Spiritual Reading: A Lenten Discipline

By Joyce Sohl

I do a lot of reading: mysteries, newspapers (at least 2 a day), research articles, historical novels, etc. I also read several books or booklets and the Bible on a daily basis as part of my devotional life. But during this Lent, I am trying to read from a spiritual perspective. Here are some things I have learned about spiritual reading.

Spiritual reading is reflective and prayerful reading. It is not concerned about the number of words or pages read, but about making the words a part of one’s inner being. Being alert as you read is essential in order to realize what God is saying to you through the words of the material you have chosen. Think about the words; ponder the meaning of the sentences; pray about what is before you; let images/metaphors come into your thinking; let the words take you to the corners of your soul. This takes more time than a simple once-over of a selection, so plan to spend meaningful time for your reading.

Lectio Divina is the classical approach to spiritual reading, especially reading the Bible, that was perfected by Saint Benedict and pursued in the Jewish tradition before him. Both in the Catholic and Protestant traditions it has been used throughout the centuries. There are four phases to this process:

Lectio: the actual reading in a slow, deliberate manner;

Meditatio: a time of meditation moving to find oneself in the text and to discover what the passage means in my life

Oratio: a time for prayer around the things that have come from your meditation. It can be prayers of joy, lament, praise, confession, petition, etc.

Contemplatio: a time of contemplation and being in the loving presence of God.

There are many resources on the internet that can aid in pursuing this kind of spiritual reading.

Marjorie J. Thompson writes in her book Soul Feast: “Spiritual reading is a meditative approach to the written word. It requires unhurried time and an open heart…Many kinds of literature can be read in this manner if one is willing to hear what God may be saying to us.” During this Lent, choose scripture, a spiritual classic such as “Disciplines of the Spirit” by Howard Thurman, several hymns, or even a work of fiction for your spiritual reading. Let the presence of the Spirit guide you in your reading.

“Read with a vulnerable heart.

Expect to be blessed in the reading.

Read as one awake,

one waiting for the beloved.

Read with reverence.”

Macrina Wiederkehr in A Tree Full of Angels

Joyce D. Sohl, Laywoman-in-Residence

Joyce Sohl

Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, and quarterly retreats and art exhibits.