Thursday, September 24, 2015

What is Prayer?

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NASB

"The key to this home, this heart of God. is prayer." Foster

Prayer, by definition,  is an intercession, petition, or supplication. Scripture contains many prayers of faithful leaders and followers of God, prayers for healing, direction, peace, strength, forgiveness, wisdom, security, provision. Multiple passages in the Bible reveal Jesus alone in prayer and praying for others. Prayer comes from the lips of doubters and those in need, from hearts frozen with fear and unbelievers reborn, from the sick and weary, from those in desperate situations, from sinners like me. Believers are called to prayer, to never stop praying (1 Thessalonians 5:17), to pray in the Spirit, to pray with perseverance, to pray for each other. Richard Foster in Sanctuary of the Soul calls prayer "interactive communication and communion with God".
"Prayer is change...interior transformation...into ministry..." Richard Foster, Prayer**
Prayer exceeds inward pleas in desperate times and evolves from a place deeper than need, comes from the soul's core where faith calls out to Hope! Our prayers call out to God exposing our broken hearts, our fragile egos, our emptiest places. Prayer should acknowledge complete dependence on God, and when words fail, the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26) Spiritual posture of prayer must embody both humility and honesty, exhibit reverence for God's majesty and trust in God's mystery. Prayer should become the Christian's constant inside activity that is evidenced in outward living. Prayer should transform us into bearers of His Light. Holy Spirit, teach me to pray! ~dho

** I highly recommend Richard Foster's book, "Prayer, Finding the Heart's True Home"

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How to Read the Bible ~ Part 4

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT
Bible issued to my father by US Military during WWII

Discernment of God's Voice requires a believer in Christ to seek and to study, to pray and to listen for His holy revelations. For the past three weeks the posts on How to Study the Bible have offered a general overview of how to approach a Scripture passage and various ways to read the Bible (and not intended to be an exhaustive lesson). Being in the word of God and walking with the Word of God is fertile ground for discernment. So what other resources or tools are available?

There are many translations and paraphrased versions of the Bible, as well as multiple Study Bible versions of these. A Study Bible provides cross-references of Scripture and a concordance (references to words or phrases used within the Bible), along with introductions to each Book of the Bible, commentary by Bible scholars, and other insights. Another helpful tool is a Bible dictionary which provides much information on words, names, places, and culture. Other references fall into the category of Bible encyclopedias which may provide more in depth biographies and historical contexts. (click here for a sample list of Bible Translations and Study Bibles)  

Readings of the classics and theologians of times past provide the learner with new insights and can provoke new questions. Researching writings and commentaries of Bible scholars, then and now, offers a deeper and wider perspective to Christianity. There are many authors, past and present, worthy of reading. Devotionals also help guide Bible Study. Today there are many good online sources that have tools to enhance studying God's word. (click here for some online sources: Biblegateway.com, YourVersion.com, StudyLight.org, Bible Study Tools, Google: How to study the BibleOswald Chambers, Priscilla Shirer) Whatever methods, most importantly the believer must seek to know God, study God's Holy Scriptures, call on the Holy Spirit for understanding, and apply the lessons. Study the Bible to embrace the promises of God, to encounter Christ, to experience the Holy Spirit. Christianity is not just knowing about God, but applying the truths to life. Christianity is living like Christ. ~dho


Thursday, September 10, 2015

How to Read the Bible ~ Part 3

By Your words I can see where I'm going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.
Psalm 119:105 The Message


