Spiritual Growth

3 Ways We Can Improve Our Thinking

Miles David said, “I’m always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning. Every day I find something creative to do with my life.”

Spring has sprung in Tennessee. Seeds are sprouting, flowers are blooming, and caterpillars are morphing into butterflies. I think what I love most about spring is the ample evidence that God is still in the transformation business. He is the God who blows life into dead things and calls into existence things that don’t yet exist (Rom 4:17). Spring reminds me that God takes things that appear to be dead and makes them bloom again. God not only transforms nature, but He also transforms us. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:2a, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” (emphasis mine)

Few things can get us in deeper trouble than our thoughts. For better or worse, our thoughts guide our lives and that’s why it’s imperative we get a handle on our thought life.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said it best, “Have you realized that most of you are listening to yourself rather than talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you.”[1]

Lloyd-Jones goes on to say, “The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, and question yourself.”

The good news is if you’ve struggled with negative thought patterns, by God’s grace you can transform your thinking. Although God isn’t limited in the ways He can change our thoughts, I do believe there are primary ways in which He does so, and each one requires our participation.

  1. The Word of God transforms our thoughts. There is no substitution for the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” As we study the Scriptures and listen to gospel-centered preaching the Word of God transforms our thinking from a secular worldview to a biblical one based on God’s truth. The Word of God refutes the lies we buy into from the enemy, the flesh, and the world and replaces them with God’s promises. When we find ourselves slipping into a pattern of negative thinking it’s crucial we immediately replace those thoughts with the truths found in the Scriptures.
  2. Scripture memory transforms our thoughts. Our thought lives are most vulnerable when we are experiencing fatigue, stress, or temptation. When Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the enemy, He was fatigued from a forty day fast. The combination of emotional and physical stress is a particularly difficult combination. Jesus responded to Satan’s temptation by quoting from the Scriptures. We need to do the same. When we memorize Scripture, it’s stored in our mind for the Holy Spirit to bring to our attention when we need it most. The author of Psalm 119:11 wrote, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
  3. Prayer transforms our thoughts. Many Christians approach prayer as an avenue of convincing God to provide for their needs and wants. Clearly, the Bible does invite us to bring our needs and desires to God, and we’d be foolish not to do so. But one of the primary purposes of prayer is it aligns our thoughts and desires with God’s will. God transforms our thinking as we spend time with Him in prayer. Also, it is wise for us to ask God to “transform us by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2). Undoubtedly, it is God’s will for His people’s thoughts to be in alignment with His and that is a prayer I believe He is delighted to answer.

 

[1] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression Its Causes and Cures.(Grand Rapids, 1965).

Spiritual Growth

Don’t Follow Your Heart

On Monday at five am, I checked out of a hotel in an unfamiliar city and made my way toward the interstate. It was still dark outside and pouring rain. My GPS told me to head east, but the directions felt all wrong. I would’ve bet my first cup of coffee that I needed to drive the opposite direction. I had a decision to make. Would I trust my sense of direction or the GPS? I’m embarrassed to admit for a brief but delusional moment I was arrogant enough to believe I knew better than the GPS. Thankfully, common sense prevailed, and I followed the directions on my GPS. A few minutes later I was on the interstate headed home to Nashville. If I’d trusted my feelings, I’d been lost in an unfamiliar city trying to find my way in the rain. The spiritual analogy wasn’t lost on me.

In American culture, it’s not uncommon to hear people say, “Follow your heart.” The folks who say it are probably well intended, but it’s terrible advice. Why? The Bible teaches our hearts will deceive us. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Our hearts are inclined to lead us in a direction that feels right at the moment but ignores long-term consequences. As Christians, we are not called to follow our hearts. We are called to follow Jesus. The primary way we follow Christ is through obedience to His Word. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

On many occasions, the Word of God will command us to do something that feels wrong. For instance:

  • The Bible tells us to forgive, but our hearts want to hold a grudge (Eph 4:32).
  • The Bible tells us to love our enemies, but our hearts long to retaliate (Matt 5:44).
  • The Bible tells us to be generous, but our hearts tempt us to hoard (Acts 20:35).
  • The Bible tells us to speak kindly, but our hearts lead our mouths to gossip (Eph 4:29).
  • The Bible tells us not to fear, but our hearts are full of worry (Isa 41:10).
  • The Bible tells us to humble ourselves, but our hearts seek glory for ourselves (1 Peter 5:6).

