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06 Nov '10

Lectio Divina

Posted by T.J. Addington in spiritual formation, The heart
I have been mulling on the lack of spiritual transformation in the lives of so many Christ followers in spite of our best efforts to provide the best preaching, small groups, programming and experiences in our churches today. While there are no simple solutions, I do have a simple question: Could it be that the lack of transformation mirrors the lost practice of personal Bible reading and meditation? We have a whole generation of believers whose practice of even the most basic of spiritual disciplines is lacking - and yet one cannot be a disciple without discipline: indeed the word disciple and discipline come from the same root word.


Henry Nouwen writes these words about this discipline. "The term lectio divina comes from the Benedictine tradition and refers primarily to the sacred or devotional reading of the Bible. My growing suspicion is that our competitive, productive, skeptical, and sophisticated society inhibits our reading the Bible with the reverence and openness to what the Spirit is saying to us in the present moment. When we approach the Word of God as a word spoken to me, God's presence and will can be made known. The regular practice of lectio divina presents occasions when my story and God's story meet, and in that moment something surprising can happen. To read the Bible in this way means therefore to read "on my knees" - reverently, attentively and with the deep faith that God has a word for me in my own unique situation" (Spiritual Formation: The Way of the Heart, p. XXIII).


Could it be that a renewed emphasis on Bible reading with some simple instruction on how to approach God's word could have a profound effect on those in our congregations? Just as many countries fight the problem of illiteracy, the church must fight the problem of Biblical illiteracy if there is going to be any hope of a deeper transformation.


True transformation always has four parts: Transformation of hearts, of thinking, of priorities and of relationships. Only God's word can help us transform our thinking so that we "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but (are) transformed by the renewing of our mind. Then (we) will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:1-2). Until our minds are being constantly renewed and we understand his good, pleasing and perfect will we cannot bring our our priorities into alignment with him. And that transformation of our thinking comes through an intimacy with His truth, His way, His teaching, His path which is found in His word.

In Jeremiah 6:16 the Lord says to His people, "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." Where are those ancient paths that show us the good way and provide rest for our souls? They are found in His Word. 


But ancient paths require us to follow the ancient disciplines of the church - including the regular (daily) devotional reading of His Word. 


We have many priorities in the church. Is this one of the primary priorities that would have a significant influence on our walk with God and therefore the transformation of hearts, thinking priorities and relationships? It is simple - but then ancient paths are pretty simple as well.