catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 18 :: 2003.09.26 — 2003.10.09


Making the old new

A new series from NavPress, titled TH1NK, aims at introducing
teenagers and young adults to spiritual disciplines. While many
churches are searching for the newest gimmicks to draw in seekers, Tony
Jones's addition to the NavPress series, Read, Think, Pray, Live: A Guide to Reading the Bible in a New Way, looks back, drawing its inspiration from the ancient and medieval church.

Jones, a Ph.D. student at Princeton Seminary and minister to youth and young adults in Minnesota, introduces the mystery of lectio divina,
an ancient way of Scripture study and prayer. Jones first justifies the
need for Scripture study then introduces the steps of lectio divina, showing how they can work personally and corporately to enhance one's time with God.

Lectio divina is a prayer practice of monastics in the medieval church that uses the Bible as the prayer text. Jones uses Guigo II's The Ladder of Monastics as his guide, introducing the reader to reading (lectio), meditation (meditatio), prayer (oratio), and contemplation (contemplatio).

In the lectio phase, the reader simply reads a passage of
Scripture. Here, the emphasis is on repetition, not necessarily
analysis or inductive study. After reading the passage thoroughly
(Jones says sometimes it takes reading a passage thirty times to feel
ready to move to the next step), the reader moves into meditatio.
In meditation, the reader feasts upon a particular word or phrase from
the text that has drawn an emotion or made an impression; and in
prayer, the reader discusses the word with God. The season of prayer
and Scripture reading ends with contemplation, a silencing of the mind
and spirit before God.

Jones' style is conversational and erudite. He imparts centuries of
church history to his readers in an intelligent and approachable
manner, making figures like Thomas Aquinas and the desert fathers seem
more like peers and fellow sojourners than lofty and aloof leaders. The
additional chapters at the end of the book provide exercises in lectio divina and give the reader a chance to try out what she has just learned.

The process of lectio divina is complex and mysterious. Jones
is careful to give guidelines for the practice without making "rules of
engagement" with God. He elevates the process and encourages the reader
to keep trying despite inevitable failure. He admonishes the reader to
continue despite wandering thoughts or distracting noises, to aim for
contemplation—to be lost in the love of God.

The only difficulty of Read, Think, Pray, Live is the
elusiveness of the subject matter. Because the process is so
experiential, Jones seems to struggle especially for words to describe
the meditation and contemplation phases; but his attempt is valiant and
overall successful.

In Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, C.S. Lewis writes
that the "perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware
of; our attention would have been on God." Lectio divina, it
seems, has a similar goal—the momentary transcendence of earthly
distractions to commune with God. It is a difficult process; one The Cloud of Unknowing says is often wrought only through "long and arduous spiritual toil." Via Read, Think, Pray, Live the spiritual refreshment of prayer is now accessible to young people in a new, old way.

Jones, Tony. Read, Think, Pray, Live: A Guide to Reading the Bible in a New Way. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2003.

Other books in the TH1NK series include Pray; Memorize This; The Message Remix; Promises. Promises. Promises.; and Posers, Fakers, & Wannabes.

Discussion topic: Rediscovering the ancients

It seems as though there is a renewed desire among people of all
faiths to rediscover and reintroduce ancient, mystical spiritual
practices. Taking the characteristics of our current culture into
account, why do you think this interest has surfaced? Do you think this
interest is genuine?

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