The Elephant in the Sanctuary: Spiritual Disciplines that Enhance Worship Part IV

The Elephant in the Sanctuary: Spiritual Disciplines that Enhance Worship

Part Four: Spiritual Disciplines that Intersect with Worship

The Word of God

In today’s culture, it is often more accepted to quote religious memes than to quote the word of God.  The world has moved away from using the Bible as the authority by which life is guided.  The God of the universe has given instructions for living life His way, but most people choose to ignore this handbook of life.  God’s word provides understanding about His kingdom therefore giving knowledge that exceeds human thought.  If one wants to be more spiritual, then intersecting with the bible daily will provide guidance, strength and care for the long journey through life.  Donald Whitney reminds us that “Ours is an undisciplined age. The old disciplines are breaking down.… Above all, the discipline of divine grace is derided as legalism or is entirely unknown to a generation that is largely illiterate in the Scriptures. We need the rugged strength of Christian character that can come only from discipline.”[1] What builds up spiritual character in the average Christian?  The answer cannot be covered in one discipline alone but spans along a variety of disciplines used within life to access a relationship with the son of God through which we may access the Father.

The Importance of Bible Study

As children of God, and co-heirs with Jesus, it is our fundamental duty to investigate the claims of the scriptures, apply them to our lives and deepen the relationship we have with Jesus Christ.  Since the Bible is the Word of God, it is logical to begin with reading and studying it in order to gain an understanding of what this relationship with Jesus is about.  As a better understanding of the relationship with God becomes apparent, we are able to ascertain the importance of Bible Study not only in the relationship with Christ, but Bible study illuminates the path God sets before us and allows worship to be fruitful by knowing the God that is worshipped. 

The Bible does not need a defense; however, it occasionally will provide prompts about itself in relationship to the children of God. Why should we study the Bible? Because it is the best way to know the character of God. The Bible provides blueprints on how to live.  Psalm 119:105 (NKJV) states, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path.”

 The scriptures provide illumination in the Christian walk as they follow along the path to heaven.  Matthew gives the account of the Parable of the Sower to clarify that the Word of God cannot only be heard but must be applied to one’s life. (Matthew 13:22-24, NKJV).  In First John 2:4 we find that “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in Him.” (NKJV).  The only way to know the commandments of the Father is to know His Word.  First John 2:15 provides truth that those who John thought to be strong knew that “the Word of God abides” in them.  In this passage, the Word of God is a defense against the enemy.  But how does one know that the Bible is true.  In Second Timothy 3:16, the Bible defends itself, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (NIV).  Although written by men, God inspired men to write down His words so that humankind would fully know Him.  Not only does it correct, but according to Psalm 119:11 the Bible provides a protection against sin, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

The scriptures are often described as living, active, and providing an escape from the guises of Satan. Sin separates the Christian from God, therefore Paul Evans states, (speaking on the book of James) “There is an emphasis on the work of Scripture. The Scripture has power to save a soul (1:21); the Scripture reveals man’s sin (1:23-25); the Scripture judges in the present and in the Last Day (2:12).[2] This protection provides opportunity to learn how to pattern lives after Jesus’ life so worship for Him is presented without interference.  Furthermore, he expatiates that, “The writers of scripture were carried along by the Holy Spirit, guaranteeing the inspiration of the books of Scripture. The Spirit’s work in inspiration is analogous to the Father’s work (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16).”[3] If the Father’s work is equal to the Word of God in the scriptures, then a deduction can be made that studying the word of God is doing the work of God. Not only does the work of God include feeding the poor, housing the homeless and helping the sick, but it includes having a relationship with Jesus so that worship given to God will be richer and fuller. 

Psalm 25 expresses the yearning the psalmist feels for knowing God fully.  In verses four and five we read, “Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me.” The word “show” in the Hebrew is “hộdîé” which translates to be made known. The psalmist is asking God to make himself known so that he will know God on a deeper level.  The psalms are a Hebrew book of worship, if the psalmist declares an interest in knowing God then having a spiritual relationship with God must influence worship.  Showing the worshiper God’s ways is not enough, the psalmist ask that he be taught and led into the truth of God.  Only God has the knowledge of how life should be lived.  By knowing God fully, Christians are able to learn how to navigate life here on earth.

