How to Do Meditation Using the Bible with Lectio Divina
To do meditation using the Bible you can use a process where you read a passage and then think deeply about a verse or phrase that draws your attention. This way to do meditation using the Bible is called Lectio Divina.
The Christian tradition of meditation using the Bible
Meditation using the Bible or Lectio Divina is a very old Christian practice that was formalized by the Benedictine religious order in the 6th Century. In Lectio Divina, you use the Bible to connect your thoughts and heart to God in a personal way that gives you insight into your life and into who God is. Instead of looking at the Bible as something you read or study intellectually, Lectio Divina uses the Bible as a dynamic, living Word that isn’t tied to history or time. In this meditation using the Bible you allow God to help you ponder a universal truth that catches your attention so it will nourish your soul.
Lectio Divina does not in any way lessen the need for Bible study. It’s important that Christians read and study the Bible using analytical skills, comparing passages, historical context, theology and using study aids. This helps us understand how God’s relationship with us works and what he expects of us. Lectio Divina is a different way of allowing the Bible to speak to us in a more meditative way, which is just as valid and useful.
In Lectio Divina the traditional steps are: read, meditate, pray and contemplate. Below we’ve incorporated these steps into a simple way to do meditation using the Bible.
Create a space to meditate
Meditation requires a relaxed, unhurried atmosphere, free from distractions, background noise and electronics. It’s helpful to find a time when you have a set period of time available. If you’re on a schedule, to keep from having to look at the time, set a timer on your phone so you will know when you need to end.
Read the Bible verses out loud several times
Reading the Bible verses out loud a few times helps you hear physically as well as mentally as you think about the words. Read them over, trying not to analyze what you’re reading.
I find that using a fairly short passage from the Bible works for me. I might read half of a chapter in the Bible. In other cases where there are a lot of thoughts and subjects that change frequently such as in the book of Psalms, you might want to read only 4 or 5 verses.
Another useful tip is to read the Bible from where you left off the day before, chapter to chapter, instead of in a random order each day where you hop from book to book. For instance, start with Matthew 1 and the next day read Matthew 2. That way your mind won’t get caught up with a lot of unanswered questions about who the writer is and what’s going on in their lives. These are questions best suited for Bible study, not for meditation using the Bible.
Choose a Bible verse or phrase from your reading.
As you read, pay attention to a thought, idea or image that seems to attract your attention and invite you closer to God. Don’t over think which verse or phrase to choose. Instead, let the Holy Spirit simply draw you to something. Go with what first intrigues you. Don’t worry if you don’t know immediately why this passage is drawing you. Simply be open to the joy discovery.
Reflect and meditate on the Bible verse that has drawn your attention.
Begin reflecting and meditating on the Bible verse that has drawn you. Simply sit with the phrase and let God begin making quiet connections between the verse and yourself. The sorts of things that might come to you during reflection are why it seems unusual to you, or why it feels true, or why it seems challenging to you, or what you don’t understand about it.
Connect the Bible verse to your life.
This Bible passage has drawn you because there is something in it that you need. Remember that you are not on a problem solving quest where you’ve come to God with a burning life question that you want answered immediately. Instead God is calling you into the spiritual realm through his Word in the Scripture. Your mind will be refreshed with truth about God, his nature, His Kingdom, your relationship to him and about your life.
Listen to God’s Invitation and pray for his guidance and help in response
After you discover the specific things that God has communicated to you through the Bible verse, meditate on what God would like for you to do with it. Does he want you to gain reassurance and encouragement? Does he want you to re-examine your priorities, does he want you to continue on your current path? Does he want to challenge you to become more bold or to change direction?
Try a practice example of how to do meditation using the Bible with Lectio Divina
The following is an exercise I have tried with groups and with myself. For the purpose of practice, I tried to find a Bible verse that isn’t well known so that we could look at it with fresh eyes.
Read the Scripture Exodus 13:17–22 NIV out loud several times.
