Savoring the Word

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The most refreshing change I’ve made in my Bible reading has been to learn how to pray Scripture contemplatively.

No longer do I read it only for information or for finding answers for teaching or preaching. Now I also read it to nourish and renew my relationship with the living Christ.

Thomas Watson, a 17th-century English Puritan minister, challenges us in our use of Scripture: “Leave not off reading in the Bible till you find your hearts warmed. . . . Let it not only inform you, but to inflame you” (The Bible and the Closet: Or How We May Read the Scriptures with the Most Spiritual Profit, Sprinkle Publications, 1992, p. 39). Watson recognizes the critical importance of studying the Bible for knowledge. But he also wisely acknowledges that information is not enough. We need to allow Christ to meet us daily through God’s Word.

Sadly, I have met too many people

who can quote Scripture or explain its meaning, yet their lives have not been warmed by the Word. I have experienced my heart burning with the presence of Jesus (Luke 24:32) as I read with loving attentiveness. Let me encourage you to follow a similar pattern—to not only study the Bible for information but to also savor Scripture for formation.

Three Simple Steps

While there are numerous ways to read Scripture contemplatively, there are three basic steps to this approach:

1. Prepare. Our preoccupation with speed and efficiency often creates a resistance to silence and slow-motion reading of the Bible. Yet it’s difficult to sense God at a deeper level when your body and mind are in perpetual motion. Realize that God delights in your seeking communion with Jesus in the Scripture through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Be intentional about meeting God in your reading.

2. Process. We normally approach Scripture by asking numerous questions of the passage. However, in savoring the Word we shift the focus from explaining to experiencing, from dissecting to delighting. Since your desire is to know God, lovingly gaze and linger over the words, phrases, and images of the passage to allow the Scripture to ask you questions. The Taizé Community of France captures this approach succinctly: “Read little, ponder much.”

3. Practice. It’s easy to dismiss the personal or communal message of the Bible if you’re not intentional about application. But God calls us not only to listen but to live out the implications of his Word for us today (Luke 11:28; James 1:22).

Rest for the Weary

Consider Matthew 11:28-30.

Prepare. Focus on the reality that you are in God’s presence. Prayer: “Dear God, grant me the guidance of your illuminating Spirit so that I might read, meditate, digest, and delight in your Word through Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Process. As you slowly read and savor this passage, notice that Jesus invites you to exchange your exhausted weariness for his restful yoke. He reminds you to learn “from” him, not “about” him. Jesus’ yoke is his Word. As you seek to take his yoke, you discover his expectations are gentle, refreshing, and realistic. By taking or reading his Word you will find rest in numerous other passages of Scripture. Jesus, who knows you intimately, desires to offer you peace where you need it most. You may find it helpful to imagine yourself walking slowly with Jesus as he comforts and guides you in releasing your fears and frustrations.

Practice. Before you rush on to the next item that requires your attention, ask how the Holy Spirit might be guiding you to live out this invitation today. What is one thing you can specifically do with Jesus to make this passage live for you?

Sidebar

The Word of God is not received by faith if it flits about in the top of the brain, but when it takes root in the depth of the heart. —John Calvin

About the Author

Rev. Tom Schwanda is associate professor of spiritual formation, Reformed Bible College, Grand Rapids, Mich.
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