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“Lecto Divina Part 1”
by Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Bond - David Cloud   
July 12th, 2016

First, lectio divina does not refer to "meditation" in a Scriptural sense. 

Proponents of lectio divina point to passages of Scripture that refer to "meditation" (e.g., Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2), and the uninformed reader would be led to believe that they are describing a Scriptural practice. In fact, they are describing something very different. 

Consider a description of lectio divina. The practitioner is taught to begin with deep breathing exercises and repetition of a "prayer word" to enter into a contemplative state. This refers to a mantra. The goal is to "become interiorly silent" (Luke Dysinger, "Accepting the Embrace of God: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina," Valyermo Benedictine, Spring 1990). Having prepared himself, the practitioner reads a portion of Scripture slowly and repeatedly, three or four times. Choosing a word or phrase that particularly "speaks to him," he slowly repeats it, allowing it to interact with his "inner world of concerns, memories and ideas." Next, he converses with God about the text. Finally, he rests in silence before God in thoughtless mysticism. 

Catholic priest Luke Dysinger says, "Once again we practice SILENCE, LETTING GO OF OUR OWN WORDS; this time simply enjoying the experience of being in the presence of God." 

Notice how Thomas Merton describes the meditation performed in lectio divina and other Catholic contemplative practices:

"Meditation is ... a series of interior activities which prepare us for union with God" (Spiritual Direction and Meditation, 1960, p. 54). 

"Meditation is more than mere practical thinking" (p. 55).

"... the fruitful silence in which WORDS LOSE THEIR POWER AND CONCEPTS ESCAPE OUR GRASP is perhaps the perfection of meditation" (p. 57).

"More often than not, we can be content to simply rest, and float peacefully with the deep current of love, doing nothing of ourselves, but allowing the Holy Spirit to act in the secret depths of our soul" (pp. 101, 102).

Richard Foster, who has had a far-reaching influence on evangelicalism's contemplative practices, quotes Catholic mystic Madame Guyon as follows: 

"Once you sense the Lord's presence, THE CONTENT OF WHAT YOU READ IS NO LONGER IMPORTANT. The scripture has served its purpose; it has quieted your mind; it has brought you to him. ... You should always remember that YOU ARE NOT THERE TO GAIN AN UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT YOU HAVE READ; rather you are reading to turn your mind from the outward things to the deep parts of your being. YOU ARE NOT THERE TO LEARN OR TO READ, BUT YOU ARE THERE TO EXPERIENCE THE PRESENCE OF YOUR LORD!" (Devotional Classics). 

Thelma Hall's book on lectio divina is entitled Too Deep for Words. This describes the ultimate objective of the mystical practice. 

Mike Pershon of Youth Specialities says lectio divina should take the practitioner to a different level of consciousness 

Robert Webber, late Wheaton College professor, confirms the transcendental aspect of lectio divina:

"The goal of Lectio Divina is union with God through a meditative and contemplative praying of Scripture. ... All such attempts at verbalizing the experience necessarily fail to express the reality for the simple reason that CONTEMPLATION TRANSCENDS THE THINKING AND REASONING of meditation ... Contemplatio shifts praying the Scripture into a new language (SILENCE). This silence does not ask us to do anything, it is a call to being. Thomas Merton says, 'THE BEST WAY TO PRAY IS: STOP'" (The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life, 2006, pp. 209, 210). 

John Michael Talbot says that lectio divina must move the practitioner "into a Reality BEYOND IMAGE AND FORM" (Come to the Quiet, p. 49). He says, "If God grants it, allow the reality of the sacred text to pass over to pure spiritual intuition in his Spirit," and, "... allow yourself to pass over into contemplation BEYOND WORDS" (pp. 53, 62).

Mark Yaconelli, who speaks in evangelical settings, describes lectio divina as follows: 

"In order to practice lectio divina, select a time and place that is peaceful and in which you may be alert and prayer fully attentive. Dispose yourself for prayer in whatever way is natural for you. This may be a spoken prayer to God to open you more fully to the Spirit, a gentle relaxation process that focuses on breathing, singing or chanting, or simply a few minutes of SILENCE TO EMPTY YOURSELF OF THOUGHTS, IMAGES, AND EMOTIONS" .

It is obvious that meditation and prayer, after the lectio divina fashion, is far removed from simply contemplating on the Scripture before the Lord, seeking better understanding of it, talking with God about it, and applying it to one's life by the wisdom and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. 

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