My 25-year-old son, who’s a photojournalist for a missions organization, was in town last week. He was traveling between India and Nicaragua, and so he had to pass through Batavia, Illinois. (Check it out on a map. I’m sure you’ll see our home in Batavia on a straight line between Delhi and Managua.) We loved having the time to catch up with Andrew, but as frequently happens after one of his visits, I found myself wishing that we’d spent more time together in prayer.
And this is not just a post-Andrew-visit reflection. I all too often feel the same way after hanging out with Christian friends over dinner in a restaurant, or at the end of an evening spent together at a symphony concert or Bulls game. Why didn’t I suggest that we engage in a few minutes of prayer before parting company? We certainly talked about enough things—kids, jobs, evangelistic opportunities, personal challenges—that would warrant interceding for each other.
When I read Acts 1 this past week, I was struck by the fact that these first century Christ followers, immediately after Jesus’ ascension to heaven, regrouped in Jerusalem, where they all joined together constantly in prayer (Acts 1:14). Jesus had told them to wait in town for the Holy Spirit—and this is how they chose to spend their time while waiting: in prayer.
What a great idea for a group activity! It beats going to a ballgame, playing Bunko, eating out at the new Mexican restaurant or shopping the mall with Christian friends. Not that there’s anything bad about those kinds of activities. But there’s something so purposeful and life-giving about praying together—it’s a shame we don’t do more of it. I want to do a better job of including it on the agenda when I’m hanging out with my buds.
In the opening line of my last paragraph, I noted that I was struck by the fact that … This is the fourth kind of observation that I would encourage you to make while reading any passage of Scripture. What strikes you in that text? What jumps off the page? You might not always be able to immediately identify why a certain phrase or verse grabs your attention. But underline it or put a check mark next to it in the margin. Then keep on reading the day’s passage.
When you’re done reading, go back to those places you’ve highlighted and chew on them for a few minutes. Why did you find them particularly interesting? There’s a good chance that God’s Spirit is drawing you to some truth that he wants to apply to your life.
If you’ve been following this blog (or reading my book, Walk), you now know the four kinds of observations that I encourage you to make while daily reading the Bible:
Truths about God
Repeating words or ideas
Something that strikes you
It’s worth writing down these four categories on the inside cover of your Bible, or in the notebook where you jot down your insights from God’s Word. I’m not suggesting that you always need to make numerous observations in each of these categories every time you read the Bible. That would be exhausting. But if you’ll regularly conclude your reading with two or three observations—overall—you’ll be well on your way to applying something from that passage to your life.
Here’s a bonus thought from this week’s reading of Scripture Union’s schedule (see the Resources tab on this website for a copy of that schedule). Today’s passage, Acts 2:37-47, repeatedly uses the word together. Did you notice that? Since I was looking for repeating words or ideas, I wrote this down in my journal. Together. I won’t tell you what I drew out of it for my life—I just want to help you, at this point, make observations.