As I mentioned in my last post (“Earnestly I Seek You”), it is vital that we read the Bible if we hope to have a deep relationship with God. We should not read the Bible just as an intellectual pursuit. We should read it in a contemplative or meditative way. In this brief post, I will discuss two ways to go deeper into God’s Word.
The first way is known as “praying the Scriptures”. Prayer and Bible study cannot be separated. One way to pray the Bible is to turn the words of a text into a prayer. Certainly the prayer texts of the Bible, like many of the Psalms are appropriate (e.g., Psalm 23). Gary Holloway and Earl Lavender in their book, Living a Life of Love, suggest that commands, stories, and even God’s promises can be turned into prayers. For example, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3) can be prayed, “Lord, keep me from anything that takes your place in my heart.” The story of the man born blind (John 9) might lead us to pray, “Lord, open my eyes to see who you are more clearly.” Finally, a promise like “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5) becomes “God help me know your promise that you are always with me so I might live my life without fear.”
A second way one might approach contemplative Bible reading is the practice of lectio divina—literally, “divine reading.”
Cunningham and Egan write,
Lectio does not mean technical biblical study (which is the task of the professional Bible commentator) or the mere scanning of the text for the sake of information or the “story.” It means a close, prayerful, openness to the text so that one both reads the text and, in patient expectation, is open to the text speaking back to the person.
One plan of such reading was developed by a medieval monk, Guigo II:
Guigo argued that one first reads, which leads one to think about (i.e. meditate on) the significance of the text; that process in turn leads a person to response in prayer, and that prayer in turn, should point to the gift of the quiet stillness in the presence of God (contemplation).
Some other suggestions on how to meditate or contemplate the passages one reads: read slowly and savor each word, read aloud, pay attention to particular phrases that stand out, commit a passage to memory, or write it down in a journal. Holloway and Lavender once again suggest praying back over the words of the text.
Let me offer a couple of suggestions. First, practice “praying the Scriptures” everyday by picking Psalms (e.g., Psalm 1, 23, 100, or portions of Psalm 119), some of the promises of God (John 14:1-6; Heb. 13:5-6), and some stories from the Gospels. Make a note of the ones you choose and any thoughts you might have after you pray through the passages. Second, let me encourage you to practice lectio divina (read, meditate, pray, and contemplate) by spending 15 to 30 minutes in Psalm 23 every day for one week. You will be blessed if you practice these suggestions.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us the Bible so we can have a deeper relationship with you. As we meditate upon Your Word this week, we want to offer You our hearts and minds to transform more into the likeness of Your Son. In His name we pray, Amen.
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