Six Reasons to Be Content (Part Four)

In Matthew 6:11, Jesus prays, “Give us this day our daily bread” (ESV)

This small petition is packed with meaning, as we have already noted in our reading of Manton’s exposition of the Lord’s Prayer. It has been an incredibly rich study yielding delightful fruit for our souls.

However, in our present section, Thoman Manton is discussing the use of this petition. The Puritan preachers were extremely practical preachers, seeking to divide rightly the Word of Truth and to apply it vigorously to our lives. In this particular petition, Manton spends time examining how this truth can help the Christian be content.

The word content means having enough. When you are standing in line at the buffet and the server asks if you would like more, you reply, “No thank you, I’m good!” What you mean is that you have plenty of food and do not need anymore (evident in many of our waists, sad to say!). We are content. So, how does Manton provide yet another reason to be content?

Manton writes, “God doth not only give suitable to your condition, but suitable to your strength, such a portion as you are able to bear.” (Manton, 164)

What a gloriously sweet Father we serve that He will not give us more than we can handle! A wise parent will give her child a few pieces of candy because she knows that too much sugar can spoil their dinner, harm their teeth, and possibly make them sick. Likewise, and on a great level (infinitely so, we might say), our Heavenly Father loves giving us good gifts, but does so with infinite wisdom to match. He knows how many blessings we are able to bear without souring our souls. He knows how many good gifts to lay on our backs before we give in to self-sufficient thoughts.

Speaking in a pastoral, wise tone, Manton notes, “God layeth affliction pon his people, and he gives them mercies as they are able to bear; if they had more, they would have more snares, more temptations.” (Manton, 164)

Another reason to be content, then, is because God is sovereignly good because He wisely distributes His goodness in proportion to the ability of the believer. 

 

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You can purchase Thomas Manton’s Works from the Banner of Truth Trust here.

For more in this series on contentment, see:

Six Reasons to Be Content (Part 3)

Six Reasons to Be Content (Part 2)

6 Reasons to Be Content (Part 1)

For more from Manton, see:

4 Ways to Minister Like the Angels: A Word from T. Manton

3 Ways to Know You Love God’s Will

On the Goodness of God’s Will: Manton’s Marvelous Memoir

Six Reasons to Be Content (Part 3)

Thomas Manton’s exposition of the Lord’s Prayer provides a rich feast for the believer. As I am reading this, I am amazed at the depth of this simple prayer (simple in the sense that it is short, taking only five verses).

Concerning Christ’s prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” (see Matthew 6:11, KJV), Manton offers six ways to keep our contentment in check. The first two can be examined here and here.

Manton writes, “God knows what proportion is best for us; he is a God of judgment, and knows what is most convenient for us, for he is a wise God.” (Manton, Works Volume 1, 164)

I find in this statement several thoughts of importance. And, as Manton encourages us, these should generate contentment on our part.

A RIGHT VIEW OF GOD

The first aspect that pops out to me is that this phrase gives a right view of God. When we consider the prayer for daily bread (read: needs), we realize that we are desperate upon the goodness of God. It presents God as the giver, the maintainer of all that is needed for life.

Additionally, it also instructs us that God is a wise giver. Manton says “he is a God of judgment” and “He is a wise God.” That is, like a parent knowing that candy before dinner will spoil the appetite, increasing blessing may spoil our contentment, skew our value system, or cause us to become gluttonous (not only in relation to food, but to comfort, ease, etc.). God is a wise God. He can discern what physical blessing to bestow as well as its affect on our spiritual health.

For example, in Deuteronomy 8:1-20, there is a contrast between the blessing of the LORD (see 8:1-10) with the warning against assuming personal responsibility for God’s physical blessing (8:11-20, particularly 17). God knows what you and I can handle. We learn this from the Lord’s Prayer.

