Recently I was at a women’s theology conference where the focus was on contemplation. Ruth Haley Barton was speaking about our need to pay attention to our God-given desires, so that we could know for what purpose we want to arrange our lives. She discussed spiritual disciplines that believers through the centuries have practiced as a way of opening up to the transforming presence of God. As I listened I felt my spirit start to stiffen in resistance. I like to practice disciplines that are theologically correct and I don’t like going off into a lot of emotion and commotion without any devotion.
Then she said something that captured my attention, “When we engage the Scriptures for spiritual transformation, we engage not only our mind but also our heart, our emotions, our body, our curiosity, our imagination, and our will. We open ourselves to a deeper level of understanding and insight that grows out of and leads us deeper into our personal relationship with the One behind the text. It is in the context of relational intimacy that real life change takes place.”
She went on to clarify the importance of reading Scripture as a love letter from someone who loves you deeply. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures are active, alive, and God-breathed, just It is as Scripture says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” (Hebrews 4:12).
I followed her instruction to experience the Word for myself: Take a moment to become quiet, close your eyes to eliminate the distractions and focus your thoughts inward. Let your body relax and allow yourself to become consciously aware of God’s presence with you.
- First Reading: Pick a Scripture of 4 or 5 verses, maybe a Psalm you particularly like Isaiah 43:1-4 or Psalm 23. Read it out loud, listening for the word or phrase that catches your attention and savor the Word.
- Second Reading: Read the same verses out loud again and listen for the way in which this passage connects with your life today.
- Third Reading: Read the verses again listen for an invitation contained in God’s word to you. Respond honestly to God about what you are hearing. This is a response that flows out of your deepest longing for God.
- Fourth Reading: Read these verses out loud, this time to rest in the word God has given you, knowing that he who has called you will be faithful to bring it to pass (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
I walked away from this exercise with a deep sense of peace and excitement. I wanted to stay in that word the Lord had just given me, resolved to do exactly what He told me to do. I wanted to hold on to it and carry it with me all day and savor the moment of intimacy with God. It was like entering the throne room of God; I did not want to leave. It was like the Lord was giving me a little taste of heaven.
I encourage you to try this discipline for yourself and experience the transforming presence of God. I would love to hear about your encounter with God leave me a comment.