If you’re like many Christians, you’ve been or are currently discouraged by your current practices when it comes to reading the Bible. You may find that you make a commitment to read more regularly but struggle to carry out the discipline. Or just minutes after reading a chapter of the Bible you couldn’t really say anything meaningful about what you just read.
What if you could more consistently hear from God as you read his Word (the Bible)? The following approach will help you to read the Bible in a way that leads to hearing from God, personal application and life transformation.
Key to the success of the HEAR. technique is that you journal. You can do this in the pen and paper fashion, use your computer and keep a digital journal using a word-processor or application, or type out a note right from your phone. If you’re not “the journaling type”, get over it. It’s worth the effort! Also, journaling could be as short and simple as writing down a few sentences. There are tremendous benefits to using the HEAR journaling technique with your daily devotions.
Whether you’re reading through a chapter a day, or on a Bible reading plan that takes you through the Bible in a year, you can apply this technique to your study time.
4 Key Elements to HEAR from God in the Bible
The step before the four steps is to always begin with prayer. You might want to pray something like one of these prayers:
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law (Word)”Psalm 119:18
“Lord open my eyes in faith to see you, the risen Christ. Touch my heart so it burns within me at your presence. Enlighten my mind, opening up to me the Scriptures as I read your Word.”Micah, (Motivated by Luke 24)
As you read through your daily reading, allow God to speak to you. Listen for a verse or phrase from your reading that stands out to you. One helpful approach to this is to listen to or read the same section a second time. The first time through, you’re getting an idea of the passage. The second time through you might more easily listen/look for a particular phrase or verse that stands out to you. Essentially, you’re asking God to highlight for you one part of his Word you’re reading. You may want to actually highlight that in your Bible or app.
Think about the actual meaning of the text you read. You can actually write down a sentence or two if you’re journaling through each step. This isn’t the time for a deep dive study, just do you best to explain briefly what the text means. Write out a description about the setting or context of what you read. Here are a few questions you can ask to help out:
- What’s going on? Who’s doing what?
- How does this verse fit with what is written before and after?
- Who was this originally written to?
- Why would God have included this particular verse in the Bible?
Hopefully by this point you are beginning to understand the specific word that God is speaking to you through your reading. The next step will help you clarify that further.
Explain helps you understand what the text means. Apply is your way of stating what God, through the text, is saying to you. This is the heart of the HEAR process! Sometimes this personal level of hearing from God happens before you ever do the Explain step. When that happens, great! Hang on to that insight as you work through the Explain step. If you’re journaling, you’ll write down your personal application of God’s word.
Again, in apply you are answering the question, what is God saying to me? If you’re still trying to clarify this step, the following question can help:
- How does this passage apply directly to my life?
- Is there something this is calling me to know or do?
- Is there a truth or promise I can hold on to?
- Is there something about God I can celebrate?
The final step in the HEAR process is to Respond to what you heard! This can take many forms.
- One great approach is to respond in prayer, thanking God for what he has revealed to you through his Word. Taking time to pray over the passage by thanking God and worshiping Him for who He is, what He has done, and what He is still going to do.
- You might make a commitment (based on what you heard) to take a certain action.
- You can meditate on what you are hearing, giving God extra time to clarify what He is saying or what you should do. I have found that by doing my daily devotional in the morning first thing, I have time to let what I’m wrestling to hear or understand ruminate in my mind and heart while I get ready for my day. Perhaps you have a morning commute to work that can double as an extension of your Respond time.
HEAR Journal Example
The following is an example of a morning I journaled out my daily devotional using HEAR:
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39, 40 ESV)
The Jews were looking for a good thing the wrong way. I think of the old song “looking for love in all the wrong places…” They are looking to the Scriptures, hoping and believing that the law holds the key to eternal life. The fact is that the Scriptures all point to Jesus!
Sadly it is possible to do something quite similar even as a Christian. One can read the New Testament Scriptures and not glorify Jesus in them. In my own life I have at times made Scripture an idol. I have sought them as life in themselves, rather than as the words of God–who gives life, through Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible by itself is not the source of life, Jesus is.
Jesus I need your life and your strength today. You are better than anything else that I could desire. Help me to really love you more than anything in my life. I trust you to provide everything I need in this life, and I remind myself today that you are enough!