When I was online (okay, Facebook) the other day, we were discussing methods of Bible study. The person said that they just pray, read the verse, and God tells them what it means. My response was tentative, because she was wrong on so many levels that I didn’t know where to start without offending her with my reaction. Is “read once and pray” your method of studying the Word? Let me encourage you to reconsider.
To be clear, I have no objection whatsoever to praying before Bible study. In fact, you can and should pray before just about everything! Where the problem arises is when we pray and expect to have the interpretation supernaturally handed to us on a silver platter. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I have been reading and a verse seems to jump off of the page, or suddenly becomes clear. But those times are more a product of study and the pieces finally coming together than an epiphany of some sort. The Word of God is not a pond where the truth rises to the top and is effortlessly scooped off the surface. It is a rich gold mine that has priceless riches that we are to dig deeply into to discover what God has placed there for us.
God has promised to “reward those who diligently seek Him”, and we aren’t doing that when we refuse to put in the work to dig in and discover the depths of the truth. Failure to do the necessary work involved in mining the Word will lead to a life of milk diets at best, and deception at worst. Not every voice you think you hear is from God, but you will never be able to recognize truth without doing the work to let the Word transform and renew your mind. Jesus said to “keep on seeking, keep on knocking, and keep on asking” and that is not a one time experience.
There is also a misperception that it is more spiritual to just pray and ask for illumination than it is to do the work of studying in-depth for yourself. In fact it is less spiritual, because the read and wait method means disobedience to the command of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking. It also means that we don’t believe that God rewards those who “diligently seek Him.” What are you expecting Him to reveal that is not already there? Have you exhausted the text and discovered everything it has to offer? Then why do we go to it and expect new revelation when we have not mastered the truth that He has already revealed?
So do the work and dig into the Word. There is only one way to God, but there are also no shortcuts to studying His revealed will in the Word. Don’t be lazy about your studies. The gold and gems are there, but we must dig them out if we are to appreciate the treasure for what it is. God has promised that you will not come up empty! Doing otherwise doesn’t mean you won’t have any opinions about what the Bible says; it just means you will have a lot of wrong ones.