A RIGHT VIEW OF SELF

Wee submit to the righteous, good, and wise judgment of God as we pray this part of the Lord’s Prayer. We acknowledge God’s goodness. We trust His wise judgments. We realize that He is God and we are not. That is, we develop a right view of ourselves.

We learn our limits through this prayer. Ultimately, God holds our breath in His hands (see Daniel 5:23). We can plan and prepare for the future, but we have no idea what it holds. We can work to gain financial increase, but it is not in our power to procure it. We hope the crop comes in, we hope we will have our jobs in the future, we try to get more money, but we are reminded, and rather quickly I may add, that we are completely powerless. We trust in God to provide our necessities. While we work and live responsibly, ultimately we realize that we are finite, dependent (and desperately so) human beings.

A RIGHT VIEW OF THINGS

The last aspect of this prayer that I see is that it provides us with a right view of things. I am guilty of saying, “I need _________.” In my mind, if I could have _________, all would be well. However, what this Prayer teaches us is that we if we need it (the very thought of daily bread), then our God will provide it.

The negative side of this is true as well. If we do not have something we think we need, then our view of things, material possessions, is off kilter. Our value of physical stuff needs to be readjusted. Praying this prayer helps realign our view of things from a self-focused, material-valued view to a biblical view.

 

Manton beautifully reminds us, “It is the shepherd must choose the pasture, not the sheep. Leave it to God to give you that which sis convenient and suitable to your condition of life.” (Manton, Works Volume 1, 164)

Let this part of the Lord’s Prayer help you develop and maintain a right view of God, self, and stuff. To God be the glory.

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You can purchase Thomas Manton’s Works from the Banner of Truth Trust here.

Six Reasons to Be Content (Part 2)

Thomas Manton, pastor and theologian, preached an extraordinary series through the Lord’s Prayer. The words of Jesus, recorded in Matthew’s Gospel (6:9-13), are pregnant with meaning and use.

In the typical Puritan manner, Manton discusses the text itself, providing rich insight into the meaning of Scripture. Afterwards, he applies the teachings to the lives of people. In his exposition of Matthew 6:11, “Give us this day our daily bread” (KJV), he provides numerous uses. One of the uses, as he phrases it, is “[to] be contented with that portion which God hath given us of worldly things, if the Lord be the donor.” (Manton, 164)

The second reason we should be contented is, “Nothing is deserved, and therefore certainly everything should be kindly taken.” (Manton, 164)

This reason flies in the face of current, American culture. We expect to get paid more for doing less. We deserve a better grade on that assignment. The list of expectations and perceived misappropriation of certain items could go on. Popular media provides examples of this mentality as well. Although it is older, Burger King’s motto is, “Have it your way.” The implication is obvious. You should get the burger the way you want it.

Now, I am not arguing about fast food burger joints not offering customized food. In fact, as one who detests cheese, I am very grateful for it. However, this mentality only feeds our views of entitlement.

Naturally, we are sinful beings. Consider Paul’s description of humanity, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:21, KJV) Thus, our society only feeds the ungrateful beast within us.

Thomas Manton reminds us that we deserve nothing. There is no worldly good that we deserve. In fact, in the face of the infinitely holy God, we deserve immediate, painful, enduring torment (see Isaiah 59:2; Matthew 25:30, 41).

But God in His graciousness often showers us with good things (see Matthew 5:45). Thus, we should meditate often upon the goodness of God. While you and I deserve eternal punishment for the horrible crimes we have committed against an all-holy God, we enjoy blessing after blessing. Every breath we take should be breathed in with praised and exhaled with exalting the great name of our God. When life is lived in this manner, we cannot help but be content.

Brothers and sisters, let us be content with the knowledge that we deserve nothing. Everything we have is a good gift from our gracious Heavenly Father.

Six Reasons to Be Content (Part 1)

Six Reasons to Be Content

In Thomas Manton’s Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer he dissects the words of Christ in the minutest way. Like a surgeon performing microscopic surgery, Manton distills many wonderful, life changing truths.

