I‘ve been trying to hone in on my Bible reading and prayer and actually have it be genuine time with God, leading to genuine change in my heart. I’ve found that without some kind of organization, I typically gloss through my morning Bible text, and my reading basically just becomes a meaningless means of works righteousness; a box I can check off that does me no good. In the last few years I’ve looked at several suggestions of Bible reading methods and prayer models, and the following is my attempt to converge many useful suggestions into one system. The following is a way to go about meeting with God once you’ve sat down and have your Bible open. If you’re an OCD neat-nick like me, you may find this helpful. Note that this is for people who already have a reading plan they intend to use for their daily Bible reading. I don’t intend, or suggest anyone else go through everything here in one sitting. But instead I plan to choose some things from this every morning as I think they’ll help me. I owe much here to Tim Keller, and some to the puritans Thomas Boston & Thomas Manton. This will likely remain a work in progress as I learn what is most beneficial to my soul. Here’s what I have so far. I hope it may help you on your journey to walk closer, and to more deeply enjoy the beauty of our God.
Quiet my heart and mind and enjoy stillness before God. Light a candle. Silence… Simple Prayer… Quiet Music or Hymn…. Deep Breathing… Take a few minutes to focus on God and to shut out distractions. Experiment. Vary this. Try one or two of the following each time before I begin reading:
- Invitation: Read a verse inviting me into the presence of God. Examples: P 130:5 Ps. 100:1-2 Titus 2:11-13 Ps. 145:8 1Pet. 1:3 Ezek. 36:26-27 Rom. 5:5
- Fear of God: Get my heart deeply impressed with an awe filled sense of the majesty and holiness of God into who’s presence I am seeking to go, and who’s voice I am seeking to hear. Delight in the greatness of God and in my smallness in light of his immensity. Delight that he commands all things, and that all things are for his greatness and are at his sole disposal. See Lk. 8:18, 2 Cor. 2:16, Ps. 89:5-14, Isa. 6:1-5, Psalm 46:1-11.
- Love of God: Apply Christ’s suffering and death for my inherited sinful nature, for my evil heart toward him in actual sin, and even my evil self-made righteousness that stands between my soul and him. Apply his righteous life infused to me, and counted as mine because of his amazing divine mercy. Consider God’s eternal decree to save me before the foundation of the world, and the fact that he loves me dearly enough both to die for me, and to send his only Son to do so. Consider that God the Father constantly feels great, deep, unrelenting love, gladness, and joy toward me because of his pure mercy and what his Son has done in my stead, and the righteousness he has clothed me with. See 2 Cor. 5:21, Rom. 3:21, Rom. 5:6-11, Zeph. 3:17-18, John 10:27-30.
- Stir my affections: Examine myself and stir up in my heart great spiritual desires for my majestic God and Father and for knowing him more and for my becoming like him. See 1 Tim. 4:16 & John 15:5.
- Gospel Song: Read or sing a song or hymn from a psalm or hymn book. The one I’m experimenting with now is The Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts by Soli Deo Gloria.
- Prayer Book: Read and pray a prayer from a prayer book. The Valley of Vision is an excellent option.
- Pray for eyes to see: Pray that God would give me assistance in seeing, feeling, and hearing what he has for me in his word. Pray that he would direct the word to me as I need it, and that he would press it home on my heart with his blessing in order that I may be enlightened, sanctified, strengthened, humbled, or raised up by it, as my case requires according to Psalm 119:18.
- Pray for the Holy Spirit: Pray that God would pour out his Spirit on me through the reading of his word according to the promise in Pr. 1:23, knowing that none of these actions procure God’s action toward me, but that he acts according to his own will, and pours out his Spirit on whom he wills.
Slowly read the scripture passage 2-3 times, inviting the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s truth to me. Read it as God’s word to me at this moment in life. Read for understanding. Write down answers to the following (or just a few that stand out):
- What does this text tell me about God or Christ? (e.g. His names, attributes, desires, pleasures, promises to claim, commands to obey, a comfort to be savored)
- What does it tell me about mankind? (e.g. nature of man, examples to avoid or follow)
Become aware of God’s loving presence and read the passage again, perhaps out loud. Notice how He might be speaking to me through His Word. Dwell on a word or a phrase that jumps out at me. Record answers to the following:
- What truth has caught the attention of my heart or mind?
(e.g. a command to be obeyed, a comfort to be savored, a characteristic of God to be grasped)
- Think about this truth. What is it really saying? Put it into my own words.
- Why is God showing me this today? What is going on in my life right now? As thoughts become clear or convicting, write them down.
- Talk to myself in the presence of God (Soliloquy as demonstrated by the psalmist). Ask myself: If this truth were explosively alive in my inner most being, how would I be different? If I really believed this at the bottom of my being would I be different? How? How does God want to transform my heart, thinking, habits, relationships?
Respond to God for what he has just revealed to me in prayer. The following ways are very helpful. Ask:
- Where in the scripture I just read is it prompting prayer? What type of prayer responses does this text ask me?
- In light of my meditation, in what areas should I pray?
- Pray freely about these, and also anything else that is on my heart or mind.
- Also pray for others about these things. Incorporate my daily prayer list. The Bible is not just my story — it is first and foremost God’s story, then our story, and finally my story. What does this truth and the passage reveal about God’s heart for the people and world around me? (e.g. family, extended family, neighbors, workplace, church, city, nation, world) Who or what has God put on your heart today? Pray this truth for them.
- Use the ACTS model of prayer if you would like:
- Adore God/Christ/Holy Spirit for who He is in this passage (e.g. His attributes revealed in this passage).
- Confess the sinful emotions, attitudes, and behavior that result in me when I forget who he is in this truth I have read.
- Thank God for what He has done (e.g. his grace to forgive and heal me). And ask, “How is the grace that I have in Jesus Christ the key to help me overcome the sin that I have just confessed?”
- Supplicate (ask), “What do I need to become in light of this truth?” Make a plan. Ask for God’s comfort, wisdom, and strength in applying this truth today.
- End by beholding, adoring, and appreciating some aspect of the excellence and beauty of Christ.
Read a devotion on the text I just read (especially if after meditation and prayer I still feel dry and lifeless). As I read the devotion pray through each sentence of it, and ask God what he has for me in it, and ask for help in feeling the weight of his word through it. Best biblical devotions to use:
- Philip Doddridge’s Family Expositor improvements on the New Testament
- Richard Hawker’s Poor Man’s Commentary end of chapter reflections
- Joseph Hall’s Contemplations on each narrative chapter of the Bible
- Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary by section
Close my scripture reading with a blessing or promise or view of the beauty of God in his word ideally from the reading for the day. Dwell on this throughout the day. Try and think how it fits into biblical/systematic theology, delight in it and think on it. Throughout the day ask questions of this truth to God in prayer, and ask God to give me understanding, and a proper emotional response to it, and to bless me through it. Delight in, and praise God throughout the day through this revelation given to me.