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Inscribed on the Heart

Bible teacher Priscilla Shirer discusses the best ways to study the Bible for life-change.

Even in a brief conversation with Priscilla Shirer, you realize she doesn't just talk about the importance of knowing the Bible, she lives it—passionately. A Bible teacher, she regularly appears alongside Beth Moore and Kay Arthur at conferences, and has written several bestselling books, including Life Interrupted: