Reading with Jesus

Published 12:28 pm Saturday, March 12, 2016

by Andrew Book

Despite enjoying most classes throughout high school, college, and seminary, any conversation about grammar made my eyes glaze over and my mind wander. There mere thought of having to diagram a sentence made my stomach churn—both because I never really learned how to do it right as well as because I did not see how figuring out direct objects, indirect objects, and especially prepositional phrases really mattered to life. It turns out that grammar does matter, even those painful prepositional phrases! Despite the fact that many of them are no more than two letters, prepositions matter.

When I began my seminary work after college, I stepped from learning English grammar into the world of Hebrew and Greek grammar (the languages most of the Bible was originally written in). As we slogged through the challenge of translating Greek texts (I love Hebrew, so that was never “slogging” for me, but Greek is another story!) and we wrestled with how best to translate some of the prepositions, I came to realize that prepositions do actually matter—they matter quite a bit! The difference in one preposition is the difference between having your dinner “on” the table or “under” the table. It is the difference between having your hat “on” your head, “in” your head, or even “through” your head!

Prepositions matter in the way that we approach how we think about what we are doing when we read scripture as well. Are we reading “about” Jesus? Are we reading “because of” Jesus? Are we even reading “instead of” seeking Jesus? My hope for us is that, while we might read “about” Jesus and “because of” Jesus, that the preposition which would come to dominate how we think about reading scripture is that we read “WITH” Jesus.

When I say that I want us to read “with” Jesus, my hope is that reading scripture can become a prayerful conversation between us and God. Simply gathering information “about” God and the life of faith does not change us—and the task of scripture is to change us.

The one who changes us is Jesus, and as we invite him to walk with us as we read scripture, we will begin to enter into the world of scripture in ways that help us realize that scripture has the power to change and shape our lives today. My hope in this column is to give you some tools for how to read scripture prayerfully, as a conversation with Jesus, and not just as a way to gain information about who he is.

First, set aside time so that you have dedicated time to read scripture without concerns over the other tasks you need to accomplish. Even if this is only 10-15 minutes, having time that is focused will help you to read with Jesus. You may find it is helpful to set a timer if you have a lot of other tasks crowding your mind so that you aren’t worried about missing the event you have next. A timer allows you to be totally focused on the scripture at hand because you know the timer will let you know when you need to move to the next part of your day.

Next, take a few moments to focus yourself on God before you begin. Do this by taking a few deep breaths and offering a simple prayer such as “Lord, here I am to listen. Speak to me your words of life!” I find that the practice of breath prayers to be helpful. Breath prayers combine the first phrase of the prayer (“Lord, here I am to listen”) with a deep breath in and the second phrase (“Speak to me your words of life”) with breathing out. Repeating this breath prayer a few times helps me to focus myself on God as I open the Bible.

Third, read the Bible as a conversation. Feel free to ask God questions as you read a passage of scripture. If you don’t understand something, say so. If you don’t see how a story applies to your life, offer that question as a prayer. Then, as you go through your day meditating on the scripture you just read (meditating on scripture was last week’s column—email me if you missed it and want to catch up!), you will find that God responds. The answers rarely come immediately and almost never come in the form of a voice from heaven, but God is constantly speaking to us—through friends or family members, through the world around us, and through the challenges in our lives—and when we are seeking God and reading scripture with Jesus, we will find that those answers come much more frequently!

If you bring these three tips with you to reading scripture, they will take you a long way towards reading with Jesus. We will be talking more about how we read scripture this Sunday at Courtland United Methodist Church. If you want to worship with us come by at 11 am! You will also find our reading plan for reading through the Gospel of John and John’s letters during Lent on this page. The sections are short so you can take your time, read with Jesus, and hear what God is saying through scripture!

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or

Reading Plan for the Book of John

• Saturday, March 12, 2016 – John 21
• Sunday, March 13 – 1 John 1
• Monday, March 14 – 1 John 2
• Tuesday, March 15 – 1 John 3
• Wednesday, March 16 – 1 John 4
• Thursday, March 17, 2016
1 John 5
• Friday, March 18 – 2 John 1
• Saturday, March 19 – 3 John 1
• Sunday, March 20 – Luke 19
• Monday, March 21 – Luke 20
• Tuesday, March 22 – Luke 21
• Wednesday, March 23 – Luke 22:1-6
• Thursday, March 24 – Luke 22:7-71
• Friday, March 25 – Luke 23
• Saturday, March 26 – No reading. Scripture is silent on this day.
• Sunday, March 27 – Luke 24

Eat this Book!
Tips for reading:
• Before you read, set aside any “goals” you have for reading and open yourself to what God might want to say to you. Offer this simple prayer: “Lord, here I am to listen. Speak to me your words of life!”
• Plan time in your day to read. The readings are not long, so 10-15 minutes is sufficient, but 20 minutes will give you more time to reflect and chew on the words you read.
• As you read, do not rush. It is better to sit with a single verse of scripture for five minutes (if that is all the time you have!) than to rush to “finish” the reading.
• Handle the scripture gently. Don’t force it to mean something you want it to say. Instead, simply listen.
• As you read the passage, make a note of any verses that stand out to you. Come back and re-read these verses a few times. “Chew on” these passages by meditating on what they mean and savor what they are saying!
• Pray the text. Read it to God and lift to God in prayer those people and situations that come to mind as you read.
• Live the text. As you meditate on scripture, ask “how does this shape my life?” Consider what actions God is inviting you to take in response to these words.
May God fill you and change you as you eat this book!