I could go on and on, but you get the point. Following your heart is not synonymous with being true to yourself. In fact, it’s just the opposite. As the author and theologian N.T. Wright said, “If you are true to yourself, you will end up a complete mess.”  So how do we know which direction to proceed? The Psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). Our hearts are not trustworthy guides. Following Christ through obedience to His Word is the way.

Spiritual Growth

Asking God For Mercy

A couple of days ago I heard someone say the old cliché, “You made your bed, now lie in it.” That statement makes me cringe. The mindset promotes the idea that if you make a wrong choice, you are forever stuck with the consequences. I don’t know about you, but I’ve made some bad decisions. Sinful ones. I’ve made mistakes in my relationships, attitude, speech, finances, career, and in a million other ways. I’ve been a Christ-follower for more than twenty years, and still, I can’t count the times I’ve found myself in a mess of my own making. If I got what I deserved, I’d be in enormous trouble. I’d be a fool to ask for justice. I’m in desperate need of mercy.

As I study the Scriptures, one of the things I love most about King David is his honesty. There were exceptions, but on David’s best days he was a man of candor. David called things the way he saw them, and he didn’t attempt to make things seem better than they were. In Psalm 38 we find David in a mess of his own making. We don’t know for sure what he’d done, but we know he was suffering the consequences. According to the text, David was:

  • Facing God’s wrath (Psalm 38:1)
  • Suffering from physical problems (Psalm 38:3-8)
  • Experiencing depression (Psalm 38:9-10)
  • Abandoned by friends (Psalm 38:10-11)
  • Dealing with political enemies (Psalm 38:12)
  • Out of strength (Psalm 38:13-14)
  • Sorry for his sin (Psalm 38:18)

When other people have wronged us, it’s natural to cry out to God for vindication. After all, God is a God of justice. But what about when we are the offender? What happens when we are the guilty party?

The text makes it clear David understood he’d sinned. David didn’t ask for God’s help on the basis that he deserved it. Clearly, he didn’t. Instead, David confessed his sin (38:18), waited for the Lord (38:15), begged God not to forsake him (38:21), asked for God’s help (38:22), and requested that he be spared from God’s wrath (38:1).[1]

In short, David asked God for mercy.

We’ll be wise to make a habit of doing the same. Thankfully, the Bible is not a book that promotes the idea, “You made your bed, now lie in it.” Jesus destroyed that notion at Calvary. As Christians, we do not get what we deserve. Jesus got what we deserve on the cross. And that should make us the most merciful people on the planet. When we foul up let’s not try to hide it. Let’s be quick to plead for the mercy Jesus died to give us. And let’s be sure to contemplate His mercy long enough for it to change us.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam 3:22-23)

[1] D.A. Carson, For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word, (Wheaton: Crossway, 1998).

Spiritual Growth

3 Ways I Pray For My Husband

Last month John and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary. We both readily agree that our anniversary is far more a celebration of God’s faithfulness than our accomplishment. Fifteen years ago, the two of us had enough baggage to fill a fleet of semi-trucks. (These days we like to think we’ve downsized to a couple of moving vans). Undoubtedly, we are still figuring this marriage thing out. But by God’s grace, we are not only still married, we are glad to be. We often tell each other, “Just remember, if you decide to leave me, I’m going with you.” I don’t have any marriage advice to offer. I’d feel like a fraud if I did. But one thing I’ve learned in fifteen years of marriage is how to pray for my husband. Here are three ways I pray for John daily.

