One of the most fundamental disciplines of the Christian is reading the word of God.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:13 (ESV), Paul writes,
13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
Paul and the rest of the Apostles believed that when they were teaching – since they were apostles – they were speaking on the authority of God.
When we read the Bible, we are reading the words of the men who wrote it. However, these men were not speaking on their own authority.
None of the authors in the Bible would have claimed the words in their respective letters as their own. Instead, they were delivering a message God had given them.
Because the Bible is the word of God, it not only had meaning for the original audience but for us today! Yes, God delivered the word to the biblical authors with both people from the biblical times and those of us alive today in mind.
That is part of the beauty of the Scriptures, and when we don’t approach our reading of the Bible with this fact at the forefront of our mind, we are likely to miss out on what God might have in store for us.
So, reading the Bible is essential to growing in our relationship with Christ, but why does it seem so difficult?
For so many Christians, the Bible sits untouched for most of their week. It – whether it is in digital or print format – tends to sit waiting to be used until it finally is, only to be slightly used and hardly appreciated.
Surely, a big part of the reason so many Christians neglect their Bibles is because they view the Bible as a textbook or a task.
We view the Bible just like any other textbook: a collection of papers with words on them by which we will gain some sort of knowledge.
But it’s not that. It couldn’t be further from that. It is the word of the Living God, given to us on paper.
What we need to do, and what I’ll hope you’ll try this week, is a new way to read your Bible.
There are, of course, many ways to read the Bible, and I certainly do not claim to have the best, though I know this method has worked well at not only helping me to understand Scripture, but also to see it in the proper light, and to experience God’s glory throughout.
(Dr. Clay Jones of Biola University offers a great alternative method here.)
This method happens in six steps.
These steps are: Pray, read, pray, reread, write, pray.
Notice that three out of six steps are prayer. This, I believe, is important in truly encountering the word of God as he meant us to.
Let’s look at the steps individually, and then I’ll show you what it looks like when I use the steps.
Here are a few things to pray for during this time:
- Knowledge of what he would have you do
- Ultimately, an encounter with God through his word.
This first read shouldn’t be a mere skim, but a read of the passage without much hesitation. This helps me to get a general feel for the overall nature of the passage. If something does stick out to you, whether it is confusing, inspiring, or anything else, make a note. I usually highlight these using different colors for different reasons.
Now, you’ll want to ask God for more understanding. Ask him to reveal to you the things you missed. Ask him to open your eyes to the wonder of his word. Ask him for an encounter. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you godly wisdom so you can gain the true understanding of his word and know what to do with it.
Here, you’ll want to reread the passage more deliberately, with a far more focused mind. When you come across a passage you’ve highlighted or written on, examine that passage and find the true meaning of the passage. Pray over the passage again. Petition God to illuminate your mind and reveal what he wants you to know. This is where things like commentaries, study bibles, sermons, podcasts, etc. can come in handy. Two really good online resources are blueletterbible.org and biblehub.com. Both have a lot of tools to help you discover what God might be saying through the passage.
During this reread, I often notice words or phrases I didn’t the first time. Although it doesn’t happen every time, it is likely that the main thing I feel God wants me to know comes through in the reread.
Finally, find the thing(s) God might be telling you to do.
Next, and this is important, but you need to write. I keep a journal for these times, and I think this is the easiest way to write.
Write whatever comes to mind. You could write what God said to you in your reading time, how you felt about the reading time, what you think God wants you to do today, a short prayer, or anything else.
With all that you’ve learned and read during this time, the best way to close this out is through one final, longer prayer. For me, the best prayer to end on is the Lord’s Prayer. When I have great mornings, I’ll spend 45 minutes praying this prayer and communing with God about the things I’ve learned. For a breakdown of how to do this, go here.
So, what does this look like?
So, I’d like to show you what it looks like for me to use this method. Below is how I actually utilized this method this past week.
Heavenly Father, open my eyes that I may behold the wondrous things of your law (Ps. 119:18). Give me the spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of you and enlighten the eyes of my heart so that I may know the hope to which you’ve called me and the riches of your glorious inheritance you’ve promised (Eph. 1:17-18). I need your mercy, God, for my countless sins (Luke 18:13). Without your mercy, I am hopelessly lost. Open my mind that I might understand your word (Luke 24:45). Finally, God, help me to not just read and understand your word, but also to do what you tell me to (James 1:22). Help me to encounter you through your word. It is the deepest desire of my soul. Help me to leave all my distractions aside and truly focus on this incredibly important time. I ask this all in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
I read Luke 22-24 and 1 Peter 1. Here’s a picture of 1 Peter 1. I highlighted the passages on the first read.
God, thank you for your word. Thank you for giving Peter the words to write, and thank you for protecting those words so that 2000 years later, I could read them. I know that I didn’t fully understand this chapter. I know there were things I missed, I know that at some point, my mind wandered and I missed what you wanted me to read. Help me to refocus and reread this passage, I want to encounter you, I want to understand. I ask this in Jesus’ name and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
If you look at the picture of the chapter again, you’ll see my notes in the margin. I wrote these during the reread when I had the chance to do a little research. It’s nothing extensive for this chapter, but there are other times when the margins are full of notes from different sources.
Here is a photo of my journal entry for this day. There are some blacked out portions, only because they contain personal information not essential to this exercise.
I did exactly what I wrote about just over a month ago here and prayed the Lord’s prayer.
This week, try this method of Bible reading. I believe that it is a good method for encountering God and truly seeking what he would have you do. Once you do try it, let us know in the comments below how it went!
Do you have a different preferred method? Type it in the comments!