I have already recommended to you Donald Whitney's book Praying the Bible. Here is a brief video in which he explains how to pray the Bible. As he says at the end of the video, try it yourself! Even if you understand what this means conceptually, you won't understand its effectiveness and power until you try it.
“Will you marry me?” The young man on his knee looked up into her bright eyes.
She beamed and squealed, “Yes!”
“Sweetheart, I am so excited to be your husband! But I need you to understand that I enjoy long distance relationships. I would really prefer not to live with you. While I do want to marry you, I don’t really want to have to talk with you all that much. And I am not much interested in sharing my stuff, my space, or my time with you.”
I do not know of a woman who desires this kind of marriage. We can learn how to love God by observing our hopes and expectations for marriage. An obvious part of any significant relationship is spending time together. This is also true of our relationship with God.
God asks us to seek him. This means that we spend the time and energy necessary to know him. When the Lord says, seek my face, he is talking about intimate fellowship. Our faces are one of the most intimate parts of our bodies. There we find the eyes, which are the window to the soul. It is amazing to think that God desires this kind of closeness with us!
We know that an intimate relationship requires time together. We can see this in Jesus’ close relationship with the Father. The Bible says that Jesus “would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16).
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark,
he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”
Jesus taught his disciples to do the same.
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door
and pray to your Father who is in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
As we see in these passages, when we spend time alone with God we are communicating with him. Communication is one of the most important parts of developing an intimate relationship with someone. We speak to God through prayer and we listen to God through the Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
Do you believe that your relationship with God is the most important thing in your life? Are you convinced that spending time with him in intimate fellowship is critical for that relationship? If so, let’s resolve to spend time with him every day!
Of course you do. We all need a break. Our lives are moving at super high speeds and we often feel helpless to stop it.
I've got great news for you! God has a solution to your problem. He has offered this solution to us since the creation of the world. It is called the Sabbath; a day of rest.
The problem for me is that for most of my life I have not really understood or incorporated a day of rest into my weekly routine. Another problem for me (especially as a pastor) is that Sunday's usually are not very restful.
So, I am on a journey to rediscover the biblical understanding and practice of the Sabbath. I am taking my family on this journey with me. We are reading this book together as a platform for learning and discussion: Celebrating the Sabbath: Finding Rest in a Restless World by Bruce A. Ray.
Here are a few things we are already trying to incorporate into our day of rest.
We have a lot of people living in our house (11) and it really gets loud sometimes! Aside from trying to turn down the volume every day, our day of rest is a great opportunity to practice silence and quiet.
Time with God
Without a regular schedule, we have the opportunity to spend extra time with God. At the end of a Sabbath day, we ought to feel spiritually refreshed, refocused, and connected with the Lord.
A Break from Media and Entertainment
It is restful to play games and enjoy our time together. But we find it helpful to refrain from our normal consumption of media and entertainment. No movies, loud music (just worship and classical), gaming, or browsing the internet.
This is a great day for sleeping in, long naps and leisurely walks.
I am looking forward to all that we will learn from this adventure. I can already see it bearing fruit in my family. I can already see how it will change much more than one day; it will change our mentality all week long. We need a break and God has given us one!
The Bible has often been described as a letter from God to his people. One important difference between a letter and the Bible is that we usually write letters to people who are not with us. We figure that if we are with someone we don’t have to write, we can just say what we want to say. But when we read the Bible, we are reading what he has written to us and we are with him! The Bible is part of our conversation with God. As mentioned above, the Spirit of God is present, helping us understand and apply what the Bible teaches.
When we pray the Bible, we respond in prayer to what we are reading. We listen to what the Spirit is saying to us and how he leads us in prayer as we read Scripture. We are participating in a conversation with God.
Praying the Bible is an important concept to understand because we so easily make Bible reading an intellectual exercise. That is, we are only using our brains to figure out what the words are saying. Reading the Bible certainly includes using our brains, but it is much more. If we turn Bible reading into only an educational or intellectual exercise, instead of a personal conversation with God, then we have missed its fundamental purpose. This is what Jesus said to the religious Jews,
“You search the Scriptures
because you think that in them you have eternal life;
and it is they that bear witness about me,
yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
So, what does it mean to pray the Bible? Praying the Bible means immediately responding to the words and ideas in the Bible through prayer. Talk to God about what you are reading. Be sensitive to the ways that God is speaking to you through the Scripture and respond to what he is saying and bringing to your mind. What you read might even trigger a thought that does not seem to be directly related to the Scripture. You can pray about that too.
You can learn more about this kind of conversation with God in the book Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney.
Many of us would describe prayer simply as talking to God. This is true, but it is much more. Any way that we relate to God is a part of prayer. Prayer includes worshiping God through music and singing, enjoying his love and presence in silence, and listening to him speak to you by his Spirit. Prayer is rejoicing, weeping, waiting, bowing before him, resting in him, and surrendering your heart to him. As we broaden our understanding of prayer, it is easier to understand how we can “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5: 17).
Dr. Frizzell, author of How to Develop a Powerful Prayer Life, describes prayer this way, “From God’s perspective, prayer is the expression of that which He desires most—your personal relationship of love, surrender and trust. Prayer must be viewed as your commitment to spend meaningful time in personal relationship with God.”
Based on what we believe the Bible teaches about itself, it makes perfect sense to make it a daily habit to read the Bible. This would be the bare minimum!
“Blessed is the man . . . [whose] delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.”
Bible reading should be a basic part of our daily time with God. So, what should we read? Anywhere in the Bible is great! Here are a few ideas and principles to keep in mind.
Expose yourself to the entire Bible.
