Growing up Catholic, I never read the Bible except at Mass. It wasn’t until I started studying theology in college that I began to dive into the Word. But Scripture still didn’t come alive for me until my semester abroad, when I received the Holy Spirit in a new and profound way. Once I deepened this tuning in to the Spirit, Scripture was no longer a book of past events, but a “living and active” Word of God that has relevance to my own life as well. I will never forget that semester, sitting in the little Adoration chapel opening my Bible and discovering new Scripture verses that spoke so directly to my heart. I drank it in like life-giving water to my soul.
There are many ways to pray with Scripture. It can be in a more formal sense, such as reading the Mass readings each day or reading through a certain book of Scripture. You could possibly even read it cover to cover, like we would any other book. But Scripture isn’t a normal book. My favorite way to pray with Scripture is what some call with affection (and others disdain) bible roulette. It’s saying a prayer to the Holy Spirit and opening to a random page of Scripture, and reading whatever your eyes fall upon. While God has spoken to me this way many, many times, there is definitely a way to abuse it which is why some are so leery of it. To be clear, you shouldn’t base any huge life decisions on a single bible roulette experience. Common sense always has to be taken into account, as well as proper discernment. Plus, you may get one of those graphic battle passages in the Old Testament, and then what? If anything though, it’s a fun way to get to discover different parts of Scripture.
Scripture has something for everyone, going through any stage in life. There are passages of triumph, grace, sadness, despair, pain, suffering, resurrection, and conversion. The Psalms specifically have about every emotion known to man in them. So don’t think you only read the Bible to strengthen virtue. You can also use it to pray with your pain and your frustration with either God or others. You’ll be amazed at the comfort it brings.
But we are not just meant to be hearers of the Word, we are also meant to be doers of the Word (Matthew 7:24-27). It means the difference between building our foundation on sand or rock. The Word of God is “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) Jesus himself tells us that we are only truly His disciples when we live in His Word, which will allow us to know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32)
This obviously means that we should live out what is in Scripture, and not just listen to it. But what if it goes deeper? What if we also used Scripture to root out the lies in our own lives? What if we could use Scripture as a weapon of sorts, to shield and strengthen us? This is the sharp two-edged sword that St. Paul writes about. The words of God, the words of truth, have the ability to cut right to our hearts and chop away any of the cobwebs or strings of lies that may be growing there. This truth sets us free.
You can use Scripture in this way by practicing something called rhema. Rhema is the Greek word for the spoken word. It is the word used in the Bible to describe the breath of God or the word of God. This divine outbreath is what spoke creation into being and filled Adam’s lungs and soul with life. The practice of rhema means speaking Scripture out loud. It holds an extra power when we do this, cuts to our hearts in a deeper way. You can choose one specific verse to focus on for a day or for a week, like a mantra. A priest taught this to me at college, and I’ve seen lives changed through it. It helped a friend of mine to beat an eating disorder, and has broken many others free from the harmful lies they believed about themselves in their heart. For instance, do you believe you’re not worth anything? Repeat to yourself under your breath, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)
Reflect: What is your relationship with the Word of God? Are you just a Hearer of the Word, or are you also a Doer? Have you always wanted to be a lover of Scripture, but just couldn’t seem to get there? Take a moment to ponder how all of Scripture is one big love story of God chasing humanity and bringing us into covenant with Him. If you want to learn how, consider buying the book Walking with God by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins.
Act: Ask for the Holy Spirit to fill you with a love for Scripture. Try praying at least once a week with Scripture, either the bible roulette version or a more formal, organized version. (Note: praying with Scripture is different than studying Scripture). You may also choose a Scripture verse once a week to practice rhema with. Write it on a sticky and tape it to your bathroom mirror, desk at work, etc! Need help finding the right verse? Check this out or Google “Bible verses for ____” depending on what emotion, lie, or suffering you might need help with. Then let the Truth set you free.