  1. I pray for him to love Christ above all things (Mark 12:30-31). If John’s love for Christ isn’t the driving force in his life, then everything else will be out of whack, including our marriage. This applies to all people. When one of the scribes asked Jesus which commandment was the most important Jesus responded, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” This is a constant prayer request I make for John and myself because everything rises and falls on our love for Christ.
  2. I pray for our marriage (Eph 5:25, Eph 5:33). I believe the enemy targets Christian marriages and I don’t want to leave mine vulnerable. I want to cover it in prayer. I pray daily that John and I will only have a love and attraction for one another. Also, I pray that our marriage models the words Paul wrote in Eph 5. Specifically, I pray that John will love me the way Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25) and I will respect my husband (Eph 5:33). Early on, I made mistakes in this area. When I’d get angry with John, I’d say something sarcastic or roll my eyes when he said something I disagreed with. My responses were sometimes disrespectful and now I make it a point to pray that God removes these tendencies from my personality and makes me repulsed by them. My husband deserves my respect even when I disagree with him.
  3. I ask John how I can specifically be praying for him. I know my husband better than anyone else, but sometimes he surprises me with his requests. On some occasions, he’s asked me to pray for something I wouldn’t have had a clue to pray for had I not asked. I’ve learned things about my husband I wouldn’t have known apart from asking how I can pray for him.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Tim Keller’s stellar book, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God, “Marriage has the power to set the course of your life as a whole. If your marriage is strong, even if all circumstances in your life around you are filled with trouble and weakness, it won’t matter. You will be able to move out into the world in strength.”

Strong marriages don’t happen by accident. Let’s be people who pray for them.

Spiritual Growth

The Silence of Saturday

Scripture mentions little about the Saturday following the crucifixion. The only glimpse we get into Saturday is a few short verses that give the account of the chief priests and Pharisees asking Pilate for permission to post guards at Jesus’ tomb (Matt 27:62-64).

From the disciple’s standpoint, Saturday must have been painfully silent. Undoubtedly, they were reeling from the events of Friday. It’s safe to assume grief, guilt, confusion, anger, and fear consumed them. They didn’t know what was about to happen on Sunday. On Saturday, things looked bleak.

So, why is Saturday significant?

We too will encounter situations that leave us reeling. Things won’t go the way we planned. We’ll be unsure how to proceed. We won’t have the answers, and we’ll be left to wait.

And we’ll experience the silence of Saturday.

Most of us associate silence with a lack of progress. When we can’t see or sense God working, we wrongly assume He’s not. When we can’t see a way out, we assume there isn’t one. We are prone to forget that God has resources we don’t have, and He has plans we don’t yet know.

Are you in a season of uncertainty?

Are you waiting for direction on what to do next?

Are you coming through an emotional upheaval that has left you reeling?

In Psalm 46 God’s people were experiencing a time when everything around them seemed to be falling apart. This Psalm was likely written around God’s deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrians in the time of King Hezekiah. (2 Kings 18-19, 2 Chr 2, Isa 36-37). It was a period of crisis, and chaos was the order of the day. In the midst of their crisis, God issued a simple command:

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

We have no reason to fear the silence of Saturday.

Sunday is coming.

Spiritual Growth

Lessons From Gethsemane

It’s not likely that any of us will face crucifixion on a cross, but there will be times we suffer. We will experience our own little Gethsemane’s. Our times of distress won’t come close to the degree of suffering Christ experienced, but they will be devastating to us. It might come in the form of a diagnosis, a lawsuit, the death of a loved one, divorce papers, a pink slip from our employer, or a variety of other possibilities that have the potential to leave us crushed in despair.

In times of suffering, we are prone to react in a handful of predictable ways. Some of us go into full meltdown mode. Others of us crawl into bed and pull the covers over our head. A few of us set up camp in a state of denial. And the most sinfully self-reliant among us will be delusional enough to try to fix the situation on our own. (I am talking to myself here). But in Jesus’ time of distress, he went to Gethsemane to pray.

