One of the things God longs for in the Old Testament prophetic imagination is a people who would know him, love him, and internalize the great principles of a covenant relationship with him. We see this divine longing repeatedly:
- “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezek. 11:19-20).
- “I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jer. 24:7).
- “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33).
In order for us to realize the blessings of this prophetic anticipation, we must become a People of the Book. That involves putting God’s Word, the Bible, at the centerpiece of our lives.
Unfortunately, old habits die hard, and new ones are sometimes even harder. Daily Bible reading is not something that automatically comes naturally to us. You might have to work at it a little before you start to crave it, or before you start to miss it after going a day without it. Fortunately, there are seven simple things you can do that will virtually guarantee success.
Focus on the benefits
The Bible is God’s revealed will, containing vital information God wants us to know, as well as the fuel we need for spiritual growth (2 Pet. 3:18; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:14-17). The Word of God is our night vision goggles. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105). The holy contents of Scripture will help us see through the spiritual darkness that pervades our culture. For the true believer, the Word of God has both immense intrinsic value (“more precious than gold”) and experiential value (“sweater also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb”) (Ps. 19:10). The personal development tools you need to become the servant of God he designed you to be are found therein. When we keep these benefits ever before us, it will be easier to stay motivated, to get past the work and on to the joy of reading the world’s greatest Book.
Find a quiet place and time
“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps. 42:1-2)
You should carve out a time and place where we can be alone with God. Eliminate distractions. This is “alone” time, where God has your undivided attention. You might also want to silence your cell phone during these meetings with God. Can you imagine what the Lord would think if you had to interrupt a message from him in order to give higher priority to a mere human message?
Read 15 minutes a day
Don’t try to do too much all at once. Good habits are formed when we carve out bite-sized commitments over a long period of time. Like the Bereans who searched the Scriptures “daily” (Acts 17:11), I would advise daily devotional reading of Scripture. The average reader can read the entire Bible in a year in just 15 minutes per day. Start out your day opening God’s Book, and you will have the rest of the day to meditate on what you’ve read. Or, better yet, devote ten minutes to God’s Word in the early morning and ten minutes before you retire at night. What better way to start and finish any day!
Keep a spiritual journal
James Altucher suggests making a list every day to unlock your hidden creativity machine in order to be successful in business and in life generally. Making a list of correlated ideas helps to awaken our dormant creative powers. I.e. the simple act of making a list of ideas every day unleashes your creative juices. Now apply the same principle to the most important part of your life, with emphasis on the spiritual.
As you read the Word, take a few notes on the things of God in the text that you see – maybe something that you’ve never noticed before, or perhaps something that you see in a new light. Or jot down the main points in a chapter. Write down a prayer thought or a key verse. Before long, you’ll have a full record of observations and insights that will prove invaluable as you look back on them.
This may be difficult, especially as we age, but for most of us, the memory simply needs to be exercised regularly to operate at peak efficiency. It may be a verse, a short paragraph, a psalm, a prayer thought, or even just a phrase in the daily reading that has special meaning. Give your memory a little workout!
I would suggest that one of the chief ways God puts his law “within” his new covenant people and writes it “on their hearts” is through memorization (Jer. 31:33). A blessing is pronounced on the one whose “delight” is in the law of the LORD, and who “meditates day and night” on it (Ps. 1:2). The Hebrew word for “meditate” here was used not only of imaginative meditation but also of a lion roaring, one in distress groaning, or someone muttering. In the ancient world, silent reading was rare, so people read and even meditated out loud. In fact, I would argue that “the words of my mouth” and “the meditations of my heart” are two sides of the same coin (Ps. 19:14; cf. Josh. 1:8). Therefore, meditate on God’s truth with your lips as well as your heart by reciting it over and over.
Pray the words of the text
While you’re journaling about and memorizing thoughts from your daily Bible reading, make a list of things you’re thankful for, your blessings, and your spiritual and physical needs. But start a prayer using a thought or a specific verse or phrase that comes from your Bible reading that day. Incorporate the very words of Scripture into your prayer! Both Hannah’s (1 Sam. 2) and Mary’s (Lk. 1) prayers are heavily laced with Biblical terms and expressions. Follow their example.
Don’t go into this with low expectations. Make the Psalmist’s prayer your own: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Ps. 119:18). You are embarking on an exciting spiritual journey. Enjoy the ride, takes lots of mental snapshots along the way, and realize that you will be changed for the better. When all is said and done, instead of being “conformed to the world,” you will “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).
At the end of the process, perhaps after years of making these seven suggestions a daily habit, something amazing will happen. You will be recognized as one of those people… a people of the Book!