar to you, read the passage again. 

This time, also listen with the ear of your heart for a word or phrase that shimmers or stands out to you. Do not choose this yourself. Let the Spirit bring it to you. Welcome it with meekness and see what happens (James 1:21).

Meditatio (Reflect)

Read the passage again slowly. As you do so, and for a few minutes afterward, reflect on the word or phrase that stood out to you. Why do you think these words resonated with you? 

Give yourself a few minutes to do this. Then ask God: How does this connect with my life today? What do I need to know or be or do?

Oratio (Respond)

Read the passage one last time, preparing yourself for what you want to say to God. Talk to him about what you think the Spirit might have said to you or what came to you. 

Pray in whatever way you are led. You might thank God for something or ask God for something.

Contemplatio (Rest)

Do as you are led. You may wish to wait on God—to simply be with God. You may wish to ponder: 

How did God seem in the passage? Close or distant? Caring or detached? What about God makes you marvel or worship him, or at least want to be with him? Sit in the companionship of God.

A Bigger Life is a podcast that guides you through this kind of slowing prayer. If you want something quick and attention-grabbing, this podcast might not be for you. But if you want to experience God, then give it a try.