How does reading the bible begin to make us better people? Just reading will transfer the words on the page into our memories, but how does head knowledge become heart knowledge? How can reading the bible not just change the way we think, but affect who we truly are? To do this we must read and allow the Holy Spirit to teach us.

This extract is from a book on spiritual disciplines and describes how Christians have done this in the past.

For the first 1500 years of church history many people could not read and those that could did not have a bible, so it was read in church, so that people could hear from God. A word or phrase would give the congregant food for thought for the week ahead.This became known as lectio divina. This devotional way of reading traditionally has five stages.

  1. Silencio—quiet preparation of the heart. Come into God’s presence, slow down, relax, and intentionally release the chaos and noise in your mind to him.
  2. Lectio—read the word. Read a Scripture passage slowly and out loud, lingering over the words so that they resonate in your heart. When a word or phrase catches your attention, don’t keep reading. Stop and attend to what God is saying to you. Be open to the word. Don’t analyse it or judge it. Listen and wait.
  3. Meditatio—meditate. Read the Scripture a second time out loud. Savour the words. Listen for any invitation that God is extending to you in this word. Reflect on the importance of the words that light up to you. Like Mary, who pondered the word in her heart, gently explore the ramifications of God’s invitation.
  4. Oratio—respond, pray. Read the Scripture a third time. Now is the moment to enter into a personal dialogue with God. There is no right or wrong way to do this. The important thing is to respond truthfully and authentically. What feelings has the text aroused in you? Name where you are resistant or want to push back. Become aware of where you feel invited into a deeper way of being with God. Talk to God about these feelings.
  5. Contemplatio—contemplate, rest and wait in the presence of God. Allow some time for the word to sink deeply into your soul. Yield and surrender yourself to God. Before you leave, you might consider a reminder that can help you dwell on or incarnate this word throughout the day.*

*Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook IVP Books, p168

How do we read the bible? Do we find a split between our belief (knowledge) and what we do in our actual experience (heart)? Do we rush through our days, if so we will miss what God is trying to say to us. Scanning a passage quickly for a theme means it becomes head knowledge and will not produce a response from our heart. Do we give the Holy Spirit time to speak to us through the scriptures? Our lives are busy but if we cannot find a few minutes to read God’s word and reflect on it, what does that tell us about the importance we place on hearing from God?

In private reading some people prefer a devotional to guide them, some read through the bible in its entirety. I can recommend both, so how do we make reading the bible more personal and effective? Put simply, we start by recognising the presence of God, remembering the Holy Spirit is always with us. We ask for him to show us something from the passage. We read until a word or phrase resonates with us. Then we take time to pray about what we have learnt and reflect on it during the day. Time spent with God our creator in this way will always be time well spent and will help us to learn, firstly, who we really are, and secondly, what we should do, so that we bring glory to God and see, more people, more like Jesus in many more places, because we seek to live for him every day.

Ephesians 3: 20-21 (CEV) I pray that Christ Jesus and the church will forever bring praise to God. His power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine. Amen.