By Anne Graham Lotz
As I have grown older, I’m embarrassed to confess that I seem to be getting harder of hearing. I have had the awkward experience of conversing with people, seeing their mouths move, yet not really being able to hear what they were saying. This is especially true if someone speaks softly.
I used to have a similar experience when I read my Bible. I have always loved reading it, but I didn’t always “hear” God speaking to me. It’s as though I knew his mouth was moving—he was saying something because the words were on the page—but I couldn’t really hear what he was saying. That changed when I started applying a simple form of meditation to my Bible reading. It has transformed not only my daily time with the Lord but even my life, as I am now able to hear when he speaks softly in his gentle whispers.
Each morning, I set aside time to read my Bible. The passage of Scripture that I read is not a randomly selected portion of God’s Word; instead, it’s a book of the Bible that I have felt God leading me to work through from beginning to end. But my aim is not to get through the book. My aim is to hear the Spirit’s whispers as I read. So I don’t tackle an entire chapter each morning, as that would become a time-consuming burden. I focus on just one paragraph of verses. The next morning, I pick up where I left off and meditate on the paragraph that follows the one I worked through the previous morning. As I read the paragraph of verses, I ask four questions of the text.
The first is, What does God’s Word say? To answer this question, I reread the verses, then list in my notebook the outstanding facts that I find in them. I do not paraphrase, which would be to put words in God’s mouth. I just omit some of the “extra” words or descriptions, like adjectives and prepositional phrases, then focus especially on nouns and verbs as I pinpoint exactly what the facts are.
The second question is, What does God’s Word mean? To answer this I go back to my list of facts and try to learn something from each one. I look for a command to obey, a promise to claim, or a warning to heed. I also look to see what the people are doing or saying that I should also do or say . . . or that I shouldn’t do or say. Then I write down the lessons in my notebook verse by verse.
The third question is, What does God’s Word mean in my life? This is where so often I begin to hear the Spirit’s whisper. Because the answer to this question is found when I go back to the lessons I’ve written down and rewrite them in the form of questions I would ask myself or someone else. It’s amazing to me that as I’m writing out the questions, I often hear the Spirit whispering his comfort, instruction, warning, encouragement, or answers to my private prayers. This doesn’t happen every morning, but it does happen more mornings than not.
The fourth question is, What is my takeaway? I write down whatever God seems to have said to me to make sure that I am applying what he has said, then live it out. I date it to hold myself accountable to follow through in obedience. Then I conclude in prayer as I talk to the Lord about what I’ve just read.
In my private devotions, I am in the Gospel of John. I have drawn from it for the following example in order to lead you through this exercise.
This exercise is simple but challenging in that it requires you and me to think for ourselves. It effectively removes the “middleman” and allows us to hear directly from the Spirit through God’s Word. Don’t be intimidated. Some days I have a hard time getting the lessons from the facts, and some days it seems easier. And the Spirit doesn’t seem to whisper to me every day. But meditating on his Word as I listen for his voice has transformed the time I spend with him.
Remember, Jesus said, “The Holy Spirit . . . will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26) So before you read your Bible, pray and ask him to teach you through it. He’s eager to get started.
The above article is excerpted from Jesus in Me: Experiencing the Holy Spirit as a Constant Companion (Multnomah Books, 2019). Copyright © 2019 by Anne Graham Lotz. Used by permission of Multnomah Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. www.waterbrookmultnomah.com. Pages 242-246. All rights reserved.
[Also see the Religion News Service interview: Anne Graham Lotz, a year after breast cancer diagnosis, says joy ‘never left me’]
BIO: Anne Graham Lotz, called “the best preacher in the family” by her late father, Billy Graham, is an international speaker and the bestselling, award-winning author of numerous books, including her latest Jesus in Me. The New York Times named Anne one of the five most influential evangelists of her generation. She’s been profiled on 60 Minutes and has appeared on programs such as Larry King Live, Today, and The Sean Hannity Show. Anne is the president of AnGeL Ministries in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the former chairperson for the National Day of Prayer.
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