How we do things matters.
Basic things cannot be skipped or ignored because they are important–that’s why they are basic! Sometimes I am tempted to skip basic steps because I want to get on to other things.
Over the years God has taught me to read scripture as a conversation—it is after all, His word. Most of the time we read for one of two purposes—information or entertainment. When we learn to read God’s word as a personal conversation, we can find ourselves reading for relationship rather than for information. This is a vital perspective shift.
Some of you may think, “well, duh…everybody knows that.”
The crucial thing is that not everybody does.
And even when we know this, there is always a temptation to open God’s word without the awareness that every time we open this book we have the opportunity to hear God speak. It is easy to have a kind of ho-hum, put a check-in-the-box-and get-it-over-with mentality when we pick up the Bible. Now don’t pretend like you don’t know what I am talking about here…we’ve all had days like that.
Right now I am reading a book called Eat This Book, by Eugene H. Peterson, author of the contemporary translation of the Bible titled The Message. In writing about reading God’s word, he says, “God does not make speeches; he enters conversations and we are partners to the conversation…” (p. 107)
God tells us that his word is spiritually discerned. This is kind of a theological term, but to me it means that God designed his word to be read in partnership with the Holy Spirit. If I don’t have the Spirit in the eqation, 1 plus 1 will only add up to 2—just words —rather than adding up to life. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that makes the ink on the page “living, active, and sharp. (Hebrews 4:16)
Develop the basic habit of asking God to speak to you every time you open your Bible.
OPEN BIBLE—PRAY. Work on this until it becomes an automatic response. Ask God to speak to you and teach you one thing. Why one thing? Remember that devotional reading is for relationship and transformation rather than for collecting information. Focusing on one thing at a time helps us to engage more fully. It will often be more that one thing, but asking for one thing brings focus to our attention.
As I pray and then read, the Holy Spirit joins me and our conversation has begun. “So what do I pray,” you ask? Good question, and the answers are endless. Here are a few verses that I like to pray when asking God to teach me: (all verses are NIV)
Psalm 119:18, 102 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law….I have not departed from your laws,for you yourself have taught me.
Prayer: Lord, help me to notice and understand specific truth You want to teach me today. Give my a heart to respond with wonder.
1 Cor. 2:12-13 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.
Prayer: Thank you for your Spirit who desires to help me understand your word. Make me receptive to your words.
Romans 10:8 …The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart…
Prayer: Lord, thank you that you are near. Speak to my heart and enable me to enjoy your presence.
I love these truths that God will speak and He will teach us. From these verses I learn that God desires and promises to teach, open, instruct, give understanding and explanation so that we might know He is near and present with us. Remembering to pray before I read is a basic step that I will never outgrow.