I have shared some of those thoughts as I read through this volume, and I intend to continue sharing these wonderful gems.

Today I read six reasons to be content. It is found under his use 5. This fifth use is, “Let us be contented with that portion which God hath given us of worldly things, if the Lord be the donor.”[1]  So what are the six reasons? Read on to find out!

Reason First, “Because God stands upon his sovereignty; you must stand to God’s allowance, though he gives to others more and to you less; for God is supreme, and will not be controlled in the disposal of what is his own.”[2]

This one hit me hard. I am an achiever by nature. I like to accomplish tasks. I feel better about myself when I can point to several completed sermons, blog posts, etc. But sometimes I find myself discontented. I see people half my age in advanced ministry positions. They are publishing their fifth book, while I have not published an academic article. So I begin to feel discontented.

I am sure that you find yourself in this predicament as well. Perhaps you are feeling disgruntled because you do not have her body. Or, perhaps you are upset because so-and-so has a better paying job. The list of reasons to feel discontented are practically endless. But when we think this way, we end up forgetting one key aspect of life: God is sovereign.

As Manton notes, “The fullness of the earth and all is his; and, therefore, though others have better trading, and finer apparel, and be more amply provided for than we are, God is sovereign, and will give according to his pleasure, and you must be content.”[3]

Or, consider these soul-stirring words of Pink, “The sovereignty of God may be defined as the exercise of His supremacy. Being infinitely elevated above the highest creature, He is the Most High, Lord of heaven and earth. Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases only as He pleases, always as He pleases.”[4]

Christian, have we forgotten this vital truth? Do we realize that when we exhibit discontentment, that we are questioning the sovereignty of God? The first reason, and perhaps the main reason to be content is that God is sovereign.

He made you with your body. He provided your station in life. He gives you breath to perform your duties. He moves and changes as He sees fit. While this may be frustrating, it is also invigorating. We can trust that our Sovereign Father is leading, guiding, protecting, and molding us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).

The first reason to be content, then, is because He is sovereign.

[1] Thomas Manton, The Works of Thomas Manton Volume I (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1993), 164

[2] Manton, Works Volume I, 164.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Arthur W. Pink, The Attributes of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1975), 32.

 

For more from Manton, see:

4 Ways to Minister Like the Angels: A Word from T. Manton

3 Ways to Know You Love God’s Will

On the Goodness of God’s Will: Manton’s Marvelous Memoir

How to Love Others More

Have you ever had trouble loving people? Is there a co-worker who just grinds your gears? Or an in-law (or blood relative) that knows how to irritate you beyond comprehension?

We all have been there. I know I have. I remember someone I used to work for, and this individual would purposely do some really hurtful actions. I never murdered this individual, but I can sadly say I had so not-so-fond thoughts.

Most people know some of the Ten Commandments, one of which is, ‘You shall not kill.’ (Exodus 20:13, NAB) I’m working on a sermon that addresses this verse. Initially, I was intrigued. I have spent more than half of my life in church and have heard this command numerous times. The excitement of a new study excited me.

So, I set to work. Initially I began with a note pad and pen (which is my custom). However, about five minutes into my research I realized this job required something bigger. So I borrowed a white board from another room and set to work. In about ten minutes I had recorded most of the important material related to my study.18588963_10208822612382542_2713873779717572604_o

It was during this time of research that I found something incredible, and one that, I hope, will enable me to be more faithful in my love of others.

The word used for killing in Exodus 20:13 is רצח. I began looking for other usages of this, and once completed I summarized it with a basic definition of “to deprive of life.” Now, this is a very basic definition, I know. For in some instances, depriving something of life may save others. Or, it could provide the necessary sustenance for continued life. But for my study, I began to look at life in Scripture. Of course, life began in Genesis 1:20-28 with the creation of animal life and ultimately crowned with humanity. (You can check out my thoughts on the creation of האדם in a previous post.) Life, or נפש, is the key to our appreciation and ultimate love for humanity (and animal life too!).

