Did you ever have that toy as a child that you took wherever you went? Mine was a stuffed monkey named Mooch. I don’t know why it was my favorite, but I brought him everywhere for years until I lost it. Needless to say I was a nervous wreck for a few weeks after that.
Compare this stuffed animal to the Bible I received as a gift at First Communion. It was white, a beautiful leather cover, and even had my name written in it! Sadly it remained on my room’s bookshelf, rarely used. The family Bible we had growing up was larger and fancier, but gathered dust on the living room table.
Why was it that my Bible gathered dust while I brought my stuffed animal wherever I went? To my child’s heart, Mooch was an important part of my life. Because the stuffed monkey was important, it needed to be with me at all times. Imagine if a six-year old me treated a Bible like that!
The Bible is more than a book to put on a shelf or irrelevant words to hear during Sunday Mass. It is the inspired Word of God that guides us in our relationship with Him and in how to live our lives. How exactly does the Bible do that and how can I incorporate Scripture into my everyday life?
How The Bible Can Improve Your Life
The Bible contains every sort of story. What is beautiful with Sacred Scripture is that it is not just a single book, but rather a collection of books and stories of varying literary genres. Do you like action and drama? Read the story of King David in First Samuel or Paul in Acts of the Apostles. Interested in a romance? Read the story of Sarah and Tobiah in Tobit. Into poetry and good advice? Read the Psalms or the Book of Proverbs. A person can find in the Bible a genre for every mood, interest, and time of one’s life.
The Bible contains every sort of character. With the diversity of literary genres comes a wide range of characters. There are so many figures in the Bible with varying personalities, professions, and walks of life. Despite their differences, what brings each character together is this or her growing trust in the Lord and pursuit to be who he or she was created to be. I know for me in order to strive deeper in my relationship with God, it helps to have good examples of those who came before me to look up to and emulate their characteristics and virtue. No matter where you are in your faith journey, we can all find a person in Scripture to relate to and have hope that if they can become holy then so can I.
The Bible is “living and active”. The Letter to the Hebrews says that the Word of God is “living and active” (Heb 4:12). No matter how old you are, what your life story looks like, or how close you are in your faith, Sacred Scripture has a way of connecting you to a loving God who seeks to give you everything you need. The way you read the Bible changes over time. The way I read a Scripture passage now is different than when I read it when I was seven or 15. Every time we open the Bible, the Holy Spirit seeks to speak to us.
These are just some of the ways the Bible has drastically changed my life for the better. Using Scripture to pray, however, took many years and trial and error to make it effective. Here are some tips to get you going.
Practical Tips To Pray with Scripture
Where do I start? The toughest part of praying with the Bible is where to start. I remember growing up I started reading the Bible cover-to-cover starting in Genesis, but lost interest by the time I got all the Jewish laws in Leviticus. I needed a sense of direction of how to go through Scripture and understand each book’s context. Finding a reading plan can help guide you. There are many examples of reading plans that help to to read the Bible in a Year. What is beautiful too is that the Church in her wisdom incorporates Scripture into the liturgical calendar. Consider reflecting on the readings of the day. Another place to consider starting is with one of the Gospels. It connects you directly to Jesus – His life, His friendships, His teachings. What better place to start then with the center of the Gospel message? Pick one Gospel and read, a half-chapter or full chapter at a time.
Find a prayer method that sticks with you. Great, you figured out what passage to pray with. Now what? There are different ways to pray with Scripture. One simple way is lectio divina, which is Latin for “divine reading”. The goal is to focus on the words of the passage – pick a word or phrase that sticks out and reflect on how God is speaking to you through it. Another simple way is called Ignatian contemplation or imaginative prayer. Here you focus on the story itself – find a character (bystander, disciple, paralytic), enter the scene from his or her perspective, and see how God speaks to you as that character. With either method, be sure to have a notebook or journal to capture what comes to you in prayer. Having a journal is an excellent way to remember what you prayed about and look back to see how God has spoken to you over time.
Make your Bible physically personal. Remember that family Bible that gathered dust in our living room? In order to make the Word of God “living and active”, it needs to be treated as such. I remember growing up I was so nervous to write or stuff notes in my Bible. I treated my Bible like an item on display in a museum. My closeness with God shifted when I made the Bible my own. Find ways to tangibly engage with Scripture. Underline, place bookmarks, or stick some post-it notes in your Bible – do whatever you think will help you engage fully in how God is speaking to you when you use your Bible to pray.
Pray with the Bible daily. No matter how you use your Bible and how you pray with your Bible, the key is to open the Word of God daily. The time you spend is not as important as the fact that you pray consistently with the Scriptures. The Bible can come alive and make an impact on your life, but can only do so much as you incorporate it into your daily routine. Find that time, even if it’s for 10-15 minutes a day to start. It will get difficult and there will be times you feel spiritually dry. Know that the Lord will bless your faithfulness to prayer.
I pray that we all make use of the Bible, this great gift that God has given to us to draw deeper in relationship with Him and become more of who He created each of us to be.
Looking for an opportunity to dive deep into Scripture? Consider joining our brand new Digital Small Groups. It is an opportunity to bring people together who are limited in accessibility and availability to build community and share the faith with one another. Our first group will begin September 27th with a five-part series exploring the vocation and mission of the laity as found in St. Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Christifiedlis Laici. Every week, we will meet via Zoom and discuss journaling questions along with an accompanying episode from the podcast Abiding Together. We look forward to journeying with you! Sign up for our Digital Small Group HERE.