I felt like a little kid in a candy store the day someone introduced me to a way of reading the Bible called Lectio Divina, or “Holy Reading”. I now call it “Soaking in Scripture” as it has become for me a way of reading the Bible that helps me soak up the juice and vitality of God’s living Word.
This is a way of reading the Bible that actually goes back to biblical times , as people prayerfully listened for God’s voice. But it was the Italian monk, Guido, around A.D.1150, who first laid out the four steps of the Holy Reading:
We read a text of scripture or serious poetry or religious writing. We meditate to enter deeply into the text’s meaning. In prayer we respond to God in the light of this meaning. In contemplation we rest simply in the presence of God, needing no further words. Reading, as it were, puts the food into the mouth. Meditation chews it and breaks it up. Prayer extracts its flavor. Contemplation is the sweetness itself which gladdens and refreshes.
Here are the four steps for Holy Reading or Soaking in Scripture:
Read slowly a short passage of the Bible, and then go back and read it again three of four more times. Your purpose in this is not to read through the Bible in a year, but your purpose is solely to listen for God’s special word to you.
Keep the Scripture passage before you to ponder it, going back to savor words through which God touches you. There are words or phrases that carry special meaning for you. Savor them as you listen for the “still small voice of God” to you through the words. Let the words speak to you as you turn them over and over in your heart. Meditate on them.
What does your reading and reflecting on God’s Word prompt you now to want to say to God? This is a dialogue and not a monologue. You have listened for God to speak to you in his Word, now you respond to you. He will listen to you.
Rest in God’s embrace! You don’t have to say a word but just let yourself be in God’s presence, loved and accepted by him. The ancient monks called this, “lap time with God.” Climb up into God’s lap and simply be. Gently let go any thoughts or distractions that might come and be conscious of God’s presence in and around you. I will sometimes end with praying Palms Down/Palms Up. Thank God for meeting with you and ask him to help you to be present to him throughout the day.
In choosing passages for Soaking in Scripture, you might consider:
- Your church’s daily lectionary;
- Scriptures from a daily devotional book such as “Daily Bread”;
- Scriptures from your group Bible study;
- Going through the Book of Psalms, or a Gospel.
To help you get started in Soaking in Scripture, how about taking the first Psalm 1, which is the introduction to The Book of Psalms, and listening for God by following the four steps above:
1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
3 They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.