Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Devotional Method: Not a Soft Option

I was really excited to take a class about 12 methods of Bible study.  My nerdly heart was imagining stacks of references, scads of highlighters, and a whole new world of knowledge.  So when we started the class with the Devotional Method of Bible study, I felt a little deflated.  What, no Greek lexicon?  Not even a sniff of highlighter?  I blew it off as a soft option.  What I didn't understand is that this most introspective method is what you make it, and if done properly, can be life-changing.

In the devotional method of Bible study, you choose a passage of any length to read and meditate on until you find an application of the passage for your own life.  The goal is to take the Bible seriously and do what it says.

1. Always begin your Bible study with prayer.  Ask God to give you understanding of the passage you are reading.  Just as important, ask him for guidance in applying what you have learned to your life.

2. Meditate on the passage you have chosen to study.  Now, meditate does not mean "empty your mind and chant llama, llama, llama."  (If you need a refresher on that, see our post on the topic of meditation.  And get a good laugh at the mental imagery Helene provided!)  In this case, meditating on a passage of Scripture involves reading it several times and focusing on what it means.  I often write out my first impressions of the Bible verses as I read them as part of this step. This will help me make connections later.

3. Write down how you will apply this passage to your life.  In this method, a Bible study journal (a simple one subject notebook)  is invaluable.  The process of committing your application to ink and paper makes it easier to remember and do.

4. Memorize a verse from the passage that summarizes what you have learned.  There is no better way to fight temptation than to have key Scriptures memorized.  If you have a hard time with memorization, take a week to learn one verse.  Write it several times one day.  Memorize the first phrase the next day.  Keep adding to it each day until you have it down.  You'll surprise yourself at how much you can commit to memory this way!

5. Assess your application in the weeks that follow for success or failure.  This is where the journal really comes in handy.  In a week or so, go back to your notebook and look at how you had planned to apply the Bible to your life.  Were you successful?  If not, why not? 

We don't study the Scripture in order to win Bible Jeopardy or impress our friends with our vast knowledge. We study it so we can live it, and the devotional method of Bible study is a great place to start in learning to put what we have learned into practice.  Below is a link to an example of this method to get you started.  Happy studying!


All methods of Bible study presented in this series come courtesy of Bill and Beverly Watkins, who teach the class at the Nashville School of Preaching and Biblical Studies.  It is shared by their permission with many thanks.

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