“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).


“And he [Jesus] said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear…’” (Mark 4:24).


While looking for bargains in the clearance section of a big box store, I found a great little book, Wine for Dummies (Pocket Edition). In fifty-five 4” x 6” pages, the authors gave me an introduction to winemaking, grape varieties, and techniques like how to properly open a bottle and how to taste wine. Regarding the last, they offered two fundamental rules: slow down and pay attention.


When I read that, I thought “What great advice for life in general and spiritual growth in particular!” How often have I been in too much of a hurry to notice small details that make a text come alive or add unique interest to a landscape? When did you last take the time to savor a meal or a quiet evening with a loved one? Yes, sometimes we have to move quickly and cannot linger. But that makes it all the more imperative that we take the book’s advice: slow down and pay attention.


One particular spiritual discipline that teaches us the patience and the attentiveness that is necessary to deepen our walk with our Lord is the ancient art of lectio divina (“spiritual reading”). In case you’re not familiar with it, the discipline leads the seeker through four steps as he or she reflects on a selected passage:


¦ Read the passage slowly, pausing between phrases and sentences. Read the passage again, this time aloud or whispered to yourself, so that you can truly hear the words. Allow the words to linger in your mind; let their sound and meaning sink in. If a word or phrase seems especially significant to you, stay with it, turning it over in your mind and heart.


¦ Meditate. Once you have selected certain words and phrases which seem to speak to you, explore their significance for your life. Consider how God might be trying to catch your attention with these words or phrases. Try putting yourself into the passage, perhaps as some character. Reflect on what God might be saying to you in this passage of Scripture.


¦ Pray. Let your prayer emerge from your encounter with the text. Consider how the words you have read move you to pray for yourself, for others, and for the world. Express to God as fully as you can what is in your heart.


¦ Contemplate. Now the work is done.  Take time to rest in the presence of God. Release all your thoughts and feelings to God. Enjoy the moment.  This is the “Amen” of spiritual reading. So be it!


To aid in the selection of texts, I suggest using a daily lectionary (list of readings) like the one available at http://www.pcusa.org/devotions/lectionary/index.htm or employing the ancient method of lectio continua (“reading in sequence”), in which the seeker simply moves through a book of the Bible, like Psalms or one of the gospels.


May God bless you and me as we slow down and pay attention!


© 2009 Tom Cheatham