Last week we looked at how Bible journaling can refresh your quiet time. If your quiet time is feeling stale, another technique you can try is reflective reading.
Reflective reading, or what some call contemplative reading, is a way of approaching Scripture through reflective listening. The emphasis is on reading deeply rather than thoroughly. Instead of approaching the Scripture to ferret out every nuance and nugget of theological truth, reflective reading is a posture of relational reading in which we intentionally approach Scripture in order to hear from God.
I deeply value exegetical study, and I never teach or write on a passage without doing serious exegesis. But I find reflective reading valuable for devotional purposes. It allows me to set aside all the experts and debates and simply present myself before God, ready to hear from him through his word. I also find that reflectively reading the passage prepares me for the process of exegetical study, letting me first encounter the passage as a listener rather than as a student. Before I can teach what a passage should mean to anyone else, I first need to understand what it means to me.
I practice reflective reading with three steps: Rest, Reflect, and Respond.
I begin reflective reading by first reading the passage aloud, then resting quietly in God’s presence. Sometimes I begin this time by praying a prayer based on Romans 12:1 in which I present all of myself to God for his service:
Lord, I give myself to you as a living sacrifice. I give you my mind that I may understand your truth. I give you my eyes that I may see with spiritual sight. I give you my ears that I may hear your voice. I give you my mouth that I may speak as you would have me speak. I give you my hands that I may serve as you would have me serve and my feet that I would go where you would have me go. I give you my heart that I may love as you love. May all I am and all I have be for your glory. Amen.
This time of resting in God’s presence is not a time for going over my prayer list or for digging out the nuances of the passage. It’s simply a time of practicing silence and stillness as I prepare to hear from God.
As I begin to reflect on the Scripture, I read the passage aloud for a second time, paying attention to questions that arise as I read or phrases that are highlighted in my attention. For example, in reading Acts 9:10-19 I was struck by the phrase “there was a disciple.” Meditating on that phrase led me to consider how often when God wants to work he starts with a disciple and the difference that being a disciple makes. If I’m reading a story from the gospels, I may imagine myself as part of the story, trying to picture what it would be like to be there with Jesus watching him heal and teach. If I’m reading from the Psalms or Epistles, I may personalize the passage by putting my name in it or read it several times, emphasizing different words on each reading. As I reflect on the passage I like to record my thoughts either through Bible journaling or by jotting down notes in my journal.
I end my devotional time with a time of response. I read the passage aloud for a third time, then turn my observations and questions about the passage into prayer. Sometimes this is a prayer of praise; sometimes it’s a prayer of commitment or confession. This is a time in which I respond to what God has spoken to me through his word. I find I pray better with a pen in my hand, so I often write out my prayer of response in my journal.
You can practice reflective reading with Luke 9:40-56. Read the passage aloud three times, walking through the steps of resting, reflecting, and responding. Share your thoughts in the comments.
Mail chimp form