Recap: The Practice of The Word and Daily Devotions
Our highest value is our relationship with God: following Jesus in daily intimacy.
Our first priority and practice that makes it a reality is the discipline of The Word of God. Why ‘The Word’? Because it’s God’s self-revelation to us. Jesus is the Living Word, God’s full self-revelation. The Bible is God’s Spirit-inspired written Word or self-revelation – having power to transform us as we daily read, study, meditate, and memorize it.
We ‘do the Word’ in these four ways – placing ourselves under the Word’s authority – by having daily devotions or “quite time” with God. Do you have a specific time and place set apart to encounter God in prayer and The Word? To the extent we consistently engage in that time and activity the Spirit progressively transforms us. The affect of a long obedience in the same direction accumulates into fruit-full growth in Christ’s mind and character.
HOW do we have a regular “quiet time” with God? HOW do we make it meaningful? There are two major reasons why many Christians don’t have daily focused time with God: they don’t know what to do (“it’s boring!), and due to lifestyle choices (“I’m too busy”). CS Lewis says it’s laziness: we allow other people/things to determine our REAL daily priorities and practices because we are too lazy to set our own – life lives us, we don’t live life! The deeper issue, of course, is spiritual sickness, lack of hunger, loss of love for Jesus. As Pedro Arrupe SJ says: “What or who are you in love with determines everything: what gets you out of bed in the morning, what you read, how you spend your time, who you relate to… fall in love with Jesus, stay in love with Jesus, and it will determine everything in your life!”
The Latin Lectio (reading) Divina (Divine) refers to a tried and tested Christian practice of encounter with God in the Word and prayer. It means “spiritual reading” or “reflective and responsive reading of the Bible”. It gives a simple framework to spend 30 minutes of daily quality time with God. Rooted in the Hebrew tradition of Torah prayer-meditation, the monks from the 4th century began to practice Lectio – some for hours a day. Monk Guido II (14th century) was the first to record the framework of Lectio Divina in the four steps of lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio. I will add a few NOTES… here we go…
First find a (regular) quiet place and set time. Enter God’s presence with 5 to 10 minutes of silence. Become still before God… still your thoughts, emotions, body, from all distractions. Become fully present to God. For some people – or for certain times or seasons in your devotions – worship fulfills the same purpose. So, listen to worship songs, and sing and worship God in the Hebraic way of entering the Lord’s presence (see Psalm 100).
Then, when you’re ‘all there’, fully attentive to God, verbally ask him to speak to you through his Word and Spirit. And then do…
Lectio: read the passage of scripture before you – a chosen text or the next passage/chapter in your particular journey of reading/meditation. Read the text aloud so that you not only see the words but you audibly hear them… so you can taste them! Read the passage slowly and deliberately, pausing at the end of each phrase or sentence. Repeat the reading. It is reading with ‘reflective listening’, waiting and listening for what God says to you through the text. How does that happen? A word, or thought, or phrase, or verse, or picture, will draw your attention, will ‘jump out’ at you, will make sense to you. Once this happens – or two or three may happen in quick succession – stop reading and do…
Meditatio: meditate on the word, thought, verse, picture, that has ‘struck’ you. Meditation is thinking: what is God saying to me? What does it mean? Question the text. Use your faculties of imagination (live into the picture, relive the story), feelings, the five senses of seeing, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Essentially to meditate is to ‘ruminate’: to repeat a word or phrase over and over again, to mull it over in your mind, slowly tasting every word as sweet honey; or like chewing on a meaty bone, sucking out all the marrow!
NOTE: there are various recognized and respected methods of meditation that have arisen in Church history. Awareness and usage of them helps you learn how to meditate in ways that works for you, that fits the particular text you’re reading. Meditatio leads to…
Oratio: talk to God about what he’s saying in your meditation. Oratio means oral or verbal prayer: responding to God in what he’s saying through the text. Prayer is answering God’s word to you. And it’s not one-way talk; prayer is dialogue. As you talk with God other thoughts, impressions, feelings, pictures will come to you. This is God conversing with you in your prayer-full meditation on the text. This dialogue can go on for a while. At this point you can pause and journal (write down) your dialogue with God, what you hear God saying to you through the text and in your thoughts. List the insights and ‘words’ you receive from the reading and meditation. A journal is such a helpful tool to record your thoughts, feelings, ‘words’, dreams, prayers… your encounters with God.
NOTE: lectio, meditatio and oratio are not rigid compartments or separate actions. They naturally flow from one to the other, back and forth, as a seamless garment enfolding you in God’s communing presence. These steps can take from 10 to 20 to 40 minutes, depending on how much time you can give. Journaling takes another 5 to 10 minutes. This is how you hear God’s personalized word to you every day – your daily bread – giving you the strength and guidance you need to live well with God. Then you reign in life… life does not rule you!
Contemplatio: this last step draws our time to a close. After doing lectio, meditatio and oratio, take 5 to 10 minutes to lapse into silent repose with God, to rest in his arms of love, in the ‘afterglow’ of encounter. Contemplation is mystical union with God. It goes beyond meditation, beyond ‘doing’, beyond all conscious thoughts, pictures, words, sensations, feelings – reaching the still point of ‘being’ – in a Spirit-to-spirit embrace. Contemplatio is waiting a while in God’s loving presence, allowing your experience (God’s word to you) to settle subconsciously in your spirit, in your very ‘being in love’… which you become!
Then you can end with prayer for various people or items on your prayer-list, and give God thanks, and go into your day with his Word in your heart and mind, and his presence at your side. Record (in ‘notes’ in your smart phone) the one or two key things God has said to you, so that you can recall and refer to it during the day. Also, record a verse or two from your reading that you can memorize by repetition and recall through the day. So, day by day, slowly but surely, The Word becomes your flesh, your thoughts, your feelings, your words and actions… and others then see God’s grace and truth in you (John 1:14).