Monday, January 11, 2016

My Lectio Divina

I continued reading Dallas Willard's Hearing God, Developing a Conversational Relationship with God last night and it was timely that I came to the section on a Lectio Divina, or Divine Reading.

I needed it because of a challenge I'm currently facing. The passage was exactly what I needed. It was on 2 Kings 6:11-17, where the king of Syria was at war with Israel at the time of prophet Elisha.

Lectio Divina is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditating and prayer, to have a close communion with God. It has four parts to it: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), oratio (prayer) and contemplatio (contemplation).

I found this article helpful: Step by Step Through Lectio Divina, although it's Catholic in context. I will be using some of the material from here and from Willard's:

Firstly, I prepare myself in a quiet place free from distraction. I become quiet before God. I still my heart and place myself in the loving presence of Jesus. I commend to him all my worries, obligations and hassles of the day. They will still be there when I finish, or they will be resolved.

I read the passage attentively, reverently, slowly. I patiently wait for God to reveal himself. His divine mystery cannot be contained or controlled by me. I let myself be taken in by his word and be drawn to him. I will not rush. I take my time, with patience and perseverance. I will allow myself to be immersed in the situation, because “those who lived through those experiences felt very much as we would have if we had been in their place”. I will listen with the ear of my heart for a word or phrase, a detail of the story that shimmers or stands out to me. I will see where I find myself in the passage: as one of the people in the passage, or a thing or even a fly on the wall watching it all happen. I do not choose this myself. I let the Spirit bring it to me.

The section that shimmers to me from the reading was v.12, where the king asked his servant if there was a spy in his army. The servants replied, "None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom." And the I find myself as Elisha's servant in v.16-17 when he found an army with chariots and horses all around the city. Elisha said to him, "Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see." So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

This is my human response to God in his word. I ponder and ruminate what I have just read. I quietly savor the word and meditate on it in expectation. I consciously open myself to him and let him touch my heart. I will engage my thought, imagination, emotion and desire. I reflect and consider the word or phrase that stood out to me and ask: why do these words resonated with me? Who or what I found myself to be in the passage? How does it feel to be this person or object? What draws me? What am I thinking or feeling about God? I ponder awhile and then I ask God: how does this connect with my life today? What do I need to know or be or do?

The passage stands out for me because God is indeed all-present. Really, whom shall I fear? And as the servant of Elisha, I felt I was in awe of God who is all-powerful and able to protect me and save me, no matter what happens.

This is the prayer of my heart: unique, personal, honest and spontaneous, specific to the experience of encountering God in his word. I pray whatever I need to pray. I thank God for something or ask God for something.

I thank God for revealing himself to me, for showing me I need not be afraid because I have a sovereign and loving God who will not leave me or forsake me.

This stage is God's response to me, totally beyond my control. I cannot create contemplation by myself. It is his divine gift. I do as I am led. I'm totally passive, held by the mystery of God. I will wait on him or simply be with him. I sit in the companionship of God, the one who showed up and can be seen. It's God's gaze on me and my gaze of faith back at him. I become focused on the Lord. It can be deep, intimate, intense and somstones tearful, often too deep for words. It's childlike, a surrender to the loving will of my Father in an even deeper union with his beloved Son. His gaze purifies my heart, illuminates my eyes with the eyes of Jesus, and teaches me compassion. I allow the Holy Spirit to shape me in the form of my Savior.

I nestled into the presence of God and enjoyed his peaceful and complete presence. I then fall into a deep peaceful slumber trusting in his love and righteousness.

I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of God.
~ St. Margaret Mary Alacoque



  1. I've wavered from strongly in favor of Lectio to strongly opposed. I'm interested in where you think it came from (prior to the Benedictines), why you think it's scriptural, and whether these questions were part of your decision to join in with it. No big concerns, but I'm curious.

    Good to hear from you. :-) And I especially enjoyed Abba is not Daddy.

  2. I did not do a study as to where it originated from except from a quick scan in wiki noting that it was linked way back to Origen and the early church fathers. I did not think it was wrong and have not looked into its scriptural support. But you've piqued my interest. I'm curious as to why you've wavered from strongly in favor to strongly opposed, especially your usage of "strongly". Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Looks like it's a great idea after all to get all this linked to FB :) great to get connected and having conversations again.

