Ever feel dry and dusty in your approach to the Bible? Ever feel like the way you've engaged the scriptures has become boring? Routine?
Here's a new way I picked up from my friend Jim Clark, pastor (priest) at St. Barnabas on the Desert in Scottsdale, AZ. Jim calls this approach, which he developed, "The Art of Engaging Holy Scripture." You can read more about it on his website, churchtoyou.org.
Warning: This is not your standard evangelical Bible study approach, and it will take you longer than 10 minutes. But if you're hungry, and willing to start as a beginner, you might just make some amazing connections with Father-Son-Spirit.
1. Begin with a simple prayer: [For example: “Heavenly Father (or whatever name you use for God), I come to this story (your Bible reading for the day) as a starting place for a conversation with you. I seek to be present to myself and to you, even though I’m uncertain what this means. Amen.”]
2. Read the selected passage and make observations. Note what you notice. There’s no right or wrong thing to notice…everything is about what you bring to the story and how the story impacts you. Just write in your journal what you notice.
3. Be attentive to whatever in the passage attracts your attention or draws you in — for negative or positive reasons. Usually this will be one of, or a combination of, the things you have noticed.
4. Allow what has attracted you to form itself into a response that you offer to God in prayer – however inadequate you might imagine that prayer is.
5. Then listen for the Holy Spirit to respond to you. This is where journaling becomes really valuable. It slows us down so that we can be more open and receptive to listen. Often as we are writing our response to God as a prayer, we intuit the response of the Spirit from within.
6. Now that you have offered your response in prayer, and the Spirit has responded to you, you are likely to have another response to the Spirit. Allow this to become a conversation. Often there will be two or three exchanges that will end in a very personal wisdom insight to you from the Spirit.
7. As your conversation draws to a close, simplify the kernel or theme of it into a brief phrase of one to three words. Let this be “the word” to you throughout your day.
That is, pause from time to time during the day and “be with” this “word” to you. Here we don’t just think about it or remember it or commit to do something. Rather, we become re-connected with the Spirit. Very much like remembering a special moment with a friend or loved one. Remembering the moment brings their presence back. So as we ruminate upon this “word,” as we roll it around in our mind and heart, we refresh our experience with the Spirit. We become re-connected. Re-centered. Re-anchored.
8. Before your engaging is over, allow yourself to be drawn into and rest in Christ’s presence in silence.
As our conversations with the Spirit mature, we realize there is something more than just these conversations. Actually much more. The mysterious Presence of the Spirit of Jesus is becoming known to us. The Spirit is, for sure, a mystery. Where It comes from and where It goes we do not know, but we do intuit or sense the Spirit’s Presence. We have become and are becoming awakened to the Spirit within.
We also find we are drawn into and toward the Spirit. This Presence is more, much more than the content of our conversation. It is Life. And we know it; we sense or intuit it. So we put everything down – our Bible, our pen, our journal. Close our eyes, take a deep breath, allow our “word” to help us be present, and then in silence let our self go into the Presence of the Spirit. We stop our inner dialogue and just let our self go and sink into the Spirit.
If we become distracted by exterior noises or by our thoughts, we recall our “word” and allow it bring us back to this simple Presence. Then, again, we sink into the Presence of the Spirit in silence. No words. No thoughts. No imaginations. Just interior silence resting in Christ’s Presence within.
9. When your resting in silence is over, simply say the “Amen.” Or, perhaps, end your time of prayerfully engaging the Scriptures with the Lord’s Prayer or some other brief prayer.
What ways of engaging scripture help you experience God? What might it be like to try this way?