How you can pray to understand the Bible even better.
How do I pray to understand the Bible?
Do you ever sit down to read your Bible and are excited to uncover what God has to say? Then you read it and wonder how you can apply His words to your life-or even wonder if these specific words are relevant to you right now. Do you wonder, “How do I pray to understand the Bible?”
Reading the Bible and understanding what God’s message is to you can be a challenge.
The books of the Bible were written thousands of years ago. All of the books of the Bible are the inspired Word of God, words He handed down for all of us so we can know Him.
Each of the books was written for a purpose and for a specific people. For example, some of the books of the Old Testament were written as instructions for the Jewish people to teach them how to worship God. The Gospels in the New Testament are books that record events of Jesus’ life on earth, His teachings, and miracles.
Each book was written for a specific audience and for a reason. Even though we may not be in the specific audience a book of the Bible was written for, we can learn from God’s Word about God and about what He was teaching the people at that time.
For example, you are not a Jew traveling with Moses out of Egypt, yet you can learn about God’s great love for His people and see how He keeps His promises to them.
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Say a prayer before studying the Bible.
Before you begin reading your Bible, say a prayer. God inspired the Bible for our benefit. He wants us to know Him and draw close to Him.
Ask Him to help you to read His Word with eyes of faith and a heart open to hear His message to you.
If you want to dive even more into the passages, read the introduction to each chapter and the footnotes you see as you read. These will give you a fuller picture of what was going on when the book was written. It will help you to see how the Bible passages were meaningful to the people at the time. It can also help you to see how you can learn from them in your own life as well.
The book of Jeremiah, for example, is a book about the Jewish people and the prophet Jeremiah. God called Jeremiah as a prophet. He wanted Jeremiah to talk to the Jews (who had turned away from God) and tell them to turn back to God. You may see yourself in Jeremiah’s struggle to do the work he did not feel qualified to do. He initially told God that he was not qualified, but God knew Jeremiah was the right person to do this work. God was with him every step of the way, just as He is with us when He calls us to do something for Him. He is with us in the good moments and in the difficult moments, just like He was with Jeremiah.
Pray for understanding of God's Word.
Not only was God's Word for specific people at the times it was written, but God's Word is also for you individually. God speaks to each of us through His words in the Bible. Sometimes His words just sound nice as you read them; other times His words evoke a response from your heart and you know He is speaking directly to you.
In his Confessions, St. Augustine retells an event that happened to him. He heard a child singing "Take up and read." He didn't pay much attention at first, then he thought it might be a message from God. He found a Bible, opened it up, and read the words before him from Romans 13: 13-14. He felt that these words were a directive to Him form God. From that moment, St. Augustine was ready to turn away from sin and be baptized.
Not all of our encounters with God in His Word will be as dramatic as the experience St. Augustine had, but each one can help us change our lives for the better when we listen to God's Word, allow His Word into our hearts, and make the decision to change our lives for the better.
Prayer can help us to do this. Pray for guidance. Pray for understanding. Pray for the help to make necessary changes in your life so that you may live your life closer to God and His will for you. Pray for greater peace in your heart. Pray for greater love for God and others-including yourself. God hears and answers all of your prayers. He answers them in His way and in His time.
There are Bible concordances (an index of popular terms found in the Bible) and study Bibles available to help you understand the meaning of Bible passages. They can be of great help when you read something in the Bible that you do not understand. Two are the New American Bible Revised Edition Concise Concordance and The Catholic Study Bible.
Recap about how to pray to understand the Bible
Pray before you read the Bible. Ask God to help you to understand what you are reading. Ask Him to help you understand what He wants you to learn from what you read. What message does He have for you in His Word today? What does He want you to understand or apply to your life to help you to draw closer to Him? How can you live your life better based on what you have read?
That is a lot of questions! Just start with prayer. Ask God for help and guidance. He knows what your need right now. He will help you.
Resources to help you as you pray to understand the Bible
Create A Simple Catholic Bible Reading Plan-It is easier than you may think.
Catholic Bible Reflections Ideas-keep track of your thoughts, inspirations, and prayers as you read and reflect on scripture
Learning How to Pray: Lectio Divina-divine reading
A Simple Bible Reading Plan for Beginners- 3 different ways you can read the Bible in just 15 minutes a day
Catholic Spiritual Reading Recommendations-Suggestions to help you find good Catholic spiritual reading books.
The Catholic Journaling Bible has margins for taking notes or drawing out your thoughts and reflections.