In this third post in the series Reading the Scriptures: Why How and When? I want to give some more thoughts on what I call the listening mode. Listening through the scriptures for the voice of God is a very important part of our Bible study but is also probably one of the most difficult. We study the Bible with the very conscious intent of listening for the voice of God. It may be because we want to discern where God is directing us in the future. It may be because we long for a deeper intimacy with God, or it may be because we want to connect with the loving purposes of God for our world.
This is a very intuitive way to read the Bible. It does not usually involve in depth study of passages. It often revolves around prayer and the expectation that God’s is revealed through God’s word. Our hope is that a verse or a passage will jump out at us with the sense of “thus sayeth the Lord” . Lectio Divina is particularly good method for this form of scripture reading though sometimes it can involve a less formal method, even for some the opening of the Bible at random, trusting that God will guide our fingers to the right passage.
It can be a powerful tool for God to use in our lives but it is probably also the most open to misunderstanding, misinterpretation and distraction. None of us hears the voice of God clearly every time and if this form of reading the scripture is not under girded with a strong foundation of Biblical knowledge then it is very open to deception.
As well as that, because we live in a world of constant distraction our ability to listen to the voice of God is disrupted. As Richard Foster says in Sanctuary of the Soul, which I am reading to participate in a roundtable at the Patheos Book Club, we have noisy hearts, wandering minds and perpetual inner chaos. And often the very questions that bring us into the presence of God seeking answers are the same things that distract us and contribute to our inner turmoil.
Richard Foster suggests that the reciting of poetry can help still our distractions and quiet our minds. I love this idea and in this type of Bible reading the poetry that I have found most easily stills our hearts is that of the psalms. In a few beautifully crafted words the psalmists create images that slow us down and focus our attention. Reading them over and over so that we savour the depths of their intent further calms our spirits. The images they conjure catch our imagination and draw us into a place in which we are more easily able to hear the voice of God as we read through other scriptures as well.
I love this form of scripture reading and have kept a record over the years of what I felt God has said as I listened in this way. I heartily recommend this too. We need to look back and see the faithfulness of God in the past so that we can hope for the fulfillment of the promises of God in the future.
To end with here is a prayer that I wrote this morning while thinking about this. You may find it helpful as a tool for calming your mind too.
God still my noisy heart
Quiet my wandering thoughts
May I learn from my inner chaos
And let go of my distractedness
To create within a place of prayer