A couple weeks ago many of you had the opportunity to be a part of our latest Equip training on “Organizing Chaos.” You can find the podcast, notes, and handouts from this event HERE. At this equip training we discussed how life is ridiculously busy and how we are all searching for some sort of semblance of “balance.” However, I shared that achieving balance in life is impossible. We then spent the rest of the evening discussing how to develop a “Rule of Life” to live by (For a great resource on developing your own rule of life check out Steve Macchia’s Crafting a Rule of Life). I shared Peter Scazzero’s definition of a rule of life from his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. He defines a rule of life as “an intentional, conscious plan to keep God at the center of everything we do.” We then discussed why a rule of life has everything to do with organizing the chaos in our life. As we closed out the evening we discussed how, when we can keep God at the center of everything we do, interestingly enough, life becomes a lot more organized.
One of the elements of developing a rule of life that we were not able to spend a lot of time on was the spiritual priorities we need to make in our life. Over the next few weeks I want to share with you four “spiritual disciplines” that I believe are essential to keeping God at the center of our lives. Spiritual disciplines can be defined as disciplines that promote spiritual growth. If we want to organize the chaos in our lives I believe we need to incorporate these disciplines in some form or fashion.
Last week we talked about the importance of silence and solitude in our lives. You can read that blog HERE. This week we are going to pick up where we left off and discuss the spiritual priority of reading the Bible and prayer. Silence and solitude go hand-in-hand with reading the Bible and prayer. When we have distractions all around us it is hard to hear God. It takes silence and solitude to remove the internal and external distractions so that we can really hear from God.
But when I say things like “hear from God,” many of you are probably asking yourselves, “what does he mean by that?” If you are like me there have been times in my life where I have consistently read the Bible and prayed to God, but it seemed as though I never heard from him. What I want to advocate is that the spiritual life is invigorated by more than just reading words on a page or speaking out loud or silently to an invisible God. First, I believe that God is alive and personal. This means that we can communicate with him and that he wants to communicate with us. Secondly, I believe that the Bible is God’s Word, his primary means by which he communicates with us. When Paul writes to his young protege, Timothy, he says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If the Bible is in fact the words of God then God has something to say to us. Hence the reason Paul can say that Scripture is profitable for things like teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. So I believe that the greatest way we can hear from God is through reading his Word and speaking to him through prayer. These activities are more than just intellectual tasks; they are spiritual. When I read my Bible and pray it is not as if I am just reading a book and speaking but rather, it is as if I am having a personal and intimate conversation with the Creator of the universe.
If I can hear from God through reading the Bible and through prayer, how then do I do it? I wish I could give you a magical formula in which to follow, but it’s not that easy. I do believe there are ways we can approach the Bible and prayer that can help us hear from God more clearly. First, we must approach the Bible as more than just a book. We must see the Bible as the living Word of God. Also prayer must be more than just words spoken. Prayer must be seen as a two way conversation between the Creator and the created. Several months ago I came across an ancient church practice called the Lectio Divina, meaning the “Divine Reading.” Some might immediately be turned off to this practice because it’s an ancient tradition of the church. Don’t get caught up in the name or where it came from. Rather, what I want you to focus on is the way this practice can help us better hear from God. Here’s the steps of the Lectio Divina:
- Prepare – Begin with silence and solitude. Prepare your mind and heart to hear from God. Remove any distractions, both externally and internally. Prepare to spend time with God through the Bible and prayer.
- Read – Read the passage. Whether you use a Bible reading plan or you are reading through a particular book of the Bible, read the passage for that day. As you read, look for what God is trying to tell you. This does not mean adding to or reading into the text. As you read there will be some word, phrase, or truth from a passage that will stick out to you. Read the passage and find that word, phrase, or verse that God is pointing you to.
- Reflect – Now take time to reflect on that word, phrase, or passage. Meditate upon it. Pray the passage back to God. What is God trying to teach or communicate to you. Is he wanting you to know something about him, yourself, etc? Listen to what he is telling you.
- Respond – As you meditate on the passage, you want to ask God “how should I respond to what you are showing me?” Maybe it is simply understanding something. Maybe your response will be praise or repentance. Maybe you need to go ask forgiveness from someone or go share the Gospel with someone. Listen to God and respond faithfully to him.
- Rest – While you’ve been praying the entire time, now is the time for focused prayer, resting in what he has taught you and called you to. Don’t just talk to God. Also be quiet and listen to him.
- Live – Finally, live it out. Whatever he has taught and called you to, God now desires that you would go and live it out. Don’t let anything stop you from living out what he is teaching you.
This process might not necessarily be for you. Don’t get bogged down in the process. Do whatever it takes for you not just to go through the motions but actually spend time with God and hear from him. May our desire always be to spend intimate time with God and not just acquire knowledge. When we read the Bible and pray for the sake of quality time with God then our lives will be transformed.
Next week we’ll continue our discussion on spiritual priorities by talking about the importance of personal reflection.