We often gravitate to those portions of Scripture that we find easier to understand or that mean a lot to us. This is fine, but it is important to read and understand the epic story of God’s relationship to man throughout history and across the Old and New Covenants. It is important to expose ourselves to all the truth principles of Scripture. It is a good idea to make it your goal to systematically and repeatedly read through the entire Bible. There are many methods and resources for doing this.
- You can buy a one or two year Bible.
- You can find a program or app that leads you through the Bible in a certain period of time.
- You can decide not to put a time limit on it. Read through the Bible as slowly as you want.
- Instead of reading straight through, many people like to read different portions of the Scripture each day or week. For example, you might read a passage from the OT, from Psalms and Proverbs, and something from the NT. Most one year programs are designed this way.
Read entire Bible books.
The best way to understand the correct meaning of a sentence or verse is to understand how it fits into its paragraph, section, and book. You might decide to conduct a deep study of a particular book of the Bible.
Ask specific questions.
No matter what you are reading, be sure to make it personal and practical. This is not just a history lesson or an exploration of ideas. It is a personal encounter with God. It is an opportunity for God to speak to you with encouragement and direction. Here is a list of questions you might use as you read.
1. Summarize the story or teaching in 1 to 3 sentences.
2. What do I learn about the character and ways of God in these verses?
3. What example of obedience or faith do I find in these verses (or bad example)?
4. Do I have any questions that require further study?
5. How is God speaking to me through this Scripture?
6. What am I going to do in response to his leading?
7. Write or voice a prayer to God in response to what he has shown you.
Journal as you read the Bible.
Journaling is a wonderful activity and habit to develop, even when you are not reading the Bible. The main reason is that it helps you to develop, clarify, organize, and record your thoughts and experiences. It increases your awareness and intentionality in life. For these same reasons, it is helpful to journal as you are reading your Bible. You could use questions like those above to guide your journaling.
Study a topic.
Sometimes you might want to read the Bible in light of a particular question or problem you have. I recently wanted to study about fasting. I simply did a search for the words “fast” and “fasting” on esvbible.org. I read each verse that referred to fasting. I tried to find the main principle in each verse that related to fasting. Don’t forget how important it is to read the larger context of each verse in order to accurately understand it. Then I put all of these principles together to get an idea of what the Bible teaches on fasting in general.
Some topics will include several key words or ideas to find the relevant passages. For example, a study on prayer might include Matt 7:7-11, which does not include the word “prayer”! But the word “ask” appears five times.
Happy Bible reading!
The challenge of memorizing Scripture is not just memorizing it the first time, but remembering it after that. I have spent much time memorizing large portions of Scripture that I did not review and therefore could not remember months later. To remedy this, I use a Scripture Memory Review System.
Memorizing Scripture is challenging. It is often challenging because, as a culture, we are not in the habit of memorizing. However, the more you do it (and the earlier you teach your children to learn it), the more accustomed our minds will become to it. Don’t quit because it is hard at first; keep training your memory muscle and it will become stronger.
Memorizing Scripture and using a review system also takes time. Is it worth it?
- How important is it to understand who God is and his will for our lives (Eph 5:15-17)?
- How important is it to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:1-2; Psalm 19:7-14)?
- How can we live out our freedom in Christ from sin (Psalm 119:9-11; Matt 4:1-11; John 8:31-32)?
- How can we have victory in the spiritual battle and escape from deception (Eph 6:10-17; Col 3:16; Titus 1:9)?
- How can we be equipped for every good work (1 Tim 3:16-17)?
- How can we be sure to grow, bear spiritual fruit, and enjoy success in all we do (Psalm 1:1-3)?
Here is David’s conclusion about the words of the Lord,
“More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned; In keeping them there is great reward!”
I have written out in detail how I memorize Scripture and the system and charts I use for reviewing what I've memorized, if you would like to use it.
Bible study and prayer. Most every believer knows they should do it, but . . .
Why is it so hard to stick to it? Why does it seem so dry and unproductive? What am I missing?
I would like to suggest to you five important ingredients for a powerful, intimate, life changing time with God.
- Faith - Do you believe this simple promise: "Draw near to God and he will draw near to you" (James 4:8a). Or how about this one: "When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you" (Jer 29:13-14). When you meet God, are expecting him to show up? Faith is what pleases God; He responds to faith (Heb 11:6).
- Heart - The purpose of Bible study and prayer is not to check off our religious boxes. That is why I call it "time with God." I am spending time with someone who loves me. God is not interested in people who "draw near with their mouth . . . while their hearts are far from me" (Isa 29:13-14; see also Psalm 51:16-17).
- Submission - Many attempt to be a "Christian" without surrendering their lives to Christ. Many try to relate to God on their own terms, with their own agenda. If you are trying to relate to God, but you are still holding on to sin and refusing to give him every part of your life, then you cannot come to him. ALL of you for ALL of him. Those are his terms (James 4:6-10).
- Choice - A bumper sticker says, "If it feels good, do it." A concise summary of our cultural thinking. We are chained to our feelings. When something is hard and we "don't feel like it," then we don't do it. If we don't "feel" God's presence or "feel" like we had a good prayer time, we get discouraged. Faith is not a feeling, it is a choice. Choose to believe God exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Heb 11:6). Act on that faith; don't worry about your feelings.
- Steadfastness - How easily we are derailed! How quickly we are discouraged and give up. How often we settle for mediocrity. If I fail a thousand times in my attempt to meet God faithfully, I will not give up. I will never give up! (Heb 12:1-2)
Here is a teaching on spending time with God that includes a discussion of these five points.