Hope, Pray, Study

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

  • Joshua 1:7-9

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

  • Psalm 1:1-3

Oh, how I love your law!
    I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands are always with me
    and make me wiser than my enemies.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
    for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
    for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
    so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
    for you yourself have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts;
    therefore I hate every wrong path.

  • Psalm 119:97-104

There was a Peanuts comic strip that became a large part of my school life, but I may have missed the meaning – just a wee bit.

The strip shows Charlie Brown clutching his test paper, not knowing if he should turn it in to the teacher just yet, but he is standing next to his desk, ready to turn it in.  He says, “I hope I did good on the test today.”  The next frame is the same, maybe a few extra beads of sweat appearing on Charlie Brown’s forehead, “I pray I did good on the test today.”  And then the final frame zooms out a bit to show Linus next to Charlie Brown, and Linus says, “Hoping and Praying should never be confused with Studying, Charlie Brown.”

I have written about it before that one of my teachers in high school during my senior year told the class that we had one of the highest IQ test scores in this very classroom that the school had ever had, or the highest.  And then he said to not look at the girls who gets straight “A” grades, because that genius is lazy.  Then he turned and stared at me with an angry snarl on his face for far too long.

Hey, I was smart, and I could get a grade in the 90s or even a perfect 100 by skimming over my notes and speed reading the text the night before the exam.  And I am living proof that no one is perfect.  I felt a good night’s sleep, so that my brain functioned better, was far more important than burning the midnight oil to carefully study every nuance of the material.  As a result, I never learned how to study, except …

When I study the Scriptures, I do it so many different ways.  If something is on my mind, I do a word search online.  For the Scriptures above, they are the only Scriptures in the NIV that have the words “meditate” and “law” in them.  Sometimes, I think of a few words, something in the Bible, but I do not have the quote correct.  I will do an online search for that and modify it until I get an answer.  For both of these methods, a wide vocabulary is good to have, that or a thesaurus.

I have read the Bible in a year countless times: 1) Just bullheadedly charging from Genesis through Revelation. 2) Reading one of those daily devotionals that has a devotion and then an OT passage, NT passage, and then something from the OT poetry section. 3) And the chronological arrangement, which I still have on a spreadsheet.

I have immersed myself in an audio Bible, commuting to and from work for about 45 minutes each way or on a long drive for 11-12 hours in one day (with appropriate necessary breaks).

But I think my favorite “study” method is to lay two or three Bibles side-by-side, literally or figuratively or online, and read a few verses at a time in each.  I will use this zig-zag approach until I have read a chapter … maybe less, maybe more. Then wonder why the words are slightly different from one translation to the next.  I never have a timetable.  It might take more than three years to complete the Bible using this method, but I absorb more.

But what I think I missed in what Linus says is that hoping and praying are still important, but nothing replaces studying.  In fact, to study the Scripture, we MUST hope and pray.

We must hope, because without hope we are simply reading words, but with hope that the Holy Spirit will illuminate our minds to something wonderful, it is like we have fallen through the rabbit hole into a wonderful place, a place more real than the real world, and God is right there with us.

We must pray, because we need to keep those communication lines open between us and God.  We read the Scriptures, hoping for illumination, but praying that God will answer our request.  As a result, while still in prayer, but reading, God answers us through His Word, but sometimes, He reveals beyond His Word to reveal a little bit of Himself.  And that revelation may be about something we read a week ago and it has nagged us ever since.

Keep Hoping.  Keep Praying.  Keep Studying.  And do them all at the same time.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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