As writer and Presbyterian pastor Marjorie Thompson presents in her fabulous book on the spiritual life, Soul Feast, reading the Bible is like savoring a letter from a good friend. (There was a time when we used to write letters instead of whip off an email?) And in this case, our friend is God, who wants our best. It is therefore reading for formation over information. (By the way, a good form of literature for this practice is poetry, which forces us to slow down.)
The Benedictines (a monastic movement that began in the early 500s) have developed a four-step spiritual reading called lectio divina that works well for those who want to practice biblical meditation.
- lectio (reading): Start with silence. Quiet yourself. Then read the passage several times, being careful to read slowly. Using other translations is helpful in this step.
- meditatio (meditation): Think hard about the passage. Ask questions. Look up difficult words in an English or Bible dictionary. Mull over a verse or phrase that has arisen from the first step. Let it percolate.
- oratio (prayer): Pray through the themes that God is bringing to your attention. This step may engage a wide range of emotions.
- contemplatio (contemplation): Simply enjoy the place that God has led you through this reading, perhaps even simply being in God’s presence. You may also want to think through the action to which God is leading you.
Try this and see how it transforms your life.