This month we’ll be focusing on the discipline I call “Scriptural learning.” Many books about the spiritual disciplines call this one “study” or “Bible study,” but I prefer a more broad term. Study is certainly a key aspect of spiritual growth, but there are many other key ways we can interact with Scripture in addition to study and I think it is important to include them all. Some, like study, require about thirty minutes or more of focused time; others may be done in three or five minute “spurts” throughout the day.
Here’s a quick (but not exhaustive) tour of ways we can interact with Scripture as we learn and grow spiritually:
1. Study. I’ll keep this as number one because it is, for many, the main avenue of approaching Scripture. In study we engage the faculties of our mind, especially the logical and rational parts, to dig deeper into Scripture and understand its meaning. Often Bible study is devotional in nature—we’re interacting with Scripture with a focus on being personally moved and changed by it; we expect to practically apply it’s truths to our lives. On the other hand, sometimes study is of a more “scholarly” in nature as we’re seeking to learn more about the historical or cultural context of a passage and are interacting with it on a more intellectual level. I personally find scholarly study to have great value in my spiritual life, even if it seems on the surface to be more about the “head” than the “heart.”
2. Devotional reading. Rather than having a traditional “study” mind-set (asking questions, examining the text, discussing it, finding practical application), devotional reading is when we combine prayer and our imagination in our journey through the text. We read a Bible story from a literary perspective; we let the story speak to us. We use our imagination to consider the sights, smells, sounds of the scene. We invite the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us experience the story in a new way. Through this creative approach to Scripture, we can be moved and changed in different ways—our hearts and souls are touched deeply by our prayerful, imaginative pondering of the passage.
3. Memorization. I confess, I am a memorization flunky. This is hard for me and I often find it un-interesting, so it is difficult to really engage. I guess that’s why it is called a discipline! Some folks, especially my admirable Navigators-friends and Awanas-devotees, excel at Scripture memorization. That is awesome! I find that using music helps me remember passages, but this is a discipline I need a lot more work on. Memorization is helpful because it allows us to “store up” God’s Word in our heart and mind (imagine polished stones stored in a jar) and we can draw upon them in times of need.
4. Meditation and contemplation of Scripture. Here we chew on Scripture, rolling it over in our mouths, savoring its flavors, pondering its truths. We prayerfully think about a passage, quietly listening to God as he speaks to us about it, sometimes with clear leading and sometimes simply with feelings and impressions.
5. Praying Scripture. In this discipline, we draw upon Scripture passages as the very words of our prayers—or the lyrics of our worship songs. We speak back to God his very own words. They capture our dreams, they’re the essence of our passions, they’re the mirror that reflects who we are.
6. Learning from others. In this discipline, we truly listen to a sermon or Bible lesson with an attitude of openness, allowing the Holy Spirit to convict us and direct us as we seek to truly understand God’s Word and apply it to our lives. (Some hectic weeks, listening to a sermon might be the only Scriptural learning you do. But even during those busy times, you can still grow spiritually as you sincerely put effort into learning from your pastor or Bible teacher.)
Which of the above methods of Scriptural learning comes most naturally to you? Which may be difficult? Which would you like to try?