When I was growing up, church offering envelopes had check-off boxes. One of them was “Daily Bible Reading.” My generation was encouraged to do it all: check all the boxes, and score 100 percent for the week.
I was normally a 100 percent guy each week. I may have struggled with some of those boxes, but I got the Bible reading done. Though I confess that on some days I was so busy that the best I could do was a hurried glance, a fast read... but better fast than not at all, right?
Like some of you, I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover in the course of a year. While this may be an accomplishment, I wonder what I really accomplished. Does God really speak to us as we read through the begats? Was the list of laws from Leviticus deeply inspiring? How about the numbering in Numbers? Do we feel more spiritual having counted our way through the whole book that bears that name? There really is more to Bible reading than reading.
Reading the Bible through is a worthy goal, but perhaps we should take more time than a year. I’ve found a better way to read Scripture. I still read it almost every day, but I no longer beat myself up for missing a day or two.
My better way is to read more slowly, to savor the words I read, and to attempt to enter into dialog with those words and the Word behind them. Once in a while I will hang up on one passage, sometimes even on one verse, for a whole week. Can one ever completely fathom the depths of the words of Psalm 139: “O Lord, you have searched me and known me... and are acquainted with all my ways”?
Productive Bible reading is not about how many verses or chapters we read per day. Productive Bible reading is the reading which brings us into the presence of the Living God and finds us daring to enter into dialog, a dialog in which honesty prevails and growth ensues.
Bible reading done right becomes prayer.
In rare and truly holy moments, Bible reading becomes the doorway to the mystical moment in which Jesus’ prayer (John 17) becomes true in our lives. At least for the moment, we become one with Jesus and with God.
When that happens, no one needs to tell us that Scripture “is breathed out by God... (II Timothy 3:16).” We know this to be true because God is present to us and we are present to God.
Read the Bible today or tomorrow; and when you read it, don’t rush. A good conversation always has some moments of silence. Often it is in the moments of silence that we hear God most clearly (I Kings 19:9-18).