As a cradle Episcopalian, I grew up learning about the Lectionary and the Daily Office. My Bible study has always followed the Daily Office, reading the selections listed in the Book of Common Prayer. I always read the English Standard Version with the Apocrypha. I do, of course, have a King James red letter version complete with leather cover, gold edges, and pages to record family events, but that Bible lives on the book shelf. It didn’t really occur to me that I should consider another way. I did, after all, read the Bible faithfully in the tradition of my faith. Over the last two years, however, I have been rediscovering the Bible by experiencing it in new ways and by challenging my faith traditions or rather by more fully understanding those traditions.
The first change I made is in reading books of the Bible as books, as complete stories. The Daily Office has certainly been a useful tool in understanding connections between the Old Testament and New Testament, between the Gospels and the letters of Paul, but it has not allowed me to fully experience the Gospels, the letters, or the Old Testament histories and prophesies. Reading a complete book is a different experience–a long overdue experience!
The second change I’ve made is in trying new translations. I’m still an Episcopalian, so I’m sticking with the “approved” list, but I’m giving other translations a try… Or rather I was trying other translations. I’ve settled on a wonderful new Bible that has margins for journaling or making notes, illustrations to color, and a wonderful hard cover that even I can’t destroy. It’s a New Living Translation, which I hadn’t considered until a friend at church mentioned that it was his favorite translation. He shared a passage from the NLT, which was just beautiful.
The final change I’ve made is to pray before and after my Bible study. My Bullet Journal contains a short prayer I usually use, but more and more I let the Holy Spirit guide my pre- and post-Bible study prayer. I try to begin by quieting my mind and getting comfortable. I pray. Then, I read as the Holy Spirit guides me. Sometimes I color as I read. Sometimes I journal. Sometimes I just read and re-read. I end in prayer.
I’ve started to see new things in the Bible, new inspirations and insights. I’ve also begun to have a deeper experience in studying the Bible. In the past, I was often more focused on accomplishing something with my Bible study, on checking my Bible readings off my to-do list. Now, I am more focused on simply experiencing the Bible and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through me. As I continue, my Bible study deepens my faith and brings me closer to God.
How do you study the Bible? Does your study bring you close to God?