Reading Scripture as a Spiritual Discipline
Similar to prayer, scripture reading is one of the most commonly practiced spiritual disciplines amongst Christians. Not a single Sunday goes by where scripture is not read in some form or fashion. There is an entire industry of daily devotionals dedicated to providing daily scripture reading for you and me to grow in our faith. But is there a proper way to read scripture? Is it as simple as picking up the Bible and starting to read? Today I want to look at different ways to use the Bible to grow in our faith.
Scripture can be read anywhere at any time. However, in most cases of spiritual disciplines we try our best to create a sacred space. That means that we do our best to be in a quiet and calm area. This allows us to be completely focused on what the scripture has to say to us. As I mentioned this is not something that will make or break your experience but it is something that I would recommend if you are new at using scripture reading as a spiritual discipline. Once you are in a place that you can connect with the reading all you have to do is get started! I have outlined three different ways to approach scripture below.
Above I asked, “is it as simple as picking up the Bible and reading it.” The answer can be yes! The Bible is full of valuable insight and I truly believe that if you just pick it up, you will gain some sort of wisdom from it. It may not be in that immediate moment but down the road you may realize its impact. The pro of this is that you are not restricted in any way. You can do the Old Testament one day and New Testament the next, or one Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) one day and another the next. This may also open you up to reading what it is the Holy Spirit wants you to be reading that day. The con is that it may be hard for you to get the whole picture on some of the stories or teachings if you jump in at the middle. If you are just getting started this may be a great way for you to get familiar with the Bible and if you are a more experienced scripture reader this may be a good way for you to read something you wouldn’t normally pick.
You could also choose a character narrative to read. Take David for example. Dig a little to find out where Davids story starts and begin there, reading a little each day taking notes on what stands out to you and how you see the Lord working in and around his life. Always you can ask, “What does this say about who God is?”
When engaging with scripture passages, here is a tip. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. You don’t have to read a certain amt. of scripture to make it worth your time. Any time in the Word of God, is worth your time. One way to approach what you are reading is to ask three questions of the scripture when you begin.
- What stands out to you?
- What do you have questions about?
- What does this mean for me? or What is this saying to me?
Don’t be afraid to underline or make notes in your Bible.
Devotionals are certainly one of the more popular avenues for reading scripture. If you are unfamiliar with what a devotional is it is simply a booklet of some sort with Scripture laid out in a daily form. These make it extremely easy to read scripture. Different devotionals are laid out in different ways and with different themes. If you have been following closely to what Wesley has been doing this semester, we have been doing bible studies based on Highland Park UMC’s reading plan called “Letters from Prison”. This is an example of daily devotional. Other Daily Devotional books have breakdowns of the scripture, questions for us to reflect on, and will help us understand what we are reading. This is a good way to start studying scripture because you can use it as a guide.
I must admit that personally I do not follow a devotional because I enjoy actually reading from the Bible. Though it is the same words, I just enjoy picking up the book. Do not let what I do discourage you from trying devotionals or to continue to use them. Similar to what I said in the section above, devotionals tend to be brief in the scripture that they provide on a daily basis so there is potential to miss important parts of the story. However, the huge pro is that it takes a huge book and gives you chewable readings that are easy to get in with a busy schedule. Take a look at our resources page to find a few devo books we recommend.
This may be one of my favorite ways to read scripture. Lectio Divina is a latin term that means divine reading. This is a great way to take your spiritual discipline to another level no matter your experience level. To get started simply pick a passage in the bible. Usually 10 verses or so works perfectly. Once you have your scripture picked out, read through it in a slow and analytical way. Pay attention to what word or words stand out to you. When you finish, reflect on that word/words and the Scripture entirely. After you have taken some time to reflect, read the scripture again in the same way. What word/words jump out at you this time? Did they change or stay the same? Either is fine! Once you have reflected for a second time, read the scripture one last time. Again, what word/words stood out to you? When you have read through and reflected three times, reflect on all the words that stood out to you after each time. Is God saying something to you? Is He revealing something to you in light of the scripture? Hopefully this will open up the scripture in an entirely new way for you.
Here are three simple ways that you can implement scripture reading as a spiritual discipline. But they are just three of many many ways that this can be done. I encourage you to look into other ways that scripture reading can be expanded and brought to life in new ways. It is my hope that no matter how you do it, you do it! The bible is not only our holy text, it is our connection to our past. There is plenty to learn and plenty of ways to do it!
Checkout HPUMC’s newest reading plan which will launch next week. Subscribe to have the daily readings sent to you! Just click here!
What about you? Are there any specific ways you approach the Bible that have been beneficial for you?