I enjoy meeting with a friend of mine named Keith Doyle because we discuss the spiritual practices we are using and the fruit of the exercises. One example is quoting Bible verses we are memorizing to one another. Another is describing our intake of the Bible. Keith and I attended a leadership conference recently hosted by Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Church outside of Chicago. Bill talked about the importance of helping people to “become relentless readers of Scripture” so we can better understand God’s voice (John 10:27…”my sheep know my voice”) and obey Him.
Keith mentioned to me recently one thing he has been doing lately that has refreshed his reading of the Word of God and enhanced his conversation with God. He calls it a form of journaling, and it involves reading a passage of Scripture and then re-writing it in his own words. Here is an example of a re-write of 1 Corinthians 15:58 that he sent me recently:
In light of the point that as a seed is planted and it then dies and it then becomes some beautiful plant, so to our bodies are a seed that when they die and are resurrected they will become some glorious spiritual body – in light of all this let it motivate you to give 100% effort and focus to God’s work, to give your whole heart in whatever work you do for God, because as you do you know that it is worth it and that something far greater is ahead – and none of your effort and sacrifice is a waste of time. Hold on to this perspective tightly – don’t let anything distract you or change your mind on this.
Keith told me this exercise helps him internalize the meaning of a text of Scripture, pray it back and discuss it with God, and also pass it on to someone he meets in his daily routine. Of course, he also works to memorize the exact verse or verses to have at his disposal as well.
If your reading of Scripture needs a tune-up, or if you would like to try another “practice”, try reading Scripture and re-writing verses or passages of it in your words for a week or a month.
Another one of the most central and ancient practices of Christian practice is called ‘lectio divina’, or ‘spiritual reading’. In lectio divina, we begin by reading and savoring a short passage of Scripture. Our inner posture is one of a listening heart filled with an unhurried expectation that God has a message to convey especially suited to our condition and circumstance. We read and reflect with the ears of our heart open, alert to connections the Spirit may reveal between the passage and our life situation. We ask, “What are you saying to me today, Lord? What am I to hear in this story, parable, prophecy?” Listening in this way requires an attitude of patient receptivity in which we let go of our own agendas and open ourselves to God’s shaping purpose.
Once we have heard a word that we know is meant for our ears, we are naturally drawn to respond in prayer. From listening we move to speaking—perhaps in anguish, confession or sorrow; perhaps in joy, praise, thanksgiving or adoration; perhaps in anger, confusion or hurt; perhaps in quiet confidence, trust or surrender. Finally, after pouring out our heart to God, we come to rest simply and deeply in that wonderful, loving presence of God. Reading, reflecting, responding and resting—this is the basic rhythm of lectio divina.
Keith and I are fellow travelers on the journey to know God better. Grow devotionally. Find a partner in relentlessly reading Scripture. Try re-writing it. Read with a quiet, listening heart, depending on the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Reflect. Respond. Rest. Enjoy God’s company.
Love is a verb,