In Matthew 26 we find Jesus finishing the Passover meal with his disciples. To say the least, it was a stressful dinner. Jesus identified Judas as the one who would betray him, he predicted Peter’s denial, and there was the awkward foot washing, which Peter initially protested.

Leaving the Passover meal, Jesus was faced with the magnitude of the looming events. The cross was imminent. The text says that Jesus was “sorrowful and troubled.” (Matt 26:37)

If there was ever an understandable time to have a full-blown meltdown, it was now. But he doesn’t. In the thick of unfathomable stress, Jesus takes his three closest disciples with him and goes to Gethsemane to pray.

Appropriately, Jesus prays, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt 26:39) Clearly, in times of distress, there is nothing wrong with asking God to remove the troubling circumstance. In fact, we’d be foolish not to, because sometimes he does.

When Jesus prays the second time, an interesting shift takes place in his request. He says, “My Father, is this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” (Matt 26:42) Notice how he uses the negative adverb this time. I don’t want to read too much into the text, but is it possible that as he prayed, Christ begins to sense that the cup wouldn’t be passed?

Christ asks a third time. (Matt 26:44-45) When he arose from his third prayer, Jesus stirs his sleeping disciples and says, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

As Christ prayed, we see a dramatic transition from being full of sorrow and distress (Matt 26:37) to rising with confidence to meet his betrayer. (Matt 26:46) God hadn’t changed the circumstance, but he had provided Christ the strength he needed to face the cross.

And so it is with us. There are times we pray for God to remove a difficult circumstance and he does. Other times, he doesn’t change the situation, but he provides the grace we need to get through it. Both scenarios are graced-filled answers to prayer. When faced with our own Gethsemane’s the only reasonable response is prayer. If Christ relied on prayer to fulfill his mission on earth, how much more should we?

Spiritual Growth

Psalm Sunday: What Happens When Jesus Doesn’t Meet Our Expectations?

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week for Christians around the globe. I love this time of year. Easter is the holiday that I never get over. I hope I never do. Holy Week never fails to put me in a reflective mood. But reflection is necessary if the goal is to embrace the magnitude of the greatest story ever told.

Psalm Sunday celebrates the account of Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. But the message of Psalm Sunday is far more significant than a parade ride into town. It raises the question: What happens when Jesus doesn’t meet my expectations?

In John 12:12-18 we find Jesus surrounded by a large crowd as he enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey. He and his disciples arrived to celebrate Passover. Notably, this is the only recorded instance in the New Testament that Jesus rides rather than walks. This event specifically fulfills the prophecy foretold by Zechariah nearly 600 years earlier (Zech 9:9).

As Jesus rides into Jerusalem he is openly declaring his identity as the long-awaited Messiah. Clearly, the crowd understands the significance of this event and they spread their cloaks on the ground and wave palm branches as an act of reverence. This is the moment they have waited for. The Messiah has come.

But the crowd misunderstands Jesus and his mission. They are expecting a great military leader who will overturn the Roman government by force and establish God’s kingdom in Jerusalem. It’s likely they envisioned a powerful leader riding into town on a horse, symbolizing war, and delivering a rousing speech. No doubt, they are anticipating a king who will rule from an office.

Instead, Jesus rides into town on a lowly donkey, representing a humble and peaceful entry. He had not come to take the world by force and military might. Rather, he came to overcome the world by way of the cross. Jesus did not meet their expectations.  They were hoping for one scenario and got another.

The Jews weren’t the only ones who misunderstand Jesus and his mission. There are times we expect one thing from Jesus and receive another.

  • We pray for healing but it doesn’t come.
  • We long to marry but can’t find a spouse.
  • We pray for reconciliation with a loved one but estrangement continues.
  • We ask for work but remain unemployed.
  • We pace the floor over a prodigal only to receive devastating news.

