The Bonhoeffer Project: A Simple Spiritual Practice

The Bonhoeffer Project: A Simple Spiritual Practice

When we read Scripture, do we allow it to read us?  Do we allow it to go through us and cut us, to provoke, challenge, and comfort us?  The writer of Hebrews says, “For the word of God is alive and powerful.  It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow.  It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”  Do we allow voice of the Holy Spirit?  As with food, it’s not just what you consume, it’s what your body can process; after all, we know that many vitamins pass through our body without actually  nourishing us.  So we must develop practices that can help us receive and process the words of Scripture until it becomes the Word of God within us. 

As an example, here is a simple practice for allowing the Scripture to become the Word of God for us:


Choose a passage of Scripture that is anywhere from about 5-15 verses.  You can choose any passage, though I wouldn’t start with a genealogy or the Levitical Code.  Contrary to popular teaching, while all Scripture is inspired and useful, it’s not all equal for instruction.

For this exercise, you will read through the passage three times.

  1.  The first time, read slowly, but without stopping.  After the last verse, pause and breathe deeply as you reflect on the passage.  What do you notice in your mind?  In your body?
  2. Read again, more slowly.  This time, notice words or phrases that strike and breathe.  Let your body rest. Notice if you are becoming aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  You may feel a warmth in your body or a quieting of your mind.  You may experience your mind jumping here and there, struggling to focus.  Notice and then attend to what you notice.  In other words, don’t judge yourself or the experience; just be in it.
  3. Read a third time, and this time, listen for the voice of the Spirit speaking to you through the text.  What do you hear Jesus speaking?  See if you can hear the whisper that says, “I am with you; I am here; You are mine.”  Again, pause and breathe.  Finally, pray in response to the Scripture.  Your prayer may be as simple as “help me, Jesus” or “show me how you are with me,” or “help me to love as you love.”  Try to put some simple words to whatever  longing rises up in you.

As you practice a slow reading of Scripture daily and weekly, according to the exercise above or some other manner, you will become more comfortable being in the tension of reading and listening.  You will begin to notice themes that emerge.  Over time, you will learn how you become more aware of and hear the Spirit of Jesus through text.

-excerpt taken from “Learning to Live and Love Like Jesus” by Brandon Cook