Humans, however, are different. We were created בעלם אלוהים. And so, because humanity is the image of God, our lives are intrinsically valuable. That is, we matter because God matters. Or, God’s image in us makes humanity intrinsically worthy.

Now, it is possible to simply gloss over that. Chances are, you already did. But in the off chance that you are reading this contemplatively, humanity is intrinsically valuable.

It is not a particular religion, a sexual orientation, or a political party that makes humanity worthy. It is the fact that they are human.

It is not a particular religion, a sexual orientation, or a political paevelyn-paris-33498.jpgrty that makes a human being excellent. It is the fact that they are a human being.

It is not the color of one’s skin, the level of intelligence, or the physical or mental capacity that makes a human being invaluable. It is the fact that they are a human being.

Because “When God created human beings, he made them in the likeness of God; he created them male and female.” (Genesis 5:1b-2a, NAB) That is what makes a human being worthy.lechon-kirb-25696

Now, how does this help us love others more? When we stop looking at people in categories, we start to what is really there: people. She is not a Muslim, she is a human being created in the image of God. He is not queer, he is a human being created in the image of God.

When you and I begin to see God in others, our ability to love them is transformed. That is why Paul could write, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, NAB) There is humanity, gloriously and wonderfully bearing God’s image.

Do my words convey my belief that people are created in the image of God? Unfortunately, not always. But I am reminded of the weight of such ill-used words in Matthew 5:21-26. The Rabbis of Jesus’ day had broken the law down to manageable loads. In fact, the commandment regarding killing was boiled down to simple murder. As long as you don’t murder anyone, you’re good! (If these were the true standards, we would be much better off!) But Jesus wouldn’t let that slide. God’s standards are infinitely higher than we could ever imagine. Murder, as expressed in Exodus 20:13, does not involve just the literal taking of life. It goes beyond that to our words, the very basis of our communication to others. Whether it is Raqa or fool, if it does not proceed from the view of love and value, we are in trouble. (By the way, this does not absolve us for confronting errors, for in the next few chapters Jesus does just that, as well as recommending it in Matthew 7:1-5.)

So, are you having trouble loving others? Just see them the way God sees them: image bearers. I am amazed at what I can overlook when I see someone as a person, uniquely, incredibly, and fantastically made בעלם אלוה’ם.

P.S. I do not mean to convey that our own sins and shortcomings do not need to be addressed. When Jesus was speaking with the woman caught in adultery, his words were, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11, ESV) While Jesus saw her humanity, he did not simply condone her sin. Likewise, it would be a mistake in the desire to love others that we would ignore sin in our own lives.

How can I journal my prayers?: The Warm-Up

What is prayer journaling? What is involved? How does it look? What do I do?
Perhaps you find yourself asking these questions. And these are good questions to ask. In fact, when my wife first recommended journaling my prayers I had no idea where to begin. So I set out to find out how! I read different blogs, a few books, and a couple of articles on the web. What I came to find out is that there is no one set way to prayer journal.
At first this disappointed me. I am of a practical nature, and when someone informs me of something that will help I really want a step-by-step list of things to do. So when I saw a variety of ways to engage in prayer journaling, I was not thrilled, to say the least.
However, after spending some time searching for the way that called to me, I found that writing it out in a typical journal format was the best. Since then I have toyed with a few other ways, but I always return to, what I call, the traditional way.
To begin with, let me suggest a few things. If you are interested in prayer journaling, it might be helpful to do the following (this is not exhaustive or a list to be completed in any particular order, so if you are like me, I’m sorry!):
  • Do some soul searching:What makes you you? What causes you joy, sadness? Why do you get out of bed every morning (or evening, if you work overnight)? Some practical suggestions are taking a personality profile. Here is a website that offers a fun, basic personality profile. Spend time, and I mean thorough time, learning about you. When you begin to learn about yourself, how you react and interact, then you can begin to narrow down what type of journaling in which you may be inclined to engage. For example, I am introverted. When I am around a lot of people I get exhausted! I like to think, to contemplate. I enjoy crafting a thought and then writing it down in a journal. The same applies to my prayers. I spend time thinking of what I am going to say to God.