When faced with these types of circumstances we have two choices. We can turn our backs on Jesus because he hasn’t met our expectations, or we trust him and continue to serve him as Lord.

Imagine what would’ve happened had Jesus been the King the Jews were anticipating; Jesus wouldn’t have gone to the cross. The Jews mission was to overturn the Roman government. Jesus’ mission was to save the world. God always has a greater plan than we do (Isa 55:7-9).

As Christ-followers, we are called to adjust our expectations to God’s will, rather than attempting to get God to meet our expectations. God is under no obligation to meet our expectations. He often does, but he is not obligated to. As we enter Holy Week it will do us good to ponder the questions:

How will I respond when Jesus doesn’t meet my expectations?

Am I serving Christ as Lord, or am I serving him to get my way?

While it’s true that Jesus doesn’t always respond in a way that meets our expectations, if we follow Him as Lord, regardless of the outcome, he will always exceed our expectations (Eph 3:20).

Lord, as we enter Holy Week help us focus our minds on you. Silence the distractions and increase our insight into the significance of what this week represents. Fill our hearts with praise, awe, and devotion to you. Regardless of our circumstances let nothing deter us from knowing you and serving you as Lord. 

Spiritual Growth

Paul’s Prescription For Worry

Holocaust survivor, Corrie ten Boom said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” Thankfully, most of us won’t experience the horrors ten Boom faced in the Holocaust, but we will all encounter problems that tempt us to worry. As I write this, I’m in such a season. I’ve been dealing with a family situation that has caused me a great deal of stress. In fact, it’s been the last thing I think about when I doze off at night and the first thought in my mind when I wake up in the morning. For the last couple of weeks, it’s not been uncommon for me to wake up at 3 am and mull the problem over backward and forwards, ruminating about every possible scenario.

These things have driven me back to Paul’s prescription for worry.

“Do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)

There are at least three points Paul makes in this passage to help us with our struggle with worry.

  1. Prayer is to be our first and repetitive response to worry. Most of us know this, but how many of us pray at length over the problems that overwhelm us? For reasons I don’t fully understand, most of us are more prone to worry than to pray. Author and theologian D.A. Carson wrote, “I have yet to meet a chronic worrier who enjoys an excellent prayer life.”[1] According to Paul, the way to not be anxious about anything is to pray about everything. Every time we start to worry, we need to take that as our cue to pray and ask God to intervene on the situation that is prompting us to worry. Worry produces stress while prayer produces peace. It really is a no-brainer.
  2. Give thanks to God. Offering thanksgiving shifts our eyes back to the ways God has already blessed us. When we worry, it’s tempting to focus solely on what we lack. Paul instructs his readers to give thanks for all the ways God continues to bless us. Thanksgiving builds our faith, shifts our focus, and is the only appropriate response to God.
  3. Live in His Peace. Paul says that if we pray and offer thanksgiving in the midst of our problems, God will provide us with the peace which surpasses understanding. Often we are looking for “an answer.” But God doesn’t always give us an answer. He gives us a Person. Eph 2:14 says, “For he himself will be our peace.”

I don’t know how my problems will pan out. You probably don’t know how yours will either. But we can know the One who does, and He will bring us peace regardless of the outcome.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work with us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:20)

[1] D.A. Carson, Basics For Believers: An Exposition of Philippians, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1996), p.112.

Spiritual Growth

Run Your Race and Ignore the Sidelines

In 1967, Kathrine Switzer was a 20-year old college student at Syracuse University when she became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. Although women weren’t allowed to complete, she registered using her initials and participated. During the race, marathon official Jock Semple realized Switzer was a woman and attempted to physically remove her from the competition. Other runners blocked Semple and Switzer completed the marathon. The story and photograph of the incident made global headlines. Semple later publicly apologized for his actions and the two reconciled. Today nearly half of the Boston Marathon runners are female.