  3. I apologize for the long delay. Life is just like that some days. :-)

    I practiced Lectio Divina for about 10 years and gradually cooled to the whole idea over that time. The lives of the people sharing the practice and my own experience led to my cooling. When I tried to warm myself back up to the practice from scripture, I suddenly and shockingly found it simply wasn't there. I finally left the group in which we were practicing it, and was quite relieved to be away from the practice.

    Almost ten years later I reconstructed the history of Judaism, and came to believe the Jews who remained in Babylon after the end of the captivity made some awful compromises with Zoroastrianism. Tracking from that insight, it was not long before connections fell into place everywhere. Hillel, the first superstar Pharisee, came from Babylon to Jerusalem shortly before Jesus' birth. The whole Pharisaical movement ended up being flavored Babylonian (the Babylonian Talmud, it's called after all).

    All those trails led to Philo, a Jew whom the Christians deeply respected. Philo spoke brilliantly of Logos and the Christians lapped up everything he said. Philo's heroes were Moses (the Babylonian concept of Moses, anyway) and "the divine Plato". Christians loved the idea of co-opting Plato, and Philo became almost a church father. He was not a Jew by the standards of our Old Testament, and never even remotely a Christian.

    That did not stop Alexandria from absorbing Philo's thinking, so Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and eventual Augustine himself drank deeply of Philo's thoughts. Yes, that means I believe there's a corruption of Zoroaster within Augustine's thinking.

    Of course, everyone knows Augustine was a Platonist, but are the Platonists really a problem? They're not Zoroastrian or anything, but I submit to you the Renaissance happened within 100 years of European philosophers' displacement of Plato by his disciple and opponent, Aristotle. Plato's idealism is still greatly hindering the church.

    Anyway, back to the point. Philo gave Christianity a mixture of Zoroaster and Plato, and it was Philo who gave us the entire contemplative wing of the church. Every contemplative discipline of the 21st century can be traced back to Philo.

    That would not be a concern if it were somewhere in scripture, but it is not. For every verse vaguely referring to silence before the Lord, there are a score of explicit instructions to speak our needs to the Lord. And those couple vague "silence" verses are mostly instructions to the enemies of the Lord. They're not instructions on knowing the Lord, but on avoiding offending Him.



  4. The idea of being silent before the scriptures was an invention of the Babylonian captivity. Prior to the captivity, Israel was a temple-centric people. After the captivity, they were a scripture-centric people. The transition was perfectly natural, after the temple had been razed, and it was a good and wholesome change. When Jesus said, "Wherever two or more are gathered in My Name, there am I with them", He was twisting a phrase invented in Babylon, "Wherever two or more are gathered with the scriptures, the Lord is present with them."

    The change to scripture-centricity was good and necessary, but the people who chose not to return to Jerusalem took it even further. They invented bizarre numerologies, kabbalah, and other forms of divination. Their inventions evolved into things like Merkabah mysticism, which taught there were seven gates through which one must pass to spiritually commune with God face to face. Passing through each gate required placating a powerful angel, and other thinly veiled Zoroastrian traditions.

    Read long in Jewish mysticisms and you'll begin to recognize phrases and key concepts of Christian mysticism really aren't original at all. They're not original, and they're not found in scripture.

    Now you know why I came to strongly reject Lectio Divina. But why did I waver back?

    Well, that's a little tougher. American negro slaves invented a very practical Christianity for themselves within their captivity, and it included a lot of transcendental activities. They danced and clapped in a rhythmic way for hours, moving themselves into a lovely, hypnotic state. And they added tremendous wealth to the world of Christian passion. Negro spirituals are one of the highest reaches of American Christianity.

    I'm not sure God didn't make us mystical on purpose. I'm not sure we aren't supposed to figure out how to integrate mysticism into our lives, so I waver. I still haven't decided at all what to do with the whole subject. I'm concerned mysticism could be nothing but a satanic counterfeit of true spiritual connection, but I'm not sure. The Christian mystical tradition is heavily corrupted with Platonic Idealism and with Zoroastrian thought. I'm not sure, though whether the answer may be to remove the corruption or to discard the whole mess. I'm not sure whether there's a baby in that bathwater.

    I'm still searching, and may the Lord bless your search!

  5. Thanks Kevin for taking time for this. Very, very enlightening for me. I'm not sure if I fully agree. But now I have something I should look up on: mysticism.

    For now, I will still practice it as and when I need it. I only take it as a way to pray, it is nothing in itself but through it to pray in the Spirit. I shall get back to you after I've put some more thinking into it.

  6. Thank you for hearing me with such courtesy. I know it's a killjoy thing to say, but I really appreciate you sharing your journey so far.