Of all the spiritual practices we can engage in on our walk with God, none aside from prayer is quite as obvious as reading the Bible. We begin to be exposed to it in our earliest days of Sunday School and continue to learn from it as we come to church on Sundays.
I remember when I first read the Bible by myself – I think I was about 10. I snuggled up in my bean bag chair and felt so proud of myself for engaging in such a spiritually mature thing. I started in Matthew and I remember not much made sense to me. Oh the birth of Jesus I had known since I was little, but beyond that I was confused. Until I got to Matthew 5:21-22 (NIV):
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment… And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
This I understood. And as the oldest of 5 siblings I understood anger and name calling perfectly. I was terrified. Thus ended my Bible reading for the day.
I don’t know my intentions for reading that Bible that day. I suspect they were partially pure, partially self-serving. One thing was clear: God is not messing around in Scripture and He uses it to convict and change us.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Devotional reading of Scripture is simply reading the Bible to seek God’s word for us so that we may be changed. This change may be a new understanding of who God is. It may be a new insight into who we are. It may be a conviction towards an action. Or a call to repentance. Whatever the outcome, the goal of a devotional reading of the Bible is to be open to the Holy Spirit’s use of God’s word to change us.
There are many devotional plans available. We can read the Bible through the year. Read it chronologically. Focus on the gospels, the psalms, the prophets, or other sections of the Bible at a time. What you read or where you start is up to you. How you read is the focus of a devotional reading of Scripture.
Here is a brief description of what a time of devotional reading can look like:
First, when beginning your time of reading, ask God to speak to you and reveal what He wants today.
Second, read the Scripture you have planned to read for the day. If something stands out to you, don’t keep reading. Reflect on it and pray over it. What is God calling to your attention? What is He revealing to you? What does He want to change in your life? Perhaps write the verse down or speak it out loud. Take time to allow the words to seep into your soul and thank God for speaking before continuing your reading.
It may be that you will finish your selected reading for the day. Or, God may have you spend more time in one verse so that you do not finish the entire reading. Remember, the goal isn’t the quantity read, but being open to God’s Word.
I’d like to think that God’s Word changed my heart when I was 10. The truth is I struggled with anger towards my sisters into my teens and Matthew 5 hung over my head. I was incapable of the change on my own. But when I repented and asked for help, God provided and transformed my heart of anger to one of love. I trust He will do the same for you.