Spiritual Discipline # 1: Lectio Divina

            Not only is studying the Bible important to spiritual growth, but meditation upon it helps the Christian spirit to grow.  Within the realm of spiritual disciplines, Lectio Divina, has long been a tool used to extract meaning from the Holy Scriptures. “Lectio Divina” or hearing of Scripture requires an open, reflective, listening posture alert to the voice of God. This type of reading is aimed more at growing a relationship with God with gathering information about God.”[4]  There is much biblical evidence to support the idea of hearing the word of God. Joshua 1:8 (NIV) says, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Also, Psalm 1:1-2 (NIV) declares, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on his law day and night.” Hebrews 4:12 (NIV) says that, “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” These scriptures indicate the importance of God’s word for the children of God. Regular hearing and meditation on its concepts and themes provide an open door to the character of God.

            Lectio Divina is a tool that is used to hear the word of God spoken so that its precepts and truth may be absorbed by the human soul.  Alan Hauser provides an explanation of the qualities of this tool:

Notice that Hauser declares that through Lectio Divina the worshiper is able to extract profound meaning through the use of this tool. The experiences of Lectio Divina have life changing effects on those who use this spiritual discipline.  It provides a way to hear the thoughts of God as provided through the hearing of God’s spoken word.  Lectio Divina can provide guidance to the worship leader in any area of life cultivating a fuller experience in worship.  Adele Calhoun in her book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook provides these guidelines for Lectio Divina:

“Lectio Divina. Another, more contemplative method of interpretation practiced during the Middle Ages was lectio divina. This is the slow, prayerful, usually vocal reading of biblical texts until they penetrate the inner being of the worshiper. In the Middle Ages, monks daily celebrated the canonical hours, a series of six to eight liturgical services held every few hours throughout the day and the night. Thus, regular recitation of Scripture was interwoven into the everyday life of the monks. This led to a profound understanding of Scripture derived from continual meditation, prayer, and devotion focused on specific scriptural passages. The importance of mystical contemplation and meditation in medieval monasteries caused this form of interpretation to have a powerful impact on the life of medieval Christendom in the West.”[5]

Practice includes:

Prayerfully dwelling on a passage of Scripture

Listening deeply God’s personal word to you

Reading not to master the text but be mastered by it

Staying with one text until the Lord prompts movement to another

Reading for depth, not breadth

Contemplative and formational reading of Scripture or other devotional texts[6]

Furthermore, Calhoun continues,

1. Silencio-quiet preparation of the heart. Come into God’s presence, slow down, relax, and intentionally release the chaos and noise in your mind to him.

2. Lectio– read the word. Read a Scripture passage slowly and outloud, lingering over the words so that they resonate in your heart. When a word or phrase catches your attention, don’t keep reading. Stop and attend to what God is saying to you. Be open to the word. Don’t analyze it or judge it. Listen and wait.

3. Meditatio – meditate. Read the Scripture a second time out loud. Savor the words. Listen for any invitation that God is extending to you in this word. Reflect on the importance of the words that light up to you. Like Mary, who pondered the word in her heart, gently explore the ramifications of God’s invitation.

4. Oratio-respond, pray. Read the Scripture a third time. Now is the moment to enter into a personal dialogue with God. There is no right or wrong way to do this. The important thing is to respond truthfully and authentically.  What feelings has the text aroused in you? Name where you are resistant or want to push back. Become aware of where you feel invited into a deeper way of being with God. Talk to God about these feelings.

5. Comtemplatio-Contemplate, rest and wait in the presence of God. Allow some time for the word to sink deeply into your soul. Yield and surrender yourself to God. Before you leave, you might consider a reminder that can help you dwell on or incarnate this word throughout the day.[7]

As a worshiper, knowing the Word of God, allowing the Word to penetrate the soul and living out the Word in Jesus is imperative to make a difference in the life of your worship.  Lectio Divina provides time for the worship to apply the scriptures to life, but also provides knowledge of the scriptures so that worship is able to impress upon you the character of God.

