Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Reflective Reading

Eugene Peterson, the writer of The Message, has a unique perspective on reading God’s word.  I recently read an interview in which he describes his method of reflective reading.  Years ago, he says, he began reading the Psalms as poetry.  He recognized that the Psalms are poems, and you have to read poetry differently than prose.

 On a first reading of a poem, you usually don’t understand it, he says.  It takes ten or more readings to “get it.”  Now that makes sense to me.  I actually find that I have to read most things repeatedly.  This in-depth reading can be applied to all of scripture.  It is not reading large chunks of scripture, nor is it a technical study of background or grammar.

 He refers to an ancient method of scripture reading called “lectio divina,” which is Latin for “spiritual reading.”  This is the opposite of speed reading.  It is seeking to be immersed in the heart of God.  It is reading for transformation.  As we read a passage over and over, we focus on four elements of interaction with the Word:  listening, reflecting, praying, and obeying.

 This method of scripture study seems to lend itself to reading the Bible aloud.  It allows the Holy Spirit to take charge and speak to our hearts.  He changes us inwardly, so that we actually become more like Jesus.

 This doesn’t happen in a 15 minute devotional time squeezed in between a shower and breakfast.  Nor can it happen while we check the latest headlines and the weather.  We need to step back from the urgencies of life and take time with God.  That’s where real living is.