As followers of Jesus, we are invited to not just know what we believe about Jesus Christ in our brains but also to experience the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ in our souls. Paul prays that the “eyes of our hearts would be opened” so that we would know the gospel in a deep, transformative way (Ephesians 1:18).
How does that happen? One of the ways that happens is through a discipline of personal worship and prayer. Below is a simple plan that you could use to let God’s Word lead you into a deeper experience of God’s grace. There are many ways to read and reflect on Scripture- but this particular method encourages you to move beyond cognitive understanding to a prayerful application of God’s Word to your life.
WHAT TO DO:
READ: Slowly read a passage, paragraph, chapter or even just a few verses 2-3 times. Ask some simple questions like:
What does this say about God?
What does this say about me?
What examples are here for me to follow or avoid?
What commands are here to obey?
What promises are here for me to claim?
Need some guidance on what to read? There are many Bible reading plans available. Check out www.esv.org/biblereadingplans or www.bibleplan.org for some good options. Or, you can decide to just read through a book of the Bible slowly (even just a paragraph a day) like John or Philippians. Keep it simple enough that you will stick with it.
MEDITATE: This “in-between discipline” takes the things that you learned in your reading and begins to reflect on them more deeply. The purpose is to take what has been clear in your mind and allow God to move it more deeply into your heart.
Choose the verse or truth that was most striking to you and that the Holy Spirit seemed to especially impress upon you. Go deeper into reflection with questions like these:
How can I praise God on the basis of this verse?
What do I need to confess because of this? What wrong behavior or harmful emotion result in me when I forget this is true?
How is Jesus Christ the ultimate answer to this sin? How does he help me live this out? How is he the fulfillment of this truth?
How would this change my life if I took it seriously—if this truth were fully alive and effective in my inward being?
Why might God be showing this to me now? What is going on in my life that he would be bringing this to my attention today?
PRAY: While reading is listening to God’s Word, and meditating is allowing God through the Scripture to speak to your own heart, praying is turning back to God and speaking to him based on what you have learned and sensed. Pray back to God what he showed you. You could use the classic ACTS format to shape your prayers:
Adoration: Tell him what you love and adore about him that you have freshly realized
Confession: Admit what he’s shown you about yourself that you need to repent of.
Thanksgiving: Thank God for how he has given you all you need in Jesus to address this
Supplication: Ask him for what you need to be and do to make what you have learned real in your life.
CONTEMPLATE: Take a final moment to enjoy God’s grace, that his mercy is renewed for you every day. Rest in a deep sense of God’s grace and all that is yours in Christ. Perhaps end your time by praying the Lord’s Prayer.
Consider writing down the verse or truth that the Holy Spirit gave you, and return to it throughout the day as an “anchor point” for your soul.