Three events prompted me to do a post on this topic. First, I lead a men's life group in which we are learning the spiritual disciplines for Christian living. We are going through what, in my opinion, is the best book on the topic, the Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney. No other book on the topic of Christian disciplines has ever impacted me more than this one. I highly recommend it. The second event was a meeting I had with my staff at church where I was going through the system I use when praying and reading the Bible. And the third event that prompted me to write this was a friend of mine who asked me what I usually do when I pray and read the Bible.
Here is what I do:
Read the Bible; I read the Bible book by book, in the normal order (I usually read 2 to 3 chapters). Currently, I am in the book of Matthew. About 1.5 years ago, I started in Genesis. Nowhere in the Bible does it say you have to read it fast.
Read the psalms; once I am done reading the 2 to 3 chapters, I read 5 Psalms. I learned this from Donald Whitney in his book Praying the Bible. This little book (less than 100 pages) showed me a simple yet powerful system for praying the Bible, specifically the Psalms. I read 5 psalms a day and then select one that I feel God is leading me to focus on and pray it.
Meditate & Pray the Bible; after I select a specific portion of scripture that I feel God is leading me to, I answer the following questions by typing them on a document or writing them in my notebook:
- What does this text show me about God for which I should praise or thank him? (Adoration & Thanksgiving)
- What does the text show me about my sin that I should confess and repent of? What false attitudes, behavior, emotions, or idols come alive in me whenever I forget this truth? (Confession & Repentance)
- What does the text show me about a need that I have? What do I need to do or become in light of this? How shall I petition God for it? (Petition)
- How is Jesus Christ or the grace that I have in him crucial to helping me overcome the sin I have confessed or to answering the need I have? (Intercession)
- How would this change my life if I took it seriously—if this truth were fully alive and effective in my inward being? Also, 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? (Intercession)
I first learned about this system from Timothy Keller's Prayer book. No other book on prayer has been most impactful to me than this one. At the end of the book, he gives us this specific system for praying the scriptures, which are the best prayers that you can ever make. These questions are informed by three giants of the faith, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and St. Augustine.
By the time you are done answering these questions, you would have studied the scripture by analyzing what it's trying to tell you, and you would have already read the Bible, prayed, and journaled all at once. And your life will be so enriched by the Word of God that it will make a big difference in your walk with Christ.
I hope this helps.