In the New Testament, and especially in Paul’s letters, it’s common to come across athletic metaphors used to describe Christian living. The writer of Hebrews did so as well.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witness, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2, emphasis mine)

Regardless of our gender, as Christians, we will encounter obstacles, distractions, and naysayers as we “run our race.” It might come in the form of loved one who thinks you’ve “taken your faith too far,” silent disapproval from former friends, cultural expectations, personal sin, or the relentless enemy of our souls who desperately attempts to divert our devotion away from Christ (2 Cor 11:3). The writer of Hebrews says we are to “lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely” so we can run our race with endurance.

And how do we do that?

We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus (v.2) and ignore the distractions. Practically speaking, that means tending to the habitual sins that prevent us from running well and disregarding the voices that have the potential to disrupt our faith journey. Jesus endured more opposition than anyone in the history of mankind while he was fulfilling his earthly mission and he did it flawlessly. Only Jesus can offer the grace we need to finish well. As we run our race, we make a dangerous error when we divert our eyes from Christ and onto the distractions that taunt us from the sidelines. God never intended for us to run alone. We’ll be wise to enjoy the presence and encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ who run alongside us. And above all,  we need to keep our eyes fixed on the One who can empower us to finish.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)

Spiritual Growth

3 Habits That Will Improve Your Bible Reading

N.T. Wright said, “The Bible is the book of my life. It’s the book I live with, the book I live by, and the book I want to die by.” Sadly, biblical literacy is on the decline. A 2014 poll in Christianity Today revealed that only 19 percent of church-going Christians read their Bible every day.[1] Tape-recorded readings of the Bible have proven that an individual can read through the entire Bible in seventy-one hours. That means it would take no more than 15 minutes each day to read through the Bible in less than a year.[2] Perhaps you already engage in Bible reading every day and want to make the most of your time in God’s Word. Or maybe you’ve not been in the habit of spending time in the Scriptures, but would like to start. Here are three suggestions for getting the most out of Bible reading.

  1. Pray before you read. The Psalmist wrote, “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:8) One of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to illuminate the Scriptures for us in a way that helps us understand them (1 Cor 2:14). When I approach the Scriptures, I want to learn things that I couldn’t know apart from the Holy Spirit revealing them to me. So before beginning my Bible reading, I often pray, “Holy Spirit, I pray you will teach me things I could not know apart from you.” Also, as I come across things in the text that I don’t understand I ask God to reveal the meaning. The answer doesn’t always come right away, but I’ve learned that if I continue to pursue the meaning of a text and pray for guidance, the answer comes.
  2. Meditate on the text. There’s a time and place for reading large sections of Scripture in one sitting, but it’s also beneficial to read a small section (perhaps a chapter or two) and choose a key verse upon which to meditate. Unfortunately, many Christians in the West have abandoned the practice of meditation because it has become associated with Eastern religion. But meditation is a thoroughly biblical concept. Psalm 119:15 says, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” Meditating on Scripture will increase our understanding of the text. People often claim they don’t know how to meditate, but that’s not true. If you are capable of worrying you already know how to meditate. To meditate is to turn something over and over in your mind and to think about it from every possible angle.
  3. Interact with the text. As we read the text it’s crucial that we ask ourselves, “What did the original author intend to convey in this passage?” It’s important to take note of the context and look at the surrounding verses. Be sure to ask questions of the text. What is God revealing about himself in the passage? Does the passage contain truths about God that prompt you to praise him? Are there imperatives in the text that motivate you to pray for the grace to obey? Does the passage lead you to confession because it sheds light on your sin? Incorporating God’s Word into your prayer life will bring vitality to your prayers like nothing else. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

There is nothing more satisfying than pursuing a relationship with Christ through the study of God’s Word. I’ll leave you with a quote from Oswald Chambers, “We look upon prayer as the means of getting things for ourselves. The Biblical idea of prayer is that we get to know God Himself.”

[1] http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/october/biblical-illiteracy-by-numbers.html

[2] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines For the Christian Life, (NavPress, 1991, 33).