    What makes you you? Finding you is a great place to start on your prayer journaling journey.

    For others who are artistically gifted, art may be the avenue in which they pray. If they need strength for a difficult time, painting a picture of a field with a rock while meditating and praying to the God who is their rock may prove to be helpful. The bottom line is to find out who you are and then proceed to the type of journaling. I’d also recommend taking an Emotional Quotient test and a multiple intelligence test.

  • Find out what method is better suited for you:When you are looking for a certain prayer journaling method, it is important to find one that is best suited to you. I’ve already mentioned discovering the youness of you, so that should be a factor. With that being said, people are at different stages of life. A college student can do things that a married mom with four kids and a job cannot. A stay-at-home dad may be able to spend more time engaged in his method, while the executive wife has little time. So, what stage of life are you at? What is the freest part of your day? Do you have access to a physical journal? Will you use electronic means?
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    Will you use a traditional journal? A laptop? Or a canvas? The possibilities are boundless.

    Do you have the ability to write? Or do you prefer painting? Not only should the specifics of the journal and the means of journaling come into examination, but also the time. What does your life best equip you for? Does your career demand work regardless of time? Do you maintain a 9-5 job? Learning the best time to journal is as important as journaling itself. Being consistent is the key to helping you in your walk as well as deepening your perception of God.

  • In the initial stages, utilize several different methods for certain periods of time:Begin by finding two or three methods. Research them, explore them, read about how different people do different things. And then set up a time to try them out. Be realistic here, because if you determine to use a certain method for a year you may never branch off and find anything new! Perhaps two weeks would be a good place to start. After you understand the basics of the method, then begin practicing that for two weeks. Avoid the temptation to jump back and forth. Stick with one long enough to where you can work out your own kinks and also get an honest evaluation. If at the end of that period you don’t like any of them, find some new ones!
  • When you truly start, go all in:Once you have found your method, go all in! The time to play it safe is over. It’s the third period (that is a hockey reference, in case you did not know!) with a minute left of play and your chance to bag the game and head home in victory. Now, does this mean that you determine to spend seven hours a day journaling your prayers to God? Well, probably not. Of course you may have that free time, in which case, more power to you! But if you are like the average individual, your time is limited. Once you find your method, that extension of you, then go all in! For example, I love the traditional way of journaling. I’ll share the practical aspects of that soon, but one of the elements I love about journaling is its artistic nature. I love calligraphy, I love drawing.
    aaron-burden-64849
    I love felt-tip pens. There is something aesthetically pleasing when writing with one.

    I love the old world: leather-bound books, verbose works, and beautiful handwriting. So I use a leather-bound journal, I have a felt-tip pen (thanks Mrs. Burnside!), and I love crafting the beauty of the written language as I create a prayer to God and an extension of myself. If drawing your prayers is your preference, then get quality materials for the art. Make it a beautiful extension of your soul to God’s.

Imagine the training required for a marathon. A lady trains for months, years, to take on that arduous task. Training, nutrition, proper sleep all play into the success or failure. In a similar way, the ground work for prayer journaling is more important. Our goal is to connect with God on an ever-increasing, intimate way. Like a crazy person, we could just wake up one day and decide to run a marathon. And like a crazy person we would fail. Just as a marathoner spends time in preparation, so you and I need to put in the work of learning who we are, what methods are appealing, how they look practically, and then when to run the marathon. Once you’ve reached this point, your prayer life will change.
What about you? What have you found helpful on your own journey in prayer journaling?

 

Why Should I journal my prayers? Benefits of Prayer Journaling 

Prayer Journaling, as I mentioned in a previous post, completely transformed my prayer life. But how? What are the benefits?

