keeping a watchful eye on the wolves

LECTIO DIVINA – Leading Sheep to a New Level of Consciousness

Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina is derived from a Latin word that means “holy reading.” It is an ancient method of slowly reading the scriptures in a repetitive fashion in order to encounter the presence of God.

Friar Luke Dysinger explains that this “VERY ANCIENT art, practiced at one time by all Christians, is the technique known as lectio divina – a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God.” (See The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina)

Today, this practice that has been kept alive in the tradition of Benedictine monastics and oblates is not only popular among Catholics, it has gained acceptance in other faiths and, more recently, in the emerging church.

The Youth Ministry & Spirituality Project, an organization dedicated to contemplative youth ministry, has a description of the four steps of Lectio Divina on their website:

In order to practice lectio divina, select a time and place that is peaceful and in which you may be alert and prayerfully attentive. Dispose yourself for prayer in whatever way is natural for you. This may be a spoken prayer to God to open you more fully to the Spirit, a gentle relaxation process that focuses on breathing, singing or chanting, or simply a few minutes of silence to empty yourself of thoughts, images, and emotions.

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) – When you feel 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.

Resting (contemplatio) – Allow yourself to simply rest silently with God 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.

An Ancient Way of Praying with Scripture

Mike Perschon at Youth Specialties compares the four steps of Lectio Divina to “four levels of consciousness…which introduces you at each new level into a whole new world of reality” that occurs through the four levels of repetitious reading:

2- Moral level of consciousness
3- the Allegorical level which requires a Spiritual level of listening
4- We simply rest in the presence of the one who has used His word as a means of inviting us to accept His transforming embrace. We call this level, Union of Life or the unitive level of consciousness.
An Experience of Lectio Divina

It is no secret that chanting a mantra indeed empties the mind of thought and opens one up to a different state of consciousness. Mantras are used in yoga, Zen, Hindu, and Transcendental Meditation. Here is what some of these websites say about mantras:

*From a Yoga website:

“Modern science has reaffirmed what yogis have known for thousands of years – that SOUND is able to effect the chemistry of the body and mind, and alter thought patterns. (…) Mantra Meditation is a VERY Powerful technique!
You will discover that the repetition of Mantra allows your mind to focus and concentrate more completely on sound, and clear away other thoughts, emotions and distractions which divert our energies. Our senses become more acute and our mind become sharper and more perceptive as the mind clears away the jumble of unnecessary inner dialogue.”

*From a Meditation website:

“The repetition of a mantra…is meant as a method of practice which brings about a power (siddhi) to reach the supreme state of consciousness. In this state there is silence within the mind which becomes still (shaant) and eventually you will merge the mind or individual awareness with the whole, which is Pure Consciousness and Knowingness. Every time you practice you obtain the result, as this fourth state of consciousness is always with you.”

In spite of the well known purpose of mantra repetition to clear the mind and achieve this state of altered consciousness, many Christians today are mistakenly teaching that this is how to meditate on the Word of God. But is this how we fill our minds with God’s Word – by emptying our minds?

True biblical meditation involves thinking and understanding, as we read at in an article called Biblical Meditation:

What Does It Mean to Meditate?

The first question we must consider concerns the meaning of meditation and what meditation involves. This is particularly important to the Christian because of the great and growing emphasis on meditation in eastern religions. Transcendental meditation, as it is often called, is not biblical meditation. It is dangerous and actually opens up one’s mind for Satanic attack as it is found in New Age thinking.


Meditation means “the act of focusing one’s thoughts: to ponder, think on, muse.” Meditation consists of reflective thinking or contemplation, usually on a specific subject to discern its meaning or significance or a plan of action.


In Eastern forms of meditation as in TM there is an attempt to empty the mind. Biblical meditation, however, is an attempt to empty the mind of the wrong things in order to fill it with what is right and true according to the index of God’s inspired Word.

Biblical Meditation by J. Hampton Keathley

If you want to learn about God, understand His Word, and enter into His presence, Lectio Divina is not the way to go about it. What would you do if someone called you and kept repeating the same phrase over and over again? Would you talk to them, or would you hang up the phone?


*Related reading:

What is Lectio Divina?

Todd Bentley and Contemplative Meditation

Todd Bentley Taught Contemplative Prayer and Silence


More Disappearing Trails

20 responses

  1. Pingback: From the Lighthouse

  2. Glad you brought this up. Thanks for being bold enough to take a stand on this increasingly popular practice.

    Lectio Divina as described and quoted here makes God’s word into a mystical, esoteric tool. If we want to know what God is saying, we read the Bible in context for its meaning, as one reads ordinarily. If we were supposed to read the Bible in a special way other than the way we read regularly, God would have told us this.

