How do you read the Bible? By that I mean, do you read it to gain information, or do you read it to hear God speak to you?
These two are by no means mutually exclusive; I love it when, in my reading the Bible in preparation to preach, for example, God also takes the passage and speaks to my heart.
Most of the time, we tend to read Scripture to “get something out of it”, like the consumers the world has shaped us to be. Too often, though, our desire to get something out of it comes with an agenda.
What if we could read the Bible, and let God set the agenda?
Think of the Bible not as a newspaper to be scoured, only to line a bird cage later; think of it as a love letter from God. We read love letters differently than we read newspapers. There is more interest; there is deeper engagement.
There is an ancient practice in the Christian tradition that in Latin is called lectio divina; in English we just call it ‘holy reading’. Once we prepare ourselves with silence and peace, there are five movements in the process of holy reading (thanks to Ruth Haley Barton for the alliteration):
- Read. Read the passage you’ve chosen slowly, allowing the words to sink in. Perhaps a word or phrase may jump out at you; take note of it, and after the passage is finished, keep a few minutes’ silence to pray over that word or phrase.
- Reflect. Read the passage once again, and keep silence to ask how that word or phrase you identified speaks into your life right now.
- Respond. Read the passage yet again, and in silence, respond to your reflection; pray with and over your word or phrase, to let God know your feelings about it.
- Rest. Read the passage a final time, and use your time in silence to rest in the Lord. Soak in his presence, and be open to how God may move.
- Resolve. This final step encourages you to live out the experience you have just had, letting that word or phrase stay with you for the day or the week or however long God may want it to stay with you. Let it live in you as you let the Holy Spirit live God’s life in and through you.
This process can take anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of hours if you want it to. Give it a try; read the Bible like a love letter from the One who loves you unlike anyone else can.
“…you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you” (Isaiah 43.4b, NLT).