Certainly, prayer journaling is not for everyone. However, I (and others) have found it to be immensely helpful. Here is a small sampling of the benefits I personally found. I’d love to hear yours! Please comment below!

  • It helped with my consistency.

    I am somewhat disciplined. I have consistently worked out since I was eighteen. And when I say consistently, I mean consistently. One year I recorded the temperatures of the room in which I worked out. The high for that year was 118° and the low was 18°. I even woke up early on Christmas morning to get my workout in! With that being said, I struggled with prayer. But as I began to journal my prayers, I began to look forward to it more and more. There is something about writing a letter to God, focusing my thoughts into a meaningful conversation with him. And the desire increased the more I journaled.
  • It helped with my actual prayers.

    A fellow blogger mentioned that journaling helped her not be so repetitive. I couldn’t agree more! When I began prayer journaling, my prayers became more focused. No longer did “Father”, “Lord”, “please help so and so…”, fill my prayers. Now my prayers are focused. They are well-thought out. They are precise. And I love it.

    My prayers are precise. And I love it.

  • It helped with my closeness with God.

    I don’t know if others have found this to be true, but there is, for me, a certain reverence when writing to God. I feel his presence, that calm, still, small voice, right there with me. It is always quiet, as I tend to wake up early to spend time with him.

  • It helps focus my thoughts.

    Sometimes my mind wanders! I know, surprise! This affliction besets us all, I am sure. But prayer journaling has relieved me of the stress and worry of, “What did I say last?” Instead, a brief look down at my journal is all it takes. I see where I last left off, and pick it right up. It’s like a written bookmark of my soul as it is being poured out to God.

  • It provides encouragement for the future.aaron-burden-90144

    Whenever I look back at some of my older journals, I am always encouraged. My prayers become more focused overtime. My walk with God deepens, and I feel a closeness the longer I spend time with him. Whenever I remember a problem I faced, I return to that period in my journals. I am always excited. I saw God work in that time, and now, with that knowledge, I can look forward to what he has ahead.

I ask again, how has prayer journaling helped you? May God sweetly guide you on this journey!

“How is God present?” A Great Question for Parents and Guardians and Student Ministers

I have written a blog about the book Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus prior to this post. But the more I read this book, the more I am just impressed with the philosophy of Mark Yaconelli. The following is a section where he encourages student ministers (parents, guardians, etc.) to simply ask students, “How is God present?”

One way in which we can help in our discipleship is to ask questions. Jesus loved asking people questions. It is a great way to engage in conversations that are natural and reveal the actual thoughts and feelings of an individual.

The simple question, “How is God present?” is a great way to help students begin to look for and acknowledge him in their everyday lives.

Mark Yaconelli, in his book Contemplative Youth Ministry, gives four reasons why this is so helpful.

  1. “First, I’m reminding them that God is present and available.”

    This gives the students the reminder that God is actually with us (as the name Emmanuel is defined) and that He is intimately interested in our lives. Whether it is a soccer match, volunteering at the rescue mission, or simply taking a walk down the street, God is with us.

  2. “Second, the question also communicates that youth have the capacity to notice God.”

What an incredible thought! Your student has the capacity to notice God. This is the Creator we are talking about. The one that said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. Sometimes adults can give off the impression that students cannot understand God and the awesome privilege we have to relate to Him. By asking that simple question we affirm our belief that they have the ability to see God at work in their lives.

  1. “Third, I am helping them reflect on their real-life theologies and religious biases.”

    I’ll use Mark’s words to describe this one. He writes, “When I ask a young person, ‘How is God present in this moment?’ she may respond, ‘I don’t think God has anything to do with my school; God is just about praying and church.’ To ask youth to notice God is to invite them to reflect on their beliefs concerning God’s relationship to the world.’

  2. “Finally, when I ask young people to notice the Holy Spirit in their midst, I’m helping them develop their sensitivity to God.”

