For many years I’ve prayed a simple prayer almost every day when reading God’s Word.
There’s a problem with our Bible reading. It’s us.
Last week, I talked about meeting with God in the middle of our busy lives. But the obstacles keeping us from God aren’t just around us—they’re within us.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we bring a lot of baggage into our spiritual disciplines, particularly Bible reading and prayer. Sometimes I get halfway through reading a chapter in my Bible and realize I can’t tell you a single thing I just read.
We have a spiritual attention problem. When we come to God, we’re often distracted—anxious or preoccupied with our thoughts. Now add social media to the mix, and it’s no wonder we struggle to focus for any extended amount of time alone with God.
So what do we do? First, ask—do you believe God wants more out of your Bible reading than distracted participation? He desires to encounter you, mature you, and equip you (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Expect more.
Second, recognize sin as the problem keeping us from God. He isn’t keeping the relationship at arm’s length—we are. As long as sin is in the world, our selfishness is the culprit of our spiritual blindness.
Third, realize Bible reading is a supernatural activity. Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The only way we get the spiritual nourishment God desires for us out of His Word is if He gives it. And He longs to give it.
1. God wants more from your time with Him.
2. Sin blinds us from seeing God clearly.
3. With God’s help we can encounter Him.
I.O.U.S.—Four Daily Prayers
Seeing these truths, here are four simple prayers to help us center our hearts during our time with God. These prayers were first shared by John Piper and have helped me daily see more of God in His Word.
I—Incline my heart to Your testimonies.
Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!
What do you desire? This first prayer is a chance to ask God to turn our affections from everything else that ultimately steals our joy. So I pray, “God, turn my heart from all my other desires and incline it to turn to You today.”
O—Open my eyes to see wonders in Your Word.
Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law.
“God, I recognize that I’m spiritually blind without Your help,” I pray. “Help me to see how amazing You are in the pages of Your Word!”
When we pray like this, we’re asking God to do the very thing He’s written down for us to ask in the Bible. Don’t you think that’s a request God is eager to answer?
U—Unite my heart to fear Your name.
Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
Only one thing can sit on the throne of our lives at a time. Our desires are often divided—we want God, and we want our own way. We need to come against this sinfulness by praying, “God, unite all of my desires to just one—knowing You.”
S—Satisfy me with Your love.
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Finally, simply, and joyfully, ask God to satisfy your heart. He desires to be close to you. He desires for you to encounter Him in your Bible reading. Ask, and He’ll answer.
These four points aren’t a magic formula. Maybe this seems rote to you. Or maybe you have another method you use when reading the Bible (if so, please share in the comments!!).
Whatever the case, remember the point: God wants to encounter You, and the best way to encounter God is to prepare your heart. These four simple prayers are an act of agreeing with God’s desire to meet us. Ask for His help, His illumination, His rule, and His love to wash over your time in His Word. I can’t imagine He’d say no.