Before You Read the Bible, Pause and Pray

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It’s been a hectic week. You hit snooze one more time than you should have. Your to-do list is longer than what one human person can possibly get done in a day. You’re worried about your family, the bills, and the messy house. But you know that you should read the Bible. So you sit down, open it up, and flip to where you left off.

Before you read, pray. Pause. Be still. And pray.

Before you read the Bible, pause to be still in God’s presence.

The same Spirit who inspired the Bible is with you and dwells in you. Pause and be still in his presence. If you only have five minutes to read the Bible, spend the first minute in prayer. If you don’t, you will likely lack the focus and patience necessary to read well.

Here are a few prayers that you can write in the front of your Bible (these are especially helpful when you are so busy, tired, or stressed that you struggle to find the words to pray a prayer of your own):

  1. “I pause to be still; to breathe slowly, to re-centre my scattered senses upon the presence of God.” (Lectio 365 Prayer App)
  2. “Open my eyes to see wondrous things in your word.” (adapted from Ps. 119:18)
  3. “What we know not, teach us. What we are not, make us. What we have not, give us.” (Old Anglican Prayer)
  4. “Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” (Book of Common Prayer, Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent)

You can also draw from these prayers to pray a personalized prayer such as this:

Heavenly Father, I’m restless and stressed about … I confess that I don’t even feel like reading your word today. Please forgive me, and help me to be still in your presence so that I might see wondrous things in your word. Restore my joy and delight in the Bible so that I desire it more than food or water. As my family and my church read, mark, learn, and meditate on the Scriptures today, teach us what we don’t know, make us like Jesus, and give us whatever we need to embrace and hold fast the hope of everlasting life, which you’ve given to us in Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

I’m a Christian and a pastor today because I prayed a simple prayer in high school: “God, if I’m going to read this book, you’re going to have to help me.”

Even if your prayer is simple, pray. I’m a Christian and a pastor today because of a simple prayer that I prayed as a miserable public high school teenager, desperately looking for peace and hope in this world: “God, if I’m going to read this book, you’re going to have to help me.” God opened my eyes to see wondrous things in his word. Studying God’s word and sharing it with others became the delight of my life. God still hears and answers prayers. Before you read the Bible, pause and pray.

Johnathan Arnold
Johnathan Arnold is a husband, father, and aspiring pastor-theologian, as well as the founder and president of holyjoys.org. You can connect with him on Twitter @jsarnold7.