When Pharoah let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.
Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph mad the sons of Israel swear an oath. He said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.”
After leaving Succoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.”
Follow these steps
Find a phrase or verse that draws you
Reflect on the phrase or verse
Connect the phrase or verse to you individual situation
Listen the God’s invitation of how to apply the verse to your life
Pray that God will help you follow through with your response
My personal experiences from meditating on this Bible passage
In order to show you an example of what might transpire when you meditate using the Bible I will share what happened between me and God when I meditated on it.
The passage that I chose was the verse, “God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter.” I particularly focused on the idea of the shorter road and why a shorter road wasn’t taken, which is against our human way of thinking.
As I reflected on this verse, it seemed to apply to my writing career. I felt like that God had not taken me on the “shorter road” in my career, but rather it had taken a very long time to get just a few things accomplished.
As I listened for God’s invitation in the verse, it came to me that maybe the longer road had been better for me after all because I had more wisdom to write about when I finally did get the opportunity.
It also spoke to my present situation about a family member who was dealing with a long term problem that had me very concerned and fearful. I had often prayed that God would send immediate rescue and healing. But it hadn’t happened. God seemed to be inviting me to trust him and to follow in the direction my life was taking me. It was enough that he was with me, even though it seemed like the long road. I knew that my family member had to learn how to make good choices and had to learn how to be well. That was a long road, and there you learn how to be free and wise. And you learn not to run back to the place from which God has already rescued you.
When I used this Bible passage in a group setting with others, they focused on a variety of different verses and each person had a unique and personal direction it took them. Several focused on the pillar of fire and the pillar of smoke as a reassurance that God was leading them or was with them on a tough journey. The most unusual meditation focused on the bones of Joseph being carried with the Israelites. Most of us shied away from that verse because it seemed a little spooky. However the individual who meditated on the verse meditated on the continuity of generations and how the past affects the present.
Other ideas and tips
Writing thoughts in a journal while doing meditating on Scripture. Meditating with the Bible requires you to go inside of yourself to think and ponder deeply and some people find that they need to keep their eyes closed and sit very still. I have personally used a journaling method where I sit down to meditate with my Bible and my journal and a pen. I close my eyes and meditate for a short time, then jot down what I was thinking and hearing. Then I close my eyes again allowing myself to follow the thought again in a new direction. This might not work for everyone, but it helps me stay focused, which is sometimes difficult to do during meditation. It also leaves me a written record of what I learned that I can go back to and profit from.
Writing in a journal while meditating on Scripture might also be useful to those who have attention disorders or who learn better through physical movement. It also is helpful to visual learners for whom seeing the words in writing can be an aid to more deeply sensing God’s message.
Group meditation using Scripture meditation. Although meditation is an individual interior journey unique to the individual, it is possible to do meditation using the Bible or Lectio Divina in a group setting. In such a setting, the group would meditate silently on the same Scripture passage for a set period of time, such as twenty minutes. After the meditation time participants then share with each other what part of the Bible passage they meditated on and what they discovered. Usually it is very enlightening to hear what the different ways God spoke to others.
If you’re doing silent meditation in a group setting, it sometimes helps to have meditative music softly playing in the background to mask other sounds and noises. It also helps set a meditative, calming, holy atmosphere. Just make sure the music is not melodies of songs or tunes that the group might recognize and cause them to start mentally providing the lyrics. Meditative music suggestions include looking for music designated for labyrinth walking or soaking prayer or using music pads which make a soft chord sound to fill in musical numbers.
Video of how to meditate with Scriptures
This Facebook Live video will give you a specific example of how I used Lectio Divina in my personal devotional time and how my meditation was naturally led by the Holy Spirit to re-fill me with patience. As you watch the video, note that I entered the meditation time through the Scripture not knowing where it would lead. I did not begin with a personal question, but rather used the Scripture to lead me to a truth that I needed in my life.
Copyright Karen Barber 2017. All rights reserved.