I enjoy reading good books. When I buy a book that someone has recommended to me, I can’t wait for it to arrive and then to read it straight through to the end! But I must confess to owning a book which has been recommended to me by many people who I greatly admire, and yet, which I’ve often struggled to read.
Worst still, this isn’t just any book; it’s the sacred Scriptures! It’s those sacred books in which ‘the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force [of which] is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul’ – Dei Verbum (DV) 21.
In this video, Fr. Mike Schmitz introduces us to the many ways in which we might approach the Bible and the different styles of reading that we may go through…
Ways To Read The Bible
I think it’s important that we look not only at how we read the Scriptures, but also how we can pray with them, and how we can listen through them. In Dei Verbum, Pope Paul VI exhorts us to know ‘that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture so that a dialogue takes place between God and man.’ – DV 25.
5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Bible
1. Lectio Divina.
This is a style of prayer in which you reflectively read through passages of Scripture, allowing God to speak to you through the text. It can be done on your own or within a group. Here’s a basic outline:
Step 1: Select a passage from the Bible. (Top Tip: Take a look at the set readings for Mass).
Step 2: Find a quiet place, and recollect yourself with an interior silence where you can call upon the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to what God wants to say to you.
Step 3: Read through the passage.
Step 4: Re-read through the passage allowing any words or phrases to jump out at you. Pause and reflect upon these points that strike you – stay with them. Let God speak to you through them. You may wish to place yourself into the passage; envisage what is happening around you, which character you are. Listen!
Step 5: Pray. In Step 4 we listened, now speak with God about whatever comes into your heart. Give thanks for His Word!
Journaling is a great way to “journey” through the Scriptures while also giving words to your interior life.
To do this all you need to do is get a pad of paper (and a pen), and much like with Lectio Divina, you can select a passage from the Scriptures, prayerfully reflect upon that passage, and then try to write down everything that comes to you. The beautiful thing about keeping a journal is that you can read back over it at a future date and see how God has spoken to you through His Word in Sacred Scriptures.
If you already keep a prayer journal of sorts, then including Scripture reflections into that journal will complement that which you already write. And you’ll know that there is a great richness in putting pen to paper and solidifying what God is doing in your life.
Tip: Don’t rip out pages! You’ll know what I mean when you feel it – going back over what you’ve written previously and slightly cringing. But the beauty of a journal is that it’s all real, in that moment the words that you write are real, you really felt that that was what God was saying to you! So leave those pages alone!
Annotations – underlining – post-it notes – bookmarks! There are many creative ways in which you can make your Bible your own, and through these creative means, you can keep track of the way in which God is speaking to you through the Scriptures.
Don’t be afraid to use them! If you want you could purchase a second Bible (One for your various creative expressions, and one for your devotional reading), then do, but a Bible full of bookmarks, and colorful post-it notes with notes written on always appears to me as a much friendlier place to be. And that helps when it comes to picking up the Bible and actually reading it!
The most important thing to bear in mind is that this is the Word of God, this means both that we treat it with its due reverence, and also that we let that dialogue take place between God and us – a dialogue that can only take place if we open the Bible and engage with it.
I have a hate-love relationship with routine, but I must admit that when it comes to having things that I need to do (particularly if I’m not naturally good at doing them), then routine becomes my best friend.
If we can get into the routine of reading and praying with the Bible daily, then entering into that dialogue with God will become much easier as we grow familiar with the texts and the way in which our heart is receptive to them.
Tip: I recommend either the start or end of the day – and keep the Bible already open on your desk so you can go over to it and just read!
“Knowledge of the Scriptures is knowledge of God” – Now I thought a saint had said this, but I can’t seem to find the reference… so if they haven’t, then I’ll happily say it, but let me clarify it first.
Here I am not insinuating that studying the Scriptures is the only way that we “know” them, not at all. We may study something for many years and not know it; this is because “knowledge” implies that we also have the correct response to the thing that is thereby known. And to study in itself is not to know. Our “Knowledge of Scripture” is much more aptly found in our discovered “love of Scripture” – because in this love we have found our truest response.
Now, having said that I do believe a little study goes a long way and will help us to grow in this love of Scripture vis-à-vis knowledge!
Tip: Find a Video series or even an App that will take you through the Bible by an ordered study program.
Finally, do not be afraid to take that Bible down off the shelf! Remember, through the Scriptures ‘the Father who is in Heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them.’ ‘Great love’.