We not only benefit from reading the whole of Scripture as we discussed yesterday. There is also benefit in settling in with a book or a passage and ruminating on it. Choose a chapter or a section of a chapter and read it every day for a month in addition to your regular Bible reading. This will accomplish two things.
First, you will see the chosen passage contrasted to whatever else you’re reading. Sometimes this will bring illumination; sometimes it will bring confusion. It helps you to see Scripture in the light of Scripture.
Second, it will allow the chosen passage to get beyond your initial mental filter. It doesn’t matter if you tend to initially process information as facts or feelings, spending a month with it will give it time to get beyond your first, and maybe second, default mode of interpretation.
As these two things are happening, it is helpful to explicitly pray for God to open your eyes to see and your ears to hear what he has for you. John Chrysostom left a prayer for us that I like to use. Our goal is to know the Trinity better and to become more like Christ. Asking the aid of the one we seek is probably a good idea.
We can also aid the process by spending some time with the passage besides just reading it through. This may not be practical every day, but after having read through it for a week, try praying through it. This shifts our focus from, “What does it mean?” to, “What is God telling me through this?”
When I do this, I have a piece of paper handy to jot down my collected one-sentence prayers in response to the phrases in the passage. I focus on praying for myself rather than using this time to pray for anyone else, because that can be a subtle way to shift my focus off of what the Spirit may be trying to teach me.
I’m not looking for insights into the text as I do this. This isn’t: “Lord, help me to understand what Paul meant when he wrote….” That can be an appropriate prayer, to be sure, but for this exercise, keep the focus on what these verses are challenging you to do, say, or be.
Often, your prayer may seem like you are merely parroting back the words of the passage to God. That is okay; there are no points for creativity here. God isn’t impressed with our original insights. Occasionally, though, something that seems a bit tangential to the passage at hand may be brought to mind. That is okay as well. This is between you and God.
Sometimes, if the passage is a story, it can be helpful to try to see the events through the eyes of each person in the narrative. If it is more of a teaching section, reflect on your various roles and relationships and how it might guide each of them. Even those passages we tend to skim over — genealogies and instructions for sacrifices — can be useful in this regard, though I would suggest starting with something a bit easier. Even in those monotonous genealogies, we can consider the names, some of whom we may know something of, others of whom we must wonder what kind of person they were. For the sacrificial law in the Old Testament, consider the symbolism and the significance of what was being instructed.
Try this exercise once a week on the passage you are steeping yourself in. Don’t be in any rush to share anything you pray with anyone else. If you think you have found something “new,” consider whether it is in adherence with the Creeds and the teaching of the Church. Compare it to your larger reading of Scripture. Finally, if you are stuck in some matter of application, set it aside for now and focus on the phrases that are clearer.