In our series on discernment, I have explored some suggestions of how to read the Bible. The phrase lectio divina describes a way to read the Bible and can be translated "divine reading" but more importantly means living the Holy Word. With 4 basic components, to read, to meditate, to pray, and to live, lectio divina is more than a spiritual discipline.
"Discernment requires not only reading with the heart but being willing to put down the book we are reading to just listen to what God is saying to us through its words. Henri Nouwen
Lectio divina is a way of reading spiritually, reading without a personal agenda and with a vulnerability of heart, reading while embracing Christ and exceeding the words. Lectio divina is a living reading, a way of reading that expects a living response. To be effective, we must consider the message within these ancient words. While reading, it is important to keep the words in context, to examine the historical settings, storylines, and cultures. The Holy Scriptures are sacred writings inspired by God, filled with vivid language full of poetry and metaphors and idioms that draw the reader into God's worldview, a living document for every age.
"Meditation is a process in which you struggle with the word of God that has entered your heart." Macrina Wiederkehr
Meditation on a Scripture passage helps the reader to understand how this piece of information relates to God's character and plan for humanity. To meditate on these words reveals connections between the moments recorded then and my circumstances now, the lesson centuries ago and a message for me, personally. Listening to the word of God with the heart opens the door for spiritual communion.

Prayer becomes the language of the heart, with its deepest agonies and richest joys. Often, prayer exceeds the vocabulary of our emotions. Wordless or word-full, prayer is relational and connects us to God. Reading His word combined with prayer, refines our access to God. As Jesus intercedes, we become engaged in deeper conversation with God. In praying the sacred words, we embrace God's message, we participate in His world, we live and love more.
"Lectio divina is not a methodical technique for reading the Bible. It is a cultivated, developed habit of living the text in Jesus' name." Eugene Peterson
To live the Word of God, we must take this unexplainable God into a complicated world. We must carry this extraordinary message into our ordinary moments. We are to live God's word through the chaos and beyond the suffering, above the distractions and against the opposition. Lectio divina means living the Holy Word. ~dho


Thursday, September 03, 2015

How to Read the Bible ~ Part 2

...the Spirit who is from God...not in words taught by human wisdom but in those taught by the Spirit, [teaches] combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
1 Corinthians 2:12-13 NASB

To study the Bible for knowledge alone defeats the purpose of God providing this gift of sacred writings. To study the Bible celebrates the "process of inspiration" by which God speaks, turning spiritual thoughts into spiritual words. As the Holy Spirit infuses the words, these Living words speak spiritual wisdom full of truth and life lessons full of hope. First, to study the Bible, the heart and mind and soul must be seeking God. Approach reading the Bible with an open heart.



As noted last week, various tools and techniques already exist to enhance Bible Study. Rick Warren's book, Bible Study Methods, offers a dozen different ways and is another good reference if you are looking for some new ideas. These blog posts could not possibly examine all the methods; instead, I offer you general suggestions of how to approach a Scripture passage. Consider the SOAP method: SCRIPTURE, OBSERVATION, APPLICATION, PRAYER. SCRIPTURE: Choose a Scripture. Read it and perhaps write it out. OBSERVATION: What is happening in the passage? Who is present? What is the message? What lesson is to be learned? APPLICATION: What does God want me to learn? How does this change me or my attitude or my actions? What will I do to implement this into my daily living? PRAYER: Say or write a prayer to God. Ask Him to open your eyes and make your heart tender to His guiding. Pray for insight into the message He is giving you.

Personally, as I read the Bible each day, I keep a devotional journal. Sometimes I write down a Scripture, some phrase from a devotional book that speaks to me, or a thought that comes to mind when reading. On the side, I sometimes jot a note of particular prayers for that day, while I keep many prayer requests in the back of my journal. There are times I journal my heart, give voice to the chaos or the celebrations deep inside. Other times, my soul writes a prayer, either in the form of a petition or a simple plea or a heart-full praise. Sometimes, I write nothing at all. God usually has a special word from Scripture for me as I start each new journal (whenever the other one ends). I put that in the front under 'journey notes'. At the end of that journey (whenever the journal is full), I look back through, finding ancient words living on new pages, grace exposing my heart, resolutions surrounding my prayers, words revealing new insights. Between the pencil marks and pasted quotes, beside the wordless-wonder and salty-prayers, within the Sacred Texts scribbled and the coffee drips, these pages retell my journey with a Holy God. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. 2 Timothy 3:17 The Message 
~ dho