There are various approaches to scripture. You can read the bible through in a year. You can memorize verses from the bible. You can study the bible using different tools like commentaries and dictionaries. You can meditate on passages of scripture and go over and over them in your mind. All those things are good, and I practice most of them. But, what you need to know is that scripture is a means to an end. Our goal in scripture is to get to know God and have a relationship with God.
This is really important to remember. Reading scripture is not a thing to do on your check list. It is not a subject that you just study for the sake of knowledge. Scripture is about getting to know God. Our goal in engaging with the scriptures is to hear from God.
How to hear God through Scripture
I have found that it is helpful to have a pattern by which to approach scripture in you time alone with God. Here is a pattern that I have found helpful
Pray that God will speak to you before you read scripture
God is spirit. If you are going to hear from God, then it will be more than just the words on a page, or an intellectual exercise, it will be about the Spirit of God using the words on the page to speak to you. So, pray and ask God to speak as you engage with his word.
Pick a passage of Scripture
Until you are significantly advanced in your spiritual life, I would encourage you to stick with the New Testament and the Psalms. The New Testament is the story of Jesus and the story of the early church. Pick one of the books like John or Ephesians. Start at the beginning and work through the book. It is helpful to hear the content of a book in order. Don’t read too much. Some days you may read as few as three or four verse and at other time you will read ten or fifteen verses. It is better to read less, and go deeper.
- Using a bible on your phone or tablet is good, as long as you don’t get distracted by pop up messages. If you do get distracted then use a physical copy of the bible. I like the Youversion app. It is easy to use and it is free, and you have access to dozens of translations.
- I like to have instrumental music playing in the back ground while I am walking through this part of my devotions.
- The measure of how effective your time alone with God is, is not how you feel while you are doing your devotions but how it affects your life outside of your devotions.
You have prayed, and you have the passage of scripture that you are going to read. Read through the passage slowly. You are just getting a sense of what is being said. Then pause for a moment.
Read it again slowly. What word or phrase stands out to you as you read the passage? If more than one stands out, choose one to focus on.
Read the passage again. What is this passage saying about God and about you. When you come to the part of the passage that you are focusing on, ask yourself what is God wanting to say to me through this passage right now?
Then take that and pray it back to God. You could say something like, “God, I see in your word that you are saying …” “I think you want me to notice this today because…” “Lord, is there anything else you want me to see here?” – Pause, and be quiet for a moment.
Read the passage one last time asking the question, “Lord, is there anything you want me to do in the next while, because what you have shown me here today.” This step is important because me need to be doers of the word and not hearers only.
Thank God for what he has shown you. Make a note of what you have learned in your journal, or in your bible.
Scripture is the primary way that God speaks to us. I would encourage to take time each day to make space for God to speak. It is part of what it means to have a relationship with God.