How’s it going? It can be hard work in some ways setting time aside each day to read and pray—there are so many things that seem so important. Martin Luther the reformer of the church used to get up early in the morning to pray and read—5 am every morning. On particularly busy days he got up an hour earlier—he believed and practiced that the busier he was and more important the things were that he had to do the more vital it was that he prayed and read God’s word. But that’s alright for him—he was a monk after all.
Which is true, though he was married and had kids and held down a job—and reformed the church from the inside out—so maybe not all that different from us.
How do you find the time? Make a daily diary and fill in how you are going to spend your day with the things that absolutely must happen—kids to school, travel, work, sleep, eating, ablutions (which is a complex word for all those things we do to keep ourselves clean that involve the bathroom), food shopping, basic cleaning, ministry involvement and groups, kids’ sport, study and so on—whatever there is in your life that absolutely must happen. Be realistic with your time.
Having done that work out all the things you would like to do—shopping, recreation, TV, internet, sport etc—make a list of all these things and how long they take including the travel and preparation time. Again be realistic. Before you add them to your daily diary work out how long you plan to spend on reading the Bible and praying. I would suggest a minimum start would be 10 minutes for each—20 minutes a day. If you can find an hour spend an hour. You will gain great benefit from whatever time you spend in God’s word and in prayer.
Having done all that start with the most important things on your list—Bible reading and prayer—and fill in your daily diary—work out where each important thing will go each day and block out that time. If you find that everything is important and they just don’t all fit in then you need to reassess how you spend you days. Apparently Australians watch an average of 3 hours TV a day. How important is that—realistically? The first few times you give up your favourite shows it might feel like you’re missing out—but after a week or two you’ll suddenly realise that you’ve hardly missed a thing.
Once you’ve got it planned ask God to help you stick to it and then start—choose a day and start.
So now you’re reading – how about understanding?
Let’s be frank – at times understanding the Bible can be difficult, especially if you are new to it. The simplest thing to do is ask yourself questions about what you are reading (tool – understanding bible – link to a handy bookmark you can print out and keep in your Bible that details some basic questions you can consider, and the fundamentals of exegesis, hermeneutics and homiletics). The aim when we are reading God’s word is to understand what he would say to us—rather than what we think it means or would prefer God to say. So our aim is to understand what the passage actually says, to explain what the passage means and then to apply the passage to today and especially to myself.
This might seem complex at first but it’s really what we do every day when we read a newspaper or magazine. When we read the comics we understand that they are comics—not news, not editorial, not scientific information but humour. That tells us how to explain them and why they were written and then how to apply them. When we come to the main story we know to consider that this is current news which may or may not mean something directly to me, or family, or friends, or work, or country or world. We understand that the main stories are news—we read them and work out the main points and where it fits into the world I live in and then we work out how it applies to me, or how I need to apply it. We can apply this same basic and daily process to the Scriptures. As much as it’s the word of God, it is also literature and the same basic principles that apply to our interpretation and understanding of any media – writing, TV, video, music, photography and artwork – should be applied to the reading of he Bible.
In a future post I will look at some examples and apply the basic principles.
One important aspect of reading and understanding, that I will only briefly note at the moment, is how we are lead to respond, and especilly thinking of whether the passage prompts us to pray or praise. Almost all passages – possibly all – will either prompt us to a response, and maybe cause us in a fairly natural way to responsd – to pray (asking, thanking) or praise (honour, worship, give thanks, declare or acknowledge)—and often enough to do both. So that’s worth looking for—should I be seeking forgiveness, praying for strength or opportunity or something else? Should I praise God for something he is or has done? Is my natural response to be blown away by God’s love for me in Christ and to sing praises – or simply to stand in awe and wonder and say thank you. And so on.
Reading the Bible is an opportunity without parallel in this world—as is praying. It is an opportunity to find out the mind of God (within limits—he is God after all) and to talk with the creator on a personal level. Can’t get much better than that.
Here’s something to consider. During a training course I ran a while ago it turned out that that lots of kids of Christians don’t have their own Bible—how ridiculous. Time to put it on the agenda! Get your kids a Bible, help them understand it, read it together – and see the blessing of God at work in your life as a family.
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