If we are honest, we don’t often delight to read our Bibles and pray. This can lead to us not finding the time and doing other things. The purpose that we give to these tasks can make all the difference. Instead of reading the Bible and praying as a transfer of information, let’s explore approaching them as an opportunity to enjoy a relationship with God.
The Bible is a relational book. Its purpose is to create and deepen our relationship with God. We should use it to hang out with God and spend time, getting to know him. It’s not a book to raid for a few facts about God, it’s a means of communion.
Means of Communion
When reading the Bible and praying, we need to be cautious about doing them as a means of gaining favour with God. We cannot earn God’s favour, grace, or love. God provides those things to us no matter what we do. Instead, reading the Bible and praying can be seen as a gift from God, allowing us to enjoy and deepen our relationship with him. It is therefore a “means of communion”.
Looking back over the course, we can see that each week we focus on a different “means of communion”. Every pleasure is a means of communion if you see it as a sign of your Father’s generosity. Every pain is a means of communion if you see it as a sign of your Father’s discipline. Every prayer, every failure, every fear, every temptation, and every groan has the potential to draw us closer to God, if we see God at work in it. The key is faith. Faiths sees all the ordinary things of life as the extraordinary work of God and an opportunity to respond to him – to thank, accept, or trust.
Hearing God’s voice
What difference can it make to view the Bible as a means of communion with God? In several places, the Bible is described as written by humans but spoken by God, through the Holy Spirit (“God-breathed”). God himself spoke the words that you read. But the Bible is not just words written a long time ago. It’s alive because God continues to speak through it today. When the Bible is read or preached, something happens. God is speaking and we can enjoy the Spirit’s voice right now. God is at work when we read the Bible.
At creation, God spoke, and through his words he brought order, light, and life. And today when God speaks, through his word, he orders the chaos of our lives, brings light to our darkness, and creates life in dead hearts.
Knowing God’s presence
Through the Bible, God is heard but not seen. Time and again he directly intervenes in the life of his people, by speaking through the Bible. Just because we can’t see God, it doesn’t mean that he is not active in our lives. He’s personally present in his word through the person of the Holy Spirit. We can delight in reading our Bibles when we recognise that through it, we can enjoy meeting and hearing from God.
Putting it into practice
So, we want to develop intentionality when reading the Bible. It’s great to have a Bible-reading plan or daily Bible notes but let’s not confuse the means with the end. The goal is to enjoy God, with planning to read the Bible daily the means of doing this. Let’s not task-tick but instead aim is to hear God’s voice. Let’s go to the word, expectant to hear his voice.
A practical way of doing this is to learn the habit of praying as you read the Bible. Turn God’s speech into a two-way conversation by worshipping over the word. Many prayers recorded in the Bible are actually Bible promises turned round and presented back to God as requests. One way of doing this is to read the passage as a whole and then reread it a verse or two at a time. After each section, turn what you’ve read into prayer. You might respond with praise or confession or thanksgiving or petition. In the case of a Bible story, you might focus on two or three verses that capture your attention or summarise God’s involvement.
Every day our sin gives us reasons to wonder whether Christ still loves us. But every day – if we will only listen – Christ reassures us of his love in his word. Your primary aim as you read the Bible is not to seek out new or novel ideas (although you may meet some new ideas as you read). Make it your aim to hear God’s voice and meet him in his word.
- Last week we ended with a challenge to spend time thinking about eternal life in the new creation. How have you got on? What difference has this made?
- When does reading the Bible feel like a wonderful delight to you? When does it feel like a wearying duty? What makes the difference?
- When was the last time you felt God speaking to you through his word? How could you approach his word to listen for his voice?
- How do you plan your Bible-reading? What changes might you make?
- How have you experienced the Holy Spirit’s involvement in your life over the last 24 hours?
Each day this week pray through a passage of Scripture.