“Psst…Lectio Divina…Your Mysticism is Showing”

The first time I heard the term lectio divina I thought it was from the Harry Potter books, probably a spell cast by Harry to render an enemy helpless. But, no, as it so happens it’s Latin for “sacred reading” and we’re urged to practice it as we read our Bible and pray.  Not surprisingly, lectio divina is brought to us by the Roman Catholic magical mystical monks.  In a nutshell, the idea is to “turn your mind from outward things to the deep parts of your being,” while reading the Bible.  Supposedly, “You are not there to learn to read, but…to experience the presence of your Lord!”  Catholic mysticism, anyone?

Pamela Couvrette of Guarding the Deposit explores lectio divina and tells us why this practice is both unbiblical and dangerous. She writes:

One thing I appreciate about the clothing of Jesus’ day is that there were no zippers or grommets to contribute to a possible wardrobe malfunction. People from that time also didn’t have to worry about removing of an overkill of stickers and price tags from clothing. And who is not grateful when told a dryer sheet is stuck to a sweater? Oh, but are we grateful when someone points out our theological loose threads? Just as we would inspect and remove an offending item from clothing, are we just as quick to inspect and remove faulty doctrine from our lives? Are we as teachable with our theology as we are with our outward appearances?

Lectio DivinaRecently, I was privy to a conversation regarding the promotion of the mystical practice of lectio divina. Thankfully, there were many discerning women warning of it; however, there were many who could not see the error of this practice. Lectio divina has gathered momentum in evangelical circles and, like most deceptive practices, there is much ignorance regarding its origin and intent. I do appreciate the desire to be closer to God; however, we walk by faith, not by experience and feelings.

What Is Lectio Divina?

Pronounced “lex-ee-o di-veen-a”, it is Latin for “divine reading” and “is undertaken not with the intention of gaining information but of using the texts as an aid to contact the living God.”* It is popular among Catholics and Gnostics and has gained wide acceptance within the emerging church. In general, lectio divina is being promoted as a form of Bible study and is found within the unbiblical practice of spiritual formation. Sadly, this practice has found its way into the evangelical/protestant church too, and many teachers and preachers are openly promoting and endorsing this unbiblical practice. Note that other faiths practice lectio divina too; so it does not matter whether one is reading from the Koran or the Bible, all one has to do is ‘adopt’ this practice for Christianity – you know, as the visible church has done with yoga.

The practice is described as follows, courtesy of Lighthouse Trails Research:

Reading (lectio)—Slowly begin reading a biblical passage as if it were a long-awaited love letter addressed to you. Approach it reverentially and expectantly, in a way that savors each word and phrase. Read the passage until you hear a word or phrase that touches you, resonates, attracts, or even disturbs you.

Reflecting (meditatio)—Ponder this word or phrase for a few minutes. Let it sink in slowly and deeply until you are resting in it. Listen for what the word or phrase is saying to you at this moment in your life, what it may be offering to you, what it may be demanding of you.

Expressing (oratio)—If you are a praying person, when you are ready, openly and honestly express to God the prayers that arise spontaneously within you from your experience of this word or phrase. These may be prayers of thanksgiving, petition, intercession, lament, or praise. If prayer is not part of your journey, you could write down the thoughts that have come your way.

Resting (contemplatio)—Allow yourself to simply rest silently for a time in the stillness of your heart, remaining open to the quiet fullness of God’s love and peace. This is like the silence of communion between the mother holding her sleeping infant child, or between lovers whose communication with each other passes beyond words.”

Where are these steps in Scripture? Surely, if we needed to repeat words many times over, it would be in the Bible. In fact, in Matthew 6:7 Jesus instructs us to do the opposite: “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again (NLT).”

