The spiritual disciplines are means by which individuals and communities can very literally “practice” their faith. They are tools by which Christians seek to know God, yield to the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power, and surrender to the Divine Will in their lives. The disciplines can be instrumental tools as we seek to “tune” ourselves to God’s desires and see his kingdom as he sees it. These holy actions have been practiced by believers since the earliest times, and are firmly rooted in Christ’s commands and examples in the Gospels. (more…)
Do you ever feel like you’ve hit a wall when it comes to spiritual growth? Does there seem to be something missing, even though you are pretty consistent with your prayer time and you read from the Bible regularly?
I’ve been there too. For me, the key to breaking through was trying something new…in my case, Christian meditation in the form of Lectio Divina.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14, ESV)
According Hebrews 5:12, the foundational knowledge of salvation and the Gospel should be intimately familiar. The basics have to always be there (to continue the food analogy, we still need dairy in our diet) , however as we progress in the faith it is essential to grow in your understanding of doctrine and God’s character beyond “repentance from dead works…” (Heb. 6:1). (more…)
It’s hard for me to believe that it’s taken me this long to pick up and read Richard Foster’s classic on essential tools for spiritual growth, Celebration of Discipline. Although I’ve studied the disciplines for quite some time and have read other books on spiritual formation that took cues from Foster, I finally got around to diving into the original. It’s clear why this book has been such an influential work on so many.
Foster writes with eloquence and practicality, eager to challenge the reader but never pressing too hard. There’s a certain pastoral sensitivity in his prose that is a joy to read. (more…)
When I was in college, I struggled through a pretty long spiritual dry-spell. Then I discovered something that drastically changed the trajectory of my spiritual journey.
This new way of reading the Bible and praying transformed my “prayer life” from one-way communication (me-to-God) into a two-way conversation.
I began to expect God speak to me through the Bible and practice discernment in my thoughts to see what was from me, and what might be from the Holy Spirit. I experienced a vibrant, refreshing, realness in my walk with God I had previously only caught glimpses of.
The ancient practice of Lectio Divina (“Divine Reading”) most likely originated with monks of the Benedictine tradition, although it is now an integral part of the spirituality many different faith communities.
The driving idea behind Lectio Divina is that Bible study is and should be an expression of your relationship with the Triune God. It is a method that emphasizes a certain conversational aspect of meditating on the Scriptures by providing specific times during your Bible study to both hear from God and respond to His word.
There are are four stages to the Lectio Divina process: Reading, Meditation, Response, and Contemplation.
Before you begin, take a moment to pray and ask for the direction of the Holy Spirit as you move through various stages of Lectio Divina. As with any method for Bible study and prayer, it will probably be beneficial to find a place that is quiet and free of distractions.
Getting started with Lectio Divina
Reading. In this first stage of prayer, choose a passage of Scripture to read slowly and carefully. Don’t read too much…you want to really be able to focus on just a few aspects of the text that might resonate. On the other hand, it’s important to not just take one verse out of context, either. I generally try to go methodically through a book of the Bible, using either the pre-marked sections or chapter markers as my guide for each session. I’ve also found it to be helpful to write down verses that stand out or thoughts that come to mind while reading. If you keep these notes, they can become a valuable record of your spiritual journey over time.
Meditation. After carefully reading through your scripture passage, take some time to ponder the text. Go back over your notes, and perhaps adding clarifying thoughts and ideas as they come. Think about what this passage meant to the writer, to the original audience, and what it might mean for you. You might re-read the passage in order to glean further meaning and gain greater understanding.
Response. During this portion of the prayer, allow yourself to respond to the text. Think about how the text might change you. Does the text alter how you view the world, yourself, or God? What attitudes in yourself does the passage bring to light? Offer your response to the Father in humble submission to his will.
Contemplation. Simply focus lovingly on God. Words are not necessary in this part of the prayer, because you are resting in His presence. Don’t resist thoughts as they come to your mind…simply deal with them. If they are relevant to your conversation with God, then offer them back to him and pray for guidance. If they are not, dismiss them, and return your full attention to the One who gives you peace, rest, and understanding.
As with all disciplines, Lectio Divina takes practice and time. If you stick with it, though, it can be a life-changing way to pray the Scriptures and practice the presence of God.