In my book, Jesus and the Addict, I describe a period in my young adult life. I was yearning to get back to God; no, in truth, to really know Him for the first time. I had grown up in church – had some level of faith – but mostly I was a cultural Christian. My “faith” was a superficial thing. I had no idea how to do powerful bible meditation, to pray with faith, or to sense God speaking to me.
I picked up the Bible and began to try to find more comfort and meaning from God than I had known up to that point. But, honestly, it just seemed strange to me. I knew a lot of the passages from hearing them in church, and many of the stories of Jesus, but I didn’t know Him and there was a lot of the Bible still foreign to me.
I am happy to say, today, I LOVE the Bible. I own probably 20 of them and have given many away. I read it cover to cover every year and dive into particular places to study beyond the “reading through” that I do.
God has opened up his book.
God has opened up His book to me in such a spectacular way. And now, it makes sense. And now, I feel tremendous comfort while reading it. I see new things all the time as His Spirit whispers, “Did you notice this? Do you see this other way to see this familiar passage? The Word truly is glorious, life-giving. It is “living and active,” as is said in Hebrews 4:12 NIV.
So, how do you get from the Bible being an unfamiliar book to its being a “dear friend” and answering so many of your questions?
These are steps that I teach to recovering addicts in faith based recovery who either have very little or no familiarity with Christianity and the Bible or who are trying to recover whatever faith they may have had growing up, in order to go deeper. Their need is to learn keys to powerful Bible meditation. Is it your need too? Below, are five keys to powerful Bible meditation that can be of help.
Keys to Powerful Bible Meditation
1. Pick the Right Spot to Start
It’s so important to pick the right spot to begin your journey with the Bible. I tell those who are asking me for help that, in truth, all the Bible points towards Jesus.
It’s not obvious in the Old Testament except for in prophetic scriptures that talk about someone who is coming.
In the New Testament, of course, the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus are clearly shown. So, my suggestion to the people in the recovery community is to start with one of the gospel books, Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. I often recommend Mark because it is the shortest. It is action oriented and two choices are woven through it, faith or fear.
However, John is a tremendous starting place too as Jesus’ identity as God, the Son, is really stressed.
2. Take a Small Amount of Scripture at a Time
Sometimes, when people feel that they have lost a lot of time or they are behind, they will try to read too much at one sitting. Or, some people will feel that there are many things to do in their lives, so they want to race through the reading. Get it done. Perhaps, they see Bible reading as a duty to check off or a chore on a list.
Maybe that’s you. We all can slip into that mindset. But, slow down. Take a few verses. Read them and then read them again, thinking about who is in the passage and what is happening. You need to think about it in terms of its being a story from the past. But, you also need to think of it in terms of being a symbolic story in which you may find your own needs and feelings being described. It is meant to help you know how to connect with God and how to live your life.
Mark 3:1-6 is a good starting place for learning Bible meditation.
For example, I like to teach meditating on Bible verses by telling people the story of the man with the withered hand in Mark 3:1-6. A man is already in the synagogue, a place of worship with a withered hand. In that day and age, his life potentially could have been miserable and poor, if he was a laborer. Jesus comes in and He is watched to see if he will heal the man on a Sabbath. Jesus eyes His accusers and ignores them and their religious rules. He heals the man and gives him back his life. The stiff, religious types run out to plot how to kill Jesus. (In reading this story, we can pause right here and reflect on what a wonderful Savior Jesus is and worship Him.)
But then, using this story, I ask people “What character are you like?” Do you share the attitudes, needs, or actions of the injured man, the religious leaders, or Jesus? I encourage them to really pause and meditate on the Bible verses to receive revelation of God’s feelings about them.
3. Look for God to Speak Through Your Deep Study
As stated above, think about your life and the lives of those described. Where do you fit in the story? To what is God calling your attention? Using the story above, is something withered in your life? That is, is something not working? Can you interact with Jesus too, as the man in the story did, and request and receive Jesus’ healing?
On the other hand, are you being harsh or small-minded in some way? Are you blocking God’s work? Those would be thoughts and questions that would arise out of meditating on this story and seeing yourself most connected with the religious leaders.
If you are feeling great mercy and wanting to help helpless people, perhaps you would say, I feel a nearness to Jesus.
By the way, this is not Eastern meditation. Hearing God point out a new revelation about words in a text is “moving with Him, listening to Him.” This is prayerful dwelling on God’s Word to hear what He is telling you.
4. Pray the Words You Have Meditated on Back to God
You can take words or ideas from the passage you have read and pray them back to God.
“Father, don’t let me have the heart of the men in this passage who stood in the way of your healing with their judgments and anger. Let me be like Jesus, so ready to heal and help.”
Or, “Father, you know I have an illness like the man in this passage. It is hard for me to function. I pray for your healing in my life.”
Meditating, thinking deeply, spending time on a passage of scripture will awaken our longing to talk to God. We will sense our own need as God sees it, and feel our feelings with which we need God’s help.
5. Listen for God’s Leading after Your Bible Meditation
Meditating on scripture passages is not just so that you gain more Bible information and/or understanding, though hopefully that will come out of it. It is not so you just feel a spiritual high though hopefully you will feel deeply uplifted. Meditating on scripture is also for God to guide you and direct your life. Listen, for the “next step” is based on what you are reading and dwelling on. “How am I to live now, Lord, in light of what I have just read and focused my thoughts on?”
Now, we have been talking about a way to receive more from the Bible and grow closer to God. You can study passages looking up the meaning of words, the history of the Bible people at the time of the reading, and so on. You can read commentaries with people’s explanations of different passages.
But we have been talking about a devotional style of reading that will build your faith and your closeness to God. These keys to powerful Bible meditation will bring you closer, heart to heart with God.
So, a prayer:
Precious Lord, we want to know You better. Help us to slow down and read the Bible trying to drink in each word and hear You clearly. We want to know Your heart. We want to live our lives honoring and obeying You. We want to experience Your presence with us.
A wonderful resource for reading and studying the whole Bible is the Alpha Program’s Bible in One Year. Pastor Nicky Gumbel of the Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London is the developer of the Alpha Program and this bible study comes with a commentary (explanations of what each passage means). You can get this online or as a book.