And what better goal as those to whom God has gifted us with the training and rearing of these wonderful students, than to help them ‘develop their sensitivity to God’? This is, and should be, our heart beat, to draw the hearts of our students to a deep love of our Father.
I am praying for you, as you have the most influence, the most time, and the most potential, that God would open your eyes to the many opportunities we have to point our students to ‘the Name’, as the Jewish people call Him.

Lectio Divina: A Wonderful Experience

“Situated between life as we know it and life in its hoped-for fullness, spiritual practices are imbued with a sense of our relatedness to God, others, and the earth.” [Griffth and Groome, 2012]

That is how the editors Colleen Griffith and Thomas Groome begin their section on ‘The Nature and Purpose of Spiritual Practices’. In my recent reading of the book Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus author Mark Yaconelli writes about “two basic, traditional forms of contemplative prayer to parents and people who minister with young people: lectio divina and centering prayer.” [Yaconelli, 2006] The practice known as lectio divina is of great spiritual value to those who can mine its wealth. Certainly there is wisdom in approaching this carefully, weighing each thought and prayer in balance with the Scriptures. Having that as an understanding, let us move into the practical benefits of lectio divina and the methods.

Yaconelli defines lectio divina as “holy reading”. [Yaconelli, 2006] There is a brief mention of this practice in Scripture (see Acts 8.26-39), and Schneiders describes it as “a rich practice of biblical spirituality of transformative engagement with the Word.” [Griffith and Groome, 2012]

Schneiders continues, “Lectio divina is a four-step process that begins with the slow, leisurely, attentive reading (lectio) and rereading of a biblical text. Often the text is committed to memory in the process. By internalizing the text in its verbal form, one passes on to a rumination or meditation on scripture bear witness to both the spiritual depth and the imaginative breadth to which the process could lead.” [Griffith and Groome, 2012] Schneiders description is brief, and unfortunately does not provide much practical advice.

This is where Yaconelli comes in handy. He provides a five-step method which I shall reproduce for you.

  • Preparation- find a passage of Scripture that can be meditated, contemplated, mined for its wealth. Set the ambiance, light a candle, place a cross or crucifix before you. Use bread and wine. breadwine-63ed983aThese are all symbols (and there are much more) that can bring to mind a thousand thoughts and accounts from Scripture.
  • Silence- Yaconelli recommends finding a quiet place in which you can communicate with God without noise or distraction. The Psalmist recommends being still (Psalm 46.10 uses a word that denotes a complete cessation of activity), so this is the first step.peaceful-place-park
  • Reading- This one seems to stand without saying, but lectio divina requires reading. This reading is different than our normal reading. Sometimes we read for information, other times for leisure. But for this we are “seeking to be with God.” [Yaconelli, 2006] So a short Psalm, a few verses in an epistle work perfectly.
  • Meditation- This step allows the truth of the Scripture to speak through the Holy Spirit about your life, your thoughts, your successes, your failures, you.
  • Oration- This is where you begin to speak to God, you thank Him, beg Him for help. “Honestly express your deepest thoughts, feelings, and desires in a dialogue with God.” [Yaconelli, 2006]
  • Contemplation- I love how Yaconelli describes this last step. “Finally, allow yourself to simply rest in God, like a child resting in her mother’s lap.” [Yaconelli, 2006]

There is a mystical beauty in this practice. Sometimes it may be hard, especially for our western, fact-based thinking. But I close with the story he offers as a magnificent description of lectio divina.

“My wife and I dated in college before the days of e-mail. During the summers, when we were apart, we would write letters to each other. I still remember the excitement of running to the mailbox after each workday, hoping to see a letter with my name written in Jill’s handwriting. Each time I received a letter from my beloved, I would run down to my room, close the door, and then slowly pore over her words. When I read a letter from Jill, it was very different from other forms of reading. I wasn’t seeking to catch up on the news as much as I was seeking to experience Jill. I was seeking to meet her in her letters, to receive her love, to feel her presence and be with her in some way.” [Yaconelli, 2006]