I've been challenged this week by an invitation to a different kind of Scripture reading, and I want to share the concept with you as an invitation for your spiritual journey. This isn't a new method. I've used it over the years in my own journey. In a hurried world, however, I easily drift back to reading Scripture more for information, or even for performance! You know, writing sermons and stuff.
The method has been called many things, but is basically an invitation to spend time and reflection listening for God's voice to you in a specific passage of Scripture. Here is a very brief introduction:
First, choose only a small biblical passage. A few verses, or a paragraph or two. Right away you can compare this with many of our more common Scripture reading plans. You know: "if I read three chapters of the Old Testament each day, and one chapter of the New Testament, I'll read through the entire Bible in a year."
What follows is a description of the approach from Ruth Haley Barton, in her book Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation. (Quotes from Ruth in italics, with my comments included in standard text):
Preparation: Take a moment to come fully into the present...Express your willingness (or your willingness to be made willing) to hear from God in these moments....
Read: Listen for the word or phrase that is addressed for you. (In other words, take some time. Read the text more than once. Ask God to speak to you through a specific word or phrase).
Reflect: How is my life touched by this word?...What is it in my life right now that needs to hear this word?
Respond: What is my response to God based on what I have read and encountered?....At this point you are entering into personal dialogue with God. (Take your time. This kind of reading may stir some challenging emotions, or bring to mind some troubling aspects of your life. This kind of reading may recall an unfulfilled dream, or challenge you to a difficult conversation. You can see the difference between this approach and others that are more information-based. There is much value to knowing the history and main point of a text of the Bible. This model doesn't deny those things, but invites you beyond them to the ways in which God speaks directly to you through the Scripture.)
Rest: Rest in the Word of God. ...move into a time of waiting and resting in God's presence....This is a posture of total yieldedness and abandon to the great Lover of your soul.
Resolve: Incarnate (live out) the Word of God. As you emerge from this place of personal encounter with God to life in the company of others, resolve to carry this word with you and to live it out in the context of daily life and activity.
This approach to reading is based on a strong belief that God speaks to us through Scripture. The reading of Scripture, therefore, is a high form of the practice of prayer. This approach is a release from the dangers of legalism. In other methods, we can check off the box that we read our four chapters for the day, and never once take anything of substance away from the reading!
This approach is deeply committed to life change. We come to God's Word expecting a word for us, guidance for our future, and the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
This approach is also deeply committed to a practical life and faith. We read, believing that God is speaking to us about the world in which we live, the people with whom we live, and the context in which we live.
I encourage you to give it a try. Let me know if you'd like some help, and please let me know about your experiences with this spiritual discipline.