Thanking God for how involved he is in setting my eyes on Jesus, there are three specific ways I see Bible study helping with this:
1. Bible Study Teaches Me How to Pray.
When I’m digging into the Bible and learning more of God’s heart, I become more confident in asking him for the right things. How comforting it is that studying God’s Word cultivates a right mindset, enabling me to pray according to his will. I’m thankful for Jesus’ words in John 14:13-14, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.”
But praying Scripture isn’t just about receiving some specific thing our hearts long for that God’s Word confirms. No, I think it’s more about the intimacy it creates with the Father than whatever end goal we strive for. Praying Scripture renews the mind. Beth Moore says it well in her book Praying God’s Word,
“In praying Scripture, I not only find myself in intimate communication with God, but my mind is being retrained, or renewed (Rom. 12:2), to think His thoughts about my situation rather than mine. Ultimately, He resumes His proper place in my thought life as huge and indomitable, and my obstacle shrinks. This approach has worked powerfully every time I’ve applied it. It takes belief, diligence, and time, but the effects are dramatically liberating and eternal.”
Additionally, we find helpful examples of effective prayers all throughout the Bible. There’s the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6, and then in Matthew 26 we observe his simple, repetitive cries for deliverance and statements of surrender in the Garden of Gethsemane. I’ve spent portions of the last two years studying the gospel-rich prayers of the apostle Paul sprinkled throughout his epistles. I love seeking out the meanings of these prayer-texts and then turning them into my own heart cries to the Lord.
2. Bible Study Leads Me to Praise.
All of Psalm 119 is one big testimony of praise for the Word of God, but a take a look at these specific verses mentioning the psalmist’s desire to praise God:
“I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules.” (v. 7)
“At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules.” (v. 62)
“Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.” (v. 164)
“My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.” (v. 171)
“Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me.” (v. 175)
A friend recently asked for prayer that she would pursue gratitude and cultivate a discipline of joy, regularly thanking God for his gifts. She also included in that request a conviction to discipline herself in studying God’s Word, and I think it’s the wisest prayer request I’ve heard in a while. I’m certain there’s a connection between developing a heart of praise and spending time knowing God through the study of His Word, but it’s easy to forget. Colossians 3:16 points out this connection, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” How alarming that our best attempts at counting gifts and looking for God’s movement in our lives can be warped by resistance to studying the Bible. Without it, we’re left vulnerable to skewed perceptions of what the Father counts as good. Knowing God’s Word is essential for seeing him work and praising him for it.
3. Bible Study Prepares Me.
Over and over, I’ve seen where time invested in studying the Bible has provided me with tools I would later need for enduring difficult seasons. Sadly, I’ve also found the opposite to be true in my life. Because I tend to overreact, a trial can hit and leave me scrambling for hope – IF my mind hasn’t already been fed with it. I look back at challenging times I’ve faced, and whenever God has mercifully sustained me with peace, I can point to a prior time of studying the Word and remember how it gave me truths to cling to later in the struggle. Because the Bible study habit, though far from perfect, had already been cultivated, I knew his heart better and, as a result, found him trustworthy through the trials. I fear we give up too soon on Bible study.
We stop when the fruit doesn’t immediately blossom, and we forget about the long-term investment of pursuing knowledge of the Word. Consequently, we miss what he wants to provide in the long-run. I’m more aware now of the brokenness and tragedy in the world – every single day (thank you very much, INTERNET) – and I’m reminded constantly by the stories around me that I can never predict what tomorrow will hold. We never know what we’ll be walking through next, and I pray that my time spent sowing in Bible study will reap nourishing soul-food when future trials push me to crave him.
I think this may be what Peter was communicating in his first letter to the suffering, exiled Christians he was teaching, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). He wraps up the chapter with a reminder of the key element for enduring severe testing and refining, quoting Isaiah, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1:24-25). Setting my hope on grace, especially in times of trial, comes by preparing and renewing my mind by the Word.
There’s another kind of preparation Bible study gives, and it has to do with God walking us into our callings and leading us into the works he has planned for us. Not only does Bible study prepare us for what’s hard, it also prepares us for the best things he has in store for us. It’s sweet the encouragement he gives for how we live out the good works he’s prepared for us to do in this world. Hear how Paul said it when he was encouraging the Ephesians elders about their shepherding ministry: “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified,” (Acts 20:32).