            Donald Whitney provides more insight on Lectio Divina on the benefits and methods of this spiritual tool.  Many worshipers may feel these spiritual disciplines are delving into the earthly realm.  Whitney explains,


One sad feature of our modern culture is that meditation has become identified more with non-Christian systems of thought than with biblical Christianity. Even among believers, the practice of meditation is often more closely associated with yoga, transcendental meditation, relaxation therapy, or the New Age Movement. Because meditation is so prominent in many spiritually counterfeit groups and movements, some Christians are uncomfortable with the whole subject and suspicious of those who engage in it. But we must remember that meditation is both commanded by God and modeled by the Godly in Scripture. Just because a cult uses the cross as a symbol doesn’t mean the Church should cease to use it. In the same way, we shouldn’t discard or be afraid of scriptural meditation simply because the world has adapted it for its own purposes.

The kind of meditation encouraged in the Bible differs from other kinds of meditation in several ways. While some advocate a kind of meditation in which you do your best to empty your mind, Christian meditation involves filling your mind with God and truth. For some, meditation is an attempt to achieve complete mental passivity, but biblical meditation requires constructive mental activity. Worldly meditation employs visualization techniques intended to “create your own reality.” And while Christian history has always had a place for the sanctified use of our God-given imagination in meditation, imagination is our servant to help us meditate on things that are true (Philippians 4:8). Furthermore, instead of “creating our own reality” through visualization, we link meditation with prayer to God and responsible, Spirit-filled human action to effect changes.

In addition to these distinctives, let’s define meditation as deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer. Meditation goes beyond hearing, reading, studying, and even memorizing as a means of taking in God’s Word. A simple analogy would be a cup of tea. You are the cup of hot water and the intake of Scripture is represented by the tea bag. Hearing God’s Word is like one dip of the tea bag into the cup. Some of the tea’s flavor is absorbed by the water, but not as much as would occur with a more thorough soaking of the bag. In this analogy, reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word are represented by additional plunges of the tea bag into the cup. The more frequently the tea enters the water, the more effect it has. Meditation, however, is like immersing the bag completely and letting it steep until all the rich tea flavor has been extracted and the hot water is thoroughly tinctured reddish brown.[8]

As Whitney has clearly stated, the benefit of Lectio Divina allows the meditation on scripture to extract spiritual depth from the Word of God.  This depth of scripture allows the worshiper the knowledge to find a richer familiarity of God’s characteristics. Without such, congregants are unable to encounter a full worship experience.

What is Lectio Divina

Definition: Lectio Divina or hearing of Scripture requires an open, reflective, listening posture alert to the voice of God. This type of reading is aimed more at growing a relationship with God than gathering information about God.

Scripture Evidence: Hebrews 4:12-13

Practice includes prayerfully dwelling on a passage of Scripture; listening deeply God’s personal word to you; reading not to master the text but be mastered by it; staying with one text until the Lord prompts movement to another; reading for depth, not breadth; contemplative and formational reading of Scripture or other devotional texts.[9]


  1. Find a quiet space during the morning, mid-day or evening for you to hear the Word of God.  It is important you are not disturbed for a specific amount of time.  This maybe anywhere from five to forty-five minutes.  I find that morning times are the best for me. 
  2. Work through a few verses from a chapter of the Bible, choosing small portions as opposed to large ones since they are difficult to comprehend all at once.   
  3. Read the verses aloud keeping in mind the words or phrase that draw your attention.  Those words or phrase are possibly the ones that God is trying to express in providing specific instructions for your life. 
  4. Take one or two minutes to meditate on those words or phrases extracting every morsel of detail. 
  5. Re-read the verses out loud again, repeating the same exercise.  What words or phrases jump out?
  6. Meditate again on those words or phrases that acquired the attention of your mind. 
  7. After your meditation write down what you have learned during this time.  You might want to consider purchasing a journal to keep thoughts from your private worship. These notes allow for review for where God has taken you on your journey.

[1]Whitney, 1.

[2] Evans,104.

[3] Ibid. 265.

[4] Calhoun,187.

[5] Hauser, Alan J. “Biblical Interpretation, History of.” Edited by John D. Barry, David Bomar, Derek R. Brown, Rachel Klippenstein, Douglas Mangum, Carrie Sinclair Wolcott, Lazarus Wentz, Elliot Ritzema, and Wendy Widder, in The Lexham Bible Dictionary. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press), 2016, 88.

[6] Calhoun, 187.

[7] Calhoun, 188-189.

[8] Whitney, 47.

[9] Calhoun, 187.

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