Home > Uncategorized > Are You Hungry for a Richer, Deeper and More Meaningful Prayer Life? Who isn’t?

Are You Hungry for a Richer, Deeper and More Meaningful Prayer Life? Who isn’t?

August 30th, 2011
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I keep hearing from folks who ask me questions about reading the Bible, praying, studying Scripture, or theology and so on and so forth. It’s always wonderful to hear from folks and get all their interesting questions. If I had to summarize all their questions with only one question, it would be this, “Pastor, I feel my prayer life is empty and missing something. Can you help me?”

And it is precisely because I and others at Concordia Publishing House are so often asked this question that we developed a resource, designed to be used by a congregation and the contregation’s pastor, to help the whole congregation learn the ancient art of what I call a “prayerful meditation on God’s Word.” There are other names for it, most notably, “Lectio Divina” or “Divine Reading” of Scripture. More on that in a moment.

Now, I know that there are all kinds of red flags and caution signals that go up,and off, in some people’s minds when they hear the expression, “Lectio Divina.” And I understand why, but here we have a classic example of the old adage that “improper use does not rule out a proper use” or, in Latin, abusus non tollit usum. [You can say that and wow and amaze your friends!]

In fact, not many people realize that Martin Luther himself was a champion of a proper approach to Lectio Divina, having practiced this ancient Christian art of prayer and meditation for so many years as a monk. He recognized the dangers of improper use of it, but encouraged a proper use of it, most famously perhaps, in his letter to Peter, his barber, who asked Father Martin for a better way to pray. Luther explained how a person should mediate and ruminate on the texts of Scritpure, slowly and prayerfully, seeking in the Word of God, its meaning and application to one’s life.

Concordia Publishing House prepared a resource that does exactly this and teaches you how to do it. It is called “Light of Life” and takes a person through the Gospel of John, offering a lot of helpful, introductory materials to help you understand how to do this. Here is where you can buy a copy of the resource.

For a congregation wishing to use it across the congregation we prepared a CD filled with resources for promotion and explanation, you can get that here.

You can take a look at a sample from “Light of Life” by clicking this link.

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  1. August 30th, 2011 at 12:44 | #1

    If you’ll permit it Pastor McCain, LCMS Pastor XYZ has a balanced overview of lectio divina.

    McCain response: I’ve read Pr. XYZ’s paper, but unfortunately, he only finally critizes Lectio Divina and therefore provides a very unbalanced and even incorrect perspective on it. While it is fine to point all the *improper* uses of it, he indulges in too much speculation and finally never offers a proper view of Lectio Divina. So, I’m not interested in linking to it.

  2. PJ
    August 30th, 2011 at 13:58 | #2

    Why don’t they just call it Bible Study instead of confusing everyone with the current use of the word to mean the use of repetitive mantras taken from Scripture?

    The entire context of the article suggests something MORE, looking for the ‘deeper’ life or the ‘higher’ life experience. Isn’t that what Lutheranism is specifically not about?

    • August 30th, 2011 at 14:06 | #3

      PJ, again….there is a proper use of “Lectio Divina” and improper use. I encourage you to learn more about the proper use of it. There is no “repetitive mantras” in the proper use of a prayerful, devotional reading of Scripture. I’d challenge you to consider that many Lutherans have been conditioned to read the Bible not as God’s living voice to them but as a book simply filled with propositions and truisms for life. Next time you comment on my blog, please use a real name and drop the snarky attitude. Thanks.

  3. Martin Diers
    August 30th, 2011 at 16:36 | #4

    Pr. McCain. I have read the Luther’s letter to his barber, Peter. What I do not find in that letter is anything like Lectio Divina as it is understood or practiced in every other use of the term, both in Luther’s day, and in our day.

    • August 30th, 2011 at 18:26 | #5

      Martin, please read my post again. There is a proper way to go about the Divine Reading of Scripture and improper. Luther learned it in the monastery and it, like other things in his work, was evangelically reformed, not discarded.

  4. August 30th, 2011 at 19:09 | #6

    It is hard to do this without guidance, as I have read the Letter to Master Peter and attempted to read scripture as Luther suggested. It seemed easier for me to apply the concept to the Lord’s Prayer or the creeds. I never approached it as a mantra, just a welcome springboard to related paths of thought or scripture.

    I’ll give it a shot and see how it does. I do want to read scripture in a more fulfilling way, to understand it in my heart rather than quote it from my brain. I spend time daily in prayer and scripture reading, but fail to internalize it as I would like. It sounds as if this might put the two together and result in a good outcome.

  5. Rev. B. G. Niemtschk
    August 31st, 2011 at 09:54 | #7

    Previewing this resource, I noticed that the writings of Rev. John Kleinig are referenced often. Anyone with questions about the orthodoxy of the meditation in “Light of Life” should simply read Kleinig’s profound book “Grace upon Grace: Spirituality for Today.”

  6. Rev. Allen Yount
    August 31st, 2011 at 15:21 | #8

    What Luther says about oratio meditatio tentatio in the Preface to the Wittenberg Edition of his German writings (AE 34) is also an Evangelical form of lectio divina — particularly meditatio.

  7. August 31st, 2011 at 22:09 | #9

    When I read the title of this post, the first thought that popped into my head was, “The Daily Office can cure that.” It’s a woefully under-appreciated gift from the church’s past, and definitely a viable spiritual tool even today — and it provides plenty of practice in lectio divina as you pray it, because you’re mulling over the texts of Scripture (especially the Psalms) as you do so. Lectio divina, as far as I understand it, is basically reading Scripture and meditating on it with the ears of your heart open. The Spirit still works through God’s Word — that’s what we believe as Lutherans. The Daily Office can provide structured time to encounter God’s Word and therefore God’s Spirit, every day. That’s one of the many reasons I love it.

  8. September 1st, 2011 at 15:43 | #10

    I just got my copy today (CPH shipping is really fast – like that). I read the intro and the first two sections and think it will be a great resource to re-train how I look at meditating on scriptures. Plus, it was only $5.99, can’t beat that.

    I ordered both Light of Life and the Enchiridion to read on my days off this week and look forward to digging in. Light of Life looks to be a pretty decent introduction for the average layperson.

    Regarding what Rev. B. G. Niemtschk said about Grace Upon Grace, I wholeheartedly agree. Dr. Kleinig has a wonderful way of making spirituality easily digestable by the average Joe and Jane. I’ve read it multiple times and come away with great pearls of wisdom each time.

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