Simple Practices to Deepen Your Devotional Life

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. God has created us in his image with a mind, heart, soul, and five wonderful senses. God has created our entire being as a means to experience him more fully. Let’s explore a few of the methods that you can practice to make your time with God a richer experience. An earlier blog explored the uses of a labyrinth for your devotional practices; a later blog will explore various practices that involve journaling, art, and writing. The practices in this blog promote primarily reflecting on the Word and experiencing the presence of God without any other tools in hand.


Entering the Silence

Psalm 46:10, particularly in the English language version, provides a powerful meditation opportunity to quiet your mind and rest your soul quietly in the presence of God. This exercise can be practiced while walking to the center of a labyrinth, while sitting alone, or even in the midst of a crowded classroom.

As you quiet your mind and begin to open your heart to the presence of God, begin repeating the verse in this way:

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I Am.

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be.

Repeat as many times as you like. Reflect on the meaning and implications. Rest silently in the presence of Creator, Friend, and Holy Spirit. When you are ready, reverse the order.

Be.

Be still.

Be still and know.

Be still and know that I Am.

Be still and know that I am God.


Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading)

Another type of meditation on the Scripture can be practiced in a group setting or as an individual. I particularly love the encouragement to approach the Scripture as if it is a “love letter from God.” The practice of Lectio Divina is designed to be separate from a more scholarly, intellectual study of the word during which we cross-reference texts, track down Greek & Hebrew roots, and explore the historical context of a story—all of which I love to do and which have an important place in understanding the Scripture. Lectio Divina offers an alternative approach.

Lectio Divina is not to discount the necessity of a scholarly study of the Scripture; it is to say God created us in such a wondrous manner that we can experience the richness of Scripture in many ways. The practice of reading, reflecting, responding, and resting through Lectio Divina encourages us to internalize the word in a personal way. One practitioner explained the practice as “carrying the living word of God from the mind down into the heart where it awakens in us a loving response.”  (www.trappists.org)


Listen, Respond, Rest

When practiced in a group setting, the Scripture passage may be read aloud to the group by an individual. The Scripture reading is usually offered three times with pauses in between to allow for reflection.

During the first reading, listen for a word or phrase that speaks to you. Catch this word or phrase and begin to ponder it in your mind. Allow yourself to savor that phrase. Let it impact you.

During the second reading, allow yourself to respond to the scripture. Be aware of your thoughts and feelings. Reflect on what this scripture creates in you or calls forth from you. Be open to what God is saying to you and how God is communicating with you.

During the third and final reading, rest in God’s presence. Dwell on God’s love for you. Nourish that sense of a personal, interactive relationship with God.  Allow yourself to trust in God’s deep love for you.

Approach the practice of Lectio Divina as if it were a personal conversation between you and the One who loves you deeply - as indeed it is.

The Heavens Declare

Occasionally, I like to simply stand or sit outside and drink in the wonder of God’s creation. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament displays his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1) Nature speaks to us of our Creator.

I use my eyes to note what I see: white, fluffy clouds, blue sky, a tree growing tall, sunset (rarely or never, for me, a sunrise, but to each her own. Don’t judge me). A butterfly drifts by. A hawk flies overhead. I close my eyes and listen to the sounds around me. I hear a bird calling. Then another. As I listen, I realize that it is not just one type of bird but many. I hear cicadas buzzing, children calling, the water running in the fountain, the wind rustling the leaves, distant thunder, a frog, a wasp buzzing.  A dog barks.

As I listen with eyes closed, I become more aware of my sense of touch. The breeze blows on my face—sometimes cool, but in Houston, often hot and damp. I feel the earth firm under my feet or the softness of the grass or the rough texture of the rocks of the labyrinth. The sun shines warmly on my face. There might be raindrops or falling leaves. I ask myself, “What do I see, smell, touch, hear, even taste?” How can I fully experience and relish this creation that speaks to me of God?

Maybe it’s just me, but often this experience leads me to lift my arms in thanksgiving, adoration, and praise to such a wondrous and mighty God.

These are three simple practices for meditation and reflection that can deepen your relationship with our loving Creator.  In the future, we’ll explore various types of journaling, creative ways to strengthen your prayer life, and Bible study methods to use at home.