A huge thanks to Steph Thurling from Raising Prayerful Kids for this helpful and inspiring article on Lectio Divina for kids!
My 7-year-old son, Calvin, has been downhill skiing for over a year. He took two days of lessons at Mount Crested Butte in Colorado, and because kids are fearless and completely unaware of the fact that bones break, he was skiing down the entire mountain by the end of his two days.
Just recently we took him to our local ski hill in Minnesota. Calvin decided that he wanted to try the tow rope, which is something he had never done before. My husband took him over to the rope, showed him how to do it, and off they went. Calvin did it perfectly fine. He skied down to me as fast as he could and declared that he wanted to do it again. My husband was already off with another kid, so Calvin went back to try by himself. I ran after him to help, but he made it to the rope and was on his way up before I could get there. Once again, perfectly fine.
When he skied back to me I immediately said, “Calvin I’m so sorry, I underestimated you. I saw you do it on your own and I was going to help you anyway. You don’t need my help, you’re really good at skiing. I trust you!”
But this isn’t about skiing
I think we underestimate our kids a lot of the time. I believe that this tendency is not limited to things like skiing on their own, it applies to spirituality and faith as well. Kids are amazing and they are capable of so much more than we give them credit for.
Our mission at Raising Prayerful Kids is to equip parents with the tools to be praying with their kids more creatively and intentionally. This includes challenging them to engage in spiritual disciplines that we may assume are only for adults. Kids are curious and open minded, so childhood is the perfect time to be trying different ways to pray.
When Calvin was learning to read I realized that he could probably do a Lectio Divina. So we tried it and you know what? He loved it!
What is Lectio Divina?
Lectio Divina means “divine reading.” It involves reading a passage of the Bible slowly and intentionally.
It is important to note that Lectio Divina is not a Bible study, it is a form of prayer. God uses scripture to speak to us all the time, and this is a way to slow down and be still in His Word. It is amazing what we will hear God tell us when we allow Him the time and space to speak.
A Lectio Divina is typically divided into four different parts:
- Reading – Read the text out loud until a phrase stands out, this is what the Holy Spirit is drawing your attention to.
- Meditate – Repeat the phrase out loud, asking what God is saying to you through this text.
- Pray – Take your thoughts and offer them back to God.
- Contemplate – Move from prayer into resting in God’s presence.
If this is really new to you, check out this fabulous video that explains it well!
Adapting Lectio Divina for Kids
This is surprisingly easy to do with kids! Here is what I do:
- Have your child get in a comfortable position. I usually do this at night when we are getting ready for bed so that they are cozy in their beds. I also do this if I have an early riser and I’m not quite ready to be done with my morning quiet time.
- Say something like, “God can speak to us through the Bible. Close your eyes and listen to what I read. Pay attention to what makes you feel good, what you remember most, or what stands out to you. God may be speaking to you through that!”
- Read the verse out loud.
- Ask what part stood out to them and explain that you are going to read that part of the verse again. Or you can read the entire verse again if you chose a shorter verse.
- When you are done reading the section of the verse again ask, “What does that tell you about God?” “What does that tell you about yourself?” “Is there anything else you think God was saying through that scripture?”
- Pray and thank God for speaking to you.
How I use Lectio Divina with kids
The other night I used a short verse with Calvin. We used this verse:
“And He said to them, ‘Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.’”Matthew 17:20, NASB
When we were finished and we had done the above steps, he said, “God can do anything. I can do anything too because He will help me! If God wanted to move all my pictures around in my room right now, He could! But He won’t do that because He knows it is bedtime and I have to go to sleep and I would get too crazy if that happened. But, you know, nothing is impossible with God!”
A few helpful hints:
- Trust your kids! They can do this, you just have to help guide them and encourage them.
- Try longer passages. You can use a short verse like the example above, but don’t be afraid of longer verses too. Psalms are great for Lectio Divina. The Jesus Storybook Bible (see on Amazon) is also a great place to look for passages to use. The author’s version of Psalm 23 is the perfect place to start and is the first verse I ever used with my kids.
- Re-use passages. You can keep using the same Scripture if you want. This may help your child become more comfortable with the practice and God will continue to speak through His Word.
- Be patient.
Calvin has been doing this for years and really enjoys it, but there are times that he is squirmy and nothing comes from it. That’s okay! The point is that he is practicing a spiritual discipline that he will be able to use his entire life.
Don’t expect perfection from yourself or your kids, just take this as a beautiful opportunity to connect with your kids and with God on a deeper level.
Steph Thurling lives in Minnesota with her husband and three young children and is a co-founder of Raising Prayerful Kids along with Sarah Holmstrom. She holds a Masters Degree in Youth, Family and Culture from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is passionate about equipping families with the tools to be praying together more often. Steph and Sarah’s website is full of ideas for incorporating prayer and faith into your family’s everyday life fun, creative, and intentional ways. You can follow along at www.raisingprayerfulkids.com.