Walking Our Faith: How to get more out of reading the Bible
“When I found your words, I devoured them, they became my joy and the happiness of my heart because I bore your name O Lord, God of Hosts.” — Jeremiah 15:16
The other day, I was listening to a podcast — as I always do on my drive into work — and the speaker mentioned another podcast that provides daily commentary for the Daf Yomi, which is the practice of reading one page of the Talmud each day. In this way, it takes 7 1/2 years to complete the entire Talmud.
The constancy of this undertaking feels noble and holy to me. It also reminded me of the pleasure to be found in a slow careful reading of sacred text.
It got me thinking of my own approach to reading the Bible this year. I am reading the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, just two chapters a week over the course of the entire year.
I got the idea when I received my Word on Fire Bible, which contains only the four Gospels but also a wealth of commentary and vibrant artwork related to every important passage so that commentary and artwork make up as many pages as the actual sacred text.
I’ve discovered that this wealth of information has greatly expanded my understanding of the context of each passage. As I read, I find myself underlining passages, taking notes in my journal. Best of all, I look forward to reading each day.
Which brings me to a few quick tips I’d like to share:
- Please use a Bible that you feel comfortable underlining or writing in the margins so that you have a record of what has spoken to you and can return to passages later.
- Keep a notebook or journal nearby to jot down thoughts and prayers. Date the pages and the passages read, so you can track your progress.
- To create a consistent practice, schedule a specific time that you will read each day. This has been the most important tip for me.
For instance, I had difficulty praying the rosary consistently until I linked it to the 5 p.m. evening prayer group I belong to. Now, I pray the rosary at 4:30 and join the online prayer group at 5 p.m.
Slowing my pace to two chapters a week gives me time to savor shorter passages, to contemplate and pray about what I have learned. I have found this luxuriating pace has increased my enjoyment and caused me to appreciate the history and foundations of my faith.
I’ve been sharing my reading progress in this column to encourage others to join me. Knowing there are others, even if I will never meet them, gives this reading adventure a sense of community. And communities are an invaluable part of appreciating sacred text.
My friend Larry has been leading a small online Bible study group through the letters of the early saints to the new church. These epistles make up the larger part of the New Testament. He has been doing this for two years.
If you learn better in a group setting, find a Bible study at your church or form one with your friends. There are also many online Bible study communities through podcasts and apps such as Hallow or the Bible app.
I would like to briefly mention the practice of Lectio Divina, which is an approach to reading sacred texts that fits perfectly with our practice of slow reading. You can find in-depth resources online explaining Lectio Divina, but here’s a brief outline of the four steps:
- Read the passage slowly and carefully.
- Meditate: Read the passage again circling a word or sentence that speaks to you, and meditate on why it spoke to you at this moment.
- Pray: Respond to what you have read by sharing your experience with God.
- Contemplate: Listen for God’s response and rest in God’s presence.
Most importantly, I believe we gain the most from sacred reading when we allow ourselves to become immersed in the text through a daily practice. This constancy elevates the place of our faith from Sundays to every day, an action which conveys God’s centrality in our lives.
Which brings me to what I believe is the central point of creating a daily practice of reading the Bible, or the sacred text of your faith. It is the difference between consistency and constancy. To be consistent is what we do when we form a habit, such as walking five times a week. To demonstrate constancy is to practice devotion and fidelity.
To consistently read the Bible is a good habit. But to develop constancy in our Bible reading is to deepen our relationship with God. And that is where the adventure of our faith truly begins.
I’m reading through the Gospels this year. This week, I’m reading Matthew Chapters 22 and 23. Please join me!
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” — Matthew 22:37-39
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at email@example.com.
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