You’ve poured that cup of coffee and have it arranged just right. The first rays of morning sunlight are gently spilling across the pages of your Bible. A set of highlighters and quill pens lay ready to do their work.
This is your quiet time. Or at least this is how you envisioned it in your head the night before, right? The truth is, your daily Bible intake probably looks more like mine: You rush in after your morning workout and try to remember where you left off (was it yesterday or the day before?), as you wolf down a breakfast bar and pour coffee into your travel mug.
You are reading your Bible for a few reasons: First, you feel bad because you didn’t do it yesterday. Second, your pastor just guilted you on Sunday for not reading it enough. Third—, and most importantly—, you desire to learn more about Jesus and hear Him speak to you.
As we approach our quiet time with the Lord, the temptation is to expect the perfectly photographed versions we see in social media posts or the devotions we imagine our pastor having. But in reality, the discipline of reading the Word of God is less about what we get out of it and more about surrendering as we “listen” to the text.
So here are some tips, from a disciple in process, about ways we should approach our daily Bible reading:
- Come ready to listen. We live in an age when it’s hard to really listen. We are so easily distracted by the notifications on our phone, the flashing lights of the social media world. We’re tempted to say something pithy and then press send, tweet, or publish. But the very act of reading devotionally is to submit ourselves to the Bible—setting aside our own desire to speak and act in order to be shaped by the words of God. We need to see the Bible not simply as content to consume, but as the sovereign Lord of the universe speaking to us with power.
- Lower your expectations. Yes, you read that right. Too often we approach our devotional time expecting to have some life-altering insight that will permanently change the trajectory of our lives, for a halo to appear on our heads and a Hallelujah chorus to play in the background while we read. But most days, our Bible study is rather pedestrian. The purpose is not to go away with a nugget but to let the living Word of God wash over us afresh.
- Know that you may not understand it all. Some passages will be pretty straightforward. Others will require a bit more study. But when reading, don’t get bogged down in trying to exegete the entire section as if you are presenting a paper to the Evangelical Theological Society. Instead, read the passage, let it roll around in your heart and mind, and pray that the Lord opens your eyes to the true intent of the text.
- Ask yourself questions. Finding ways to apply our daily reading to our family, coworker, or friend is easy. But we should come to the text asking questions: What does this passage say about God? What sin and idolatry does this uncover in my own heart? What specific action could I take that would draw me toward Jesus and away from selfishness?
Too often we approach our devotional time expecting a halo to appear on our heads and a Hallelujah chorus to play in the background.
The good news about a listening approach to Scripture is that it frees us from the tyranny of hearing our own voice and allows us to surrender to another voice: the voice of the Father, who knows infinitely more about our own hearts than we do. In this, we may or may not find pithy quotes for social media—but we will discover something even more satisfying than projecting our own piety: a God who speaks.