Okay, so you’re with me on that searching for God’s will has a lot more to do with abiding in the Vine and a lot less to do with treasure maps (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, click here). But I also know that just telling you to abide by being in the Word and praying can be daunting and sometimes you don’t know where to begin. I would love to take a few moments to get practical with you. How do you read the Word and pray?
Jesus has changed me so much. You can read here about how I went from super intimidated to absolutely loving my time in God’s Word. I encourage you to read that, because it’s about some of the basic “how-tos”, but today, I’d love to get practical and teach you what God’s teaching me. It’s become a deep passion of mine to learn to study God’s Word and to teach others to do the same.
But, before we dive into the practical, let me give a disclaimer. I’m not perfect at this at all. I am just an imperfect girl who loves Jesus a whole lot and who is learning the “how-tos” along the way. I have so much to learn.
So, speaking of that, imperfectness is a good place to start. You don’t have to be perfect to study God’s Word or pray. If that were the case, none of us would ever do it; we’ll never be perfect on this side of heaven. And we won’t be perfect at studying or praying either; this is when we rest in grace. Also, you don’t have to have a degree from seminary or be a pastor to study the Word. Yes, pastors are called to teach which requires studying, but our relationship with Christ cannot ride on their coattails. If you’re in Christ, you are just as called to abide in Christ as he is. So, if you’ve been using your imperfectness as an excuse, or if you feel unqualified, let’s lay those things to rest.
Okay, let’s get practical. How do you study God’s Word?
- Be okay with not knowing everything. We’ll never fully know God’s Word on this side of eternity. If you read a passage, and you don’t understand it or it raises some questions. That is 100% okay! Don’t let these things stop you- just keep reading!
- Read Scripture in its context. To best understand Scripture, we have to know who the author is, the audience they were writing to, the themes of their writing, etc. A study Bible can be helpful with this. I’m also grateful to sit under the teaching of pastors who teach Scripture like this (the fancy word is “expository”).
- Take notes in your Bible as your pastor teaches. I joke with my husband that you can tell which books he’s preached through because they’re all marked up. But, these notes have become a tool for me to use as I study at home. I love writing the themes of the books. I’ll try to share these on my Instagram stories (I’ll archive them too). Maybe this can help you in a small way.
- Read looking for these themes. For example, one of the themes of Hebrews it that Jesus is greater than, so I once read it specifically looking for that theme.
- Have a healthy diet of all of Scripture. Every word from Genesis-Revelation is inspired by God and is infallible; it’s all important. It’s easy to stay in the books we’re familiar with, and if you’re new to reading Scripture, then I highly suggest starting in a familiar book. I suggest John or a book that you’re pastor is preaching through. But the more you study God’s Word, then the more you should wander to those books you’re not so familiar with.
- It’s not a race. You don’t HAVE to read the Bible in a year. There’s no timetable. If you spend months studying Genesis, but you finish knowing God and His Word more, then wonderful!
- Quiet times don’t have to be quiet. It’d be nice if every one of our times with the Lord were in a comfy chair with a cup of coffee. But some days, that’s just not a reality, and you’ll have to get creative. I’ve had my time with Jesus while Hunter watches PJ Masks. I’ve opened Scripture on an airplane and while riding on a bus with the cheerleaders I coach. There’s no right time or place. Throw the ideal picture out the window, and get creative! Plus, how cool is it that the Lord could use you to be an example? See the others as a witnessing opportunity instead of a distraction.
So, about prayer. How do you do that? (this is an area I always need some work on!).
- Try the ACTS method. A is for adoration (praise God!), C is for confession (tell Him where you’ve messed up; He’s already forgiven you!), T is for thanksgiving (get specific!), and the S is for supplication (think “prayer requests”). You could use a prayer journal. Mine has been really helpful to keep me “organized” (and keep my mind from drifting!)
- Pray Scripture. After I read the Word, I go back through what I’ve written and use that to prompt my prayers. I might praise Him for what I learned about Him, or it might prompt me to pray for a specific person/situation. Of all of the things that I’ve done/tried in my prayer life, this has been my favorite.
- It doesn’t have to be fancy/long. There’s nowhere in Scripture that says that our prayers need a certain word count. Yes, it’s good to have a prayer time where you might do some of the things above, but even that doesn’t need to be fancy. But there are times in your day where you might just need to pray, “Help, Lord,” or “Thank you, Jesus!”. I think that short prayers throughout the day are what it means to pray without ceasing. It’s not walking around with our eyes closed, uttering long prayers. That would be bad while we’re driving. But it’s being in constant communication with the Father, kinda like how you might text a friend or your husband throughout the day.
With all of this… just start. Like I said, you aren’t nor will you be perfect, and Satan likes to make it seem kinda intimidating. But trust Jesus and dive in head first. This stuff also takes practice, and while practicing isn’t always super fun, 1 Timothy 4:15 says, “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress” (ESV). The more you read the Word and pray, the more you’ll grow to enjoy it, the more you’ll “get it”. And last but definitely not least, rely on the Spirit. The Father has given you the Spirit as a gift. Use this gift and rely on Him!
Friend, I encourage you to open your Bible today. This might take laying down some idols. It might mean less time for Netflix or naps, but there isn’t a moment that I’ve spent in God’s Word or prayer that I’ve regretted it. And if you miss a day? Or you spend a day thinking about your to-do list while you read? That’s okay. God’s there with His loving arms open ready to welcome us back. He’s good. You won’t regret starting a journey of getting to know Him.