Common Misperceptions about Lectio Divina

1. “It’s been practiced throughout the history of the Church”

First, lectio divina was started around the year 220 by contemplative monks, but the four steps date back only to the 12th century**. Second, which “church” are we talking about? The roots of this practice lie in Catholicism and has no ties to the true church of which Jesus Christ is the only cornerstone and head (Colossians 1:18). Catholics who are knowledgeable of and practice lectio divina, boldly declare it as mysticism, and they do not claim that it is found in Scripture. Additionally, as many have pointed out, if this practice is vital to ‘experiencing God’, then what did the church do before the year 220? Truly, the Body of Christ – the true Church – has nothing to do with this heretical and unbiblical practice.  Continue reading


Christians Mystically Encountering God By Marsha West

See our White Papers on Contemplative Prayer and Spiritual Formation

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7 years ago

My experience of Lectio Divina doesn’t involve repeating words of scripture in a babbling way. It does involve reading a passage and waiting for the Holy Spirit to guide me to a particular phrase. I then ponder this phrase and wait for God’s presence to show me its deep meaning, drawing me closer to God. I then offer a response in prayer, sharing my thanksgiving, request, or adoration as the Holy Spirit inspires me. Often, I feel God’s love, peace, and joy filling me up, and enjoy this time of quiet intimacy with my Lord. I try to remember and hold onto the phrase of scripture and the meaning God revealed so that it will inspire me to live a more Christ-like life throughout the day.

3 years ago

Hello Teresa,

I appreciate your zeal for the Words of our Lord. And, I encourage you to keep digging into His wonderful truths, as they are our life source in this passing world. But allow me the opportunity to add some clarity to this exchange between us and our Lord. The experience you are describing sounds very much like mysticism for the reasons you describe with great sincerity. God does not speak by means of an inner voice, or intuition. God is not providing personal revelation outside the bounds of Holy Scripture. Our spirit is instructed by our intellect which believes Scripture by means of the precious gift of faith. Properly informed, our intellect re-educates our conscience (Romans 12:2) “… transformed by the renewing of your minds…”

Contemplative prayer is a dangerous ground… so lovingly I will say, be careful. Meditating on God’s Word is thoroughly Biblical and encouraged. But do not interpret your intuition, inner voice or conscience to be the voice of God, or a personal revelation from the Almighty. While a warm feeling and the sensation of closeness to God while meditating on His word is a neat experience, please let me caution you with humility in stating that experience and emotion are never a valid test of truth. God has spoken to us clearly through His son [the Verb of God], and our response is simply—obedience. What we believe will be evaluated on the Bema Seat. Your task is to work out your salvation on this earth by diligently consuming the Word of God and respond with obedience.

3 years ago

The author of this article explained that “properly informed, our intellect re-educates our conscience” and referred to Romans 12:2 which urges believers to be “transformed by the renewing of your minds.” When I looked up Romans 12:2 in Strong’s Greek lexicon using the Bible Hub app, I discovered the Greek word “mind” is “nous”, which means “mind, understanding, reason”. When I went deeper into the HELPS Word-studies, I saw “nous” further explained as “the God-given capacity of each person to think (reason); the mind, mental capacity to exercise reflective thinking” and “For the believer, nous is the organ of receiving God’s thoughts, through faith.” This last part of the definition broadened the idea of “mind” beyond only logical reasoning and into the realm of “receiving God’s thoughts through faith.” I then clicked deeper on the word “nous”, which is number 3563 in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, and I discovered the word “nous” is probably from the base of “ginosko”, which is explained as “to know, especially through personal experience.” This is the verb that is used in Luke 1:34, which says, “And Mary [a virgin] said to the angel, ‘How will this be since I do not know [sexual intimacy] a man?'” We see a sense of experiential intimacy in this connotation of “knowing.” This made me ponder that perhaps if we want to carefully test the merits of lectio divina, we need to first understand what the original Greek Bible was expressing about “knowing” God and renewing our “mind.” This is more helpful than only relying on an English translation, which is one step removed from the original version of the Bible. In conclusion, it seems that because Hebrews 12 and Luke 1 used the Greek word “nous”, which is probably from the base “ginosko”, we should avoid limiting our interpretation of what it means to “renew our minds” and to “know God.” In addition to logic and reason, Strong’s lexicon, by explaining the original Greek words, points to the idea of also knowing and experiencing God on an intimate level. Perhaps logic and reason alone cannot give us the full experience of this deeper knowledge of God. Hence the benefits of lectio divina to bring us into more personal ways of knowing God.

2 years ago

If you say that Lectio Divina was not practiced in the Scriptures then you may need to read your Bible more…