A Review of
Discovering Lectio Divina : Bringing Scripture into Ordinary Life
James C. Wilhoit and Evan B. Howard
Reviewed by Gary Wake.
Lectio divina is not new, but it is fairly unknown to a large number of Christians. Over the past few years, this way of praying and studying the Bible has gained attention. Lectio divina is Latin for divine lesson or divine reading, but that does not tell us why the phrase is used instead of “Bible study” or “devotional time.”
In their book Discovering Lectio Divina: Bringing Scripture into Ordinary Life, James C. Wilhoit and Evan B. Howard give readers an introduction to lectio divina that is intended to bring readers to understand it as “a natural process by which sincere Christians devotionally read their Bibles” (17). The authors show that lectio divina is something that the church has been doing throughout its history and that it is a way of encountering the text of the Bible as something more than just another book on the shelf.
A quick Google search will lead to many online resources for lectio divina, but Wilhoit and Howard provide more than a cursory look at lectio divina. They start with a discussion of why people would desire to read Scripture, and examine the complex nature of Scripture itself, reminding readers that the Holy Bible is “a collection of stories, poems, legal documents, prophetic proclamations and all kinds of bits and pieces of writing” (34). The authors spend time discussing what it means when people say that the Bible is inspired by God, and how that inspiration leads to communication between the Holy Spirit, the text of Scripture, and the Christian reader.
The authors acknowledge that Scripture has often been used in terrible ways (28) but they also discuss the transformative power of the Bible when it is used with care. The authors quote from the Book of Common Prayer to provide a guide for approaching Scripture:
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen (138).
This prayer reminds readers that to value the importance of Scripture, the reader must approach it with prayerful commitment to listen for God’s direction.
The book is theological, examining the relationship between God and humanity, and it is also practical, laying out simple steps for approaching a vital approach to reading Scripture. The authors know that setting aside time for reading and studying is not a simple task, and provide advice on avoiding distractions and allowing time for silence. They discuss meditation and contemplation and how these are important parts of lectio divina.
Discovering Lectio Divina is primarily a book for individual study. It could be used in small groups, but it does not provide guidance for people who wish to use lectio divina as a group. It is directed towards the individual who wants to go beyond a quick daily reading of Scripture, to a more contemplative form of hearing God’s word. There are study questions that help the reader along the path to lectio divina.
The authors are aware that there are several tools for approaching Scripture: reading, listening to and singing Scripture are usually offered in worship services and Bible study. Lectio divina, when approached with humility and patience, can be a blessing to those who wish to add another facet of study to their relationship with God. Discovering Lectio Divina is a helpful guide for those who wish to hear God’s word in this way.