    Talking about levels of consciousness is New Age, occultic, and even gnostic in nature. I was in the New Age and the occult and I know about these states. I practiced Eastern meditation for close to 15 years. The state you get in is not normal, healthy, or godly. It is dangerous. Also, practicing this kind of meditation or doing Lectio Divina as described here (and as it’s generally described) will gradually change your worldview away from the biblical one.

    The church seems to be in a state of seeking experiences instead of walking by faith. We don’t need manmade techniques (and these are manmade – there is no evidence they come from God) to know God is with us or to “hear” Him. We hear God through his word and through the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

    However, the more people get into these states and have what seem to them to be good spiritual experiences, the more they will crave these experiences and not seek out God’s word for what it says. Sadly, they don’t realize what kind of door they are opening.

    One small note: Eastern meditation is not really about emptying the mind so much as it is about going beyond the mind. Some Eastern and much occult meditation focuses on visuals or images (mandalas, images of gods or bhodisattvas, candle flames, opaque glass – the latter 2 are occult, etc,).

    I have an article on my site on Contemplative Prayer that points out these dangers. I think my website comes up when you click on my name. Look under Articles for Contemplative Prayer. Also, see the article on the misuse of “Be Still” in Ps. 46.

    June 2, 2008 at 10:04 pm

  3. sheepyweepy

    Thank you Marcia. You have a wonderful testimony and ministry. God bless.

    June 4, 2008 at 2:30 am

  4. Scotty

    What complete and utter nonsense! Simply because one unknown person decides to apply new-age sounding descriptions to the stages in Lectio – suddenly it becomes dangerous. Have you every tried Lectio? Do you personally know anyone who practices it regularly? Lectio is only one way of reading the Scriptures – it’s a way to allow God to speak to us through His Word – there is no question of using the text as a mantra – I really don’t know where rubbish like this comes from. Perhaps you should give Lectio a try before you rip it to shreds.

    June 4, 2008 at 10:16 am

    • Don Elser

      exACTly. Much of what I grew up with in church experience had to do with FEAR of anything that wasn’t vanilla and standard. When I read Scripture it seems that THEIR experience with God wasn’t anything like vanilla, standard or reasonable. It was wild, experiential, untamed, surprising, distressing, mystical, sacrificial, bizarre…. Let’s get out of our rationalistic boxes and rediscover the true Faith which is both dangerous and wonderful, close and beyond our description– transcendant– transcendental? Because the true God and true Faith are all of those things. The Bible is so much more than what we have reduced it to– some kind of wooden textbook.

      October 29, 2009 at 1:28 pm

  5. I really do not understand how you people can say that it is dangerous to read the bible slowly so that you can understand what God is actually saying to you. I too do not believe that I must empty my mind before I start worshipping God in other words I do not believe in contemplative praying. I however think that you people are now going to far with what you see as contemplative praying. God speaks to me when I read His word and then pray about what I’ve read. I’ve been a Christian now for 34 years and I think that the church of Christ is tearing itself apart through arguing about things that none of us really understand. Why do you not rather preach the gospel than to argue about how God speaks to His children. I love the Lord with all of my heart and I can assure you that I will not worship Him in a way that wil dishonour Him and to me it is wonderful to hear from God by reading His word slowly and then to pray about what I read. Read Psalm 1 and see what I mean.

    June 5, 2008 at 8:26 am

  6. cjtruth

    Robby you are right there is nothing wrong with reading God’s Word and praying for understanding. What is wrong is working one’s self into an altered state of mind. The True and Living God knows how to speak to the heart of man without all the stage props that are being used to open people up to seducing and familiar spirits. This stuff leads people away from God, to the god of this world. Jesus said when we pray, we should not use vain repetitions. The bible says, the who come to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that deligently seek Him. With out faith it is impossible to please God. Faith in Jesus Christ and what He did. Faith that believes God is, regardless if we feel Him or not. Faith that sticks with the Absolute Truth and not with every wind of doctrine. The devil has nothing new, just re-packaged junk. Don’t buy and eat! Deception will kill.

    June 6, 2008 at 1:19 am

  7. I’d just like to clarify that I’ve been misquoted here. I didn’t write the website regarding the four steps. I was asked by Youth Specialties to do an introductory article on various contemplative practices, and I linked to certain pages I deemed to represent the practice well. I didn’t write it though. That said, I don’t disagree with it, and I would like to further clarify by saying that I do not espouse Lectio Divina as THE way to knowing Christ. As an academic and former pastor, I am devoted to studying the Bible within its contexts, and understanding it in a very rational way. But I find that Lectio Divina enlarges my experience of the Bible. It’s one of many tools I use in my walk with Christ. And I’m not suggesting it replaces grace, as some have supposed elsewhere.

    June 7, 2008 at 5:28 pm

  8. sheepyweepy

    Hello Mike,

    Could you please explain how you have been misquoted when the above words were copied and pasted from the article that you wrote on Lectio Divina?

    Thank you.

    June 7, 2008 at 7:40 pm

  9. cjtruth

    Let’s just read the Word of God and allow the Holy Spirit to Lead us into all Truth. He will show us the things of Jesus. Jesus Christ the same yesterday today and forever. He does not change. God is not man that He should lie, nor the son of man, that He should repent. He that comes to God must believe that He is….it is all by faith. Not in any works that man comes up with. Let God be True and every man a liar. Jesus Christ is the Living Word and man is changed from the inside out by the Power of Almighty God, moving on mens hearts to affect change in the heart of man. Man is not God, man is not divine. Man is a sinner in need of a Saviour and Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world. Take heed that no man deceive you…your eternal soul is at stake.

    June 10, 2008 at 12:40 am

  10. Pingback: More Disappearing Trails « Wolf Tracks

  11. George

    You write : “It is no secret that chanting a mantra indeed empties the mind of thought and opens one up to a different state of consciousness.” Indeed? Indeed?
    Then you quote a Yoga website and a Meditation website. When it suits you, you want the reader to accept the content of these two websites, though you want the reader to reject the rest of the message of said Yoga website and a Meditation website. This is taking circular argument to a new level. (a poke at the title of this post)
    The only teachers I read talking about altered levels of consciousness are those like this blog writer, who wish to tar spiritual practices they distrust with the brush of unorthodoxy.

    October 17, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    • sheepyweepy

      George, it’s called research. One must go to the source to find the facts. Yoga, TM meditation, mantras, new age…it’s all from the same source of false religion. Do your homework.

      October 18, 2010 at 4:43 am

  12. David Paul Mlungisi Christensen

    I get it that this process is very new age, but are we really in danger of inviting familiar spirits if we start with praying to God and inviting the Holy Spirit to guide us? Psalm 119 speaks of meditating on the different attributes of God, including His word, as does Joshua 1:8. Wouldn’t these verses actually show that the people of God were doing this before the new age movement started?

    I Love reading God’s Word slowly and asking Him for the deeper meaning behind the words. Understanding the proper context is a great tool for Biblical Interpretation, but I think we need more than human logic and understanding to bridge the gap of thousands of years and to understand the spiritual implictions. We need the Holy Spirit to reveal it to us. Otherwise, anyone could pick it up and read it and be instantly transformed. Usually skeptics think the Bible is just rubbish, because they are not being led to the understanding we have…

    Great conversation, but don’t forget that we are all brothers and sisters and should be speaking in love and gently correcting one another. Love in Jesus to you all….

    October 26, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    • sheepyweepy

      Yes, go to a quiet place and read scripture, fill your mind with it, study it, think on it, chew it like a sheep chews its cud, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you, and meditate on God’s word. But don’t add the breathing exercises, the emptying of your mind, while keeping your spine straight and in a comfortable position with eyes lowered, as taught in the traditional Lectio Divina method. Repeat it if need be in order to understand it, but not as a mantra in order to help your mind enter the silence. And don’t try to visualize yourself in the Bible story or participate in conversation with any Bible characters in your imagination, and you should be just fine.

      p.s. By the way, even Richard Foster warns that contemplative prayer (Lectio Divina style) can be dangerous. But true prayer to God is never dangerous. It’s simple. Read the Bible. Talk to God. Allow Him to speak to you through scripture. Have nothing to do with Lectio Divina or contemplative exercises.

      October 28, 2010 at 11:10 pm

  13. RacherRoo

    My friend recently brought this to our small group. How can I go about telling him I am not comfortable with being taught this, or introducing this method to our church group?

    November 26, 2011 at 6:54 am

    • sheepyweepy

      You might mention to your friend that you have been reading about it and that you have somme concerns. Ask him if he could read the articles you have read.

      November 27, 2011 at 4:53 am

  14. df

    Thanks for this…i was wondering what was wrong with lectio divina and never even thought of the connection to the meditation done in eastern religions and altering of consciousness. It seems the holy spirit is really downplayed in the process…..satan is very cunning but God is almighty and is raising up His children to speak out against his tricks.

    January 9, 2012 at 12:55 am

  15. Stevie

    Lectio Divina has it’s root in ancient Judaism. If we follow the most ancient roots of this form of prayer, we discover that Christians actually inherited much of this tradition from Judaism. The ancient Jews practiced a method of prayer referred to as Hagah, which consists of the reciting and chanting of sacred texts over and over again, at times interspersed with periods of reflection and silence. The text, usually memorized and almost always chanted over and over, serves as a kind of mantra. The meaning of the text was often considered of secondary importance. The most important thing was the purification that was happening to the one praying, as they continued to be drawn into deeper states of mystical union. The Jews of Christ’s time also chanted the Psalms and so did the early church.

    June 18, 2012 at 5:43 pm

  16. dtbrents

    Reblogged this on Bible Study Articles.

    January 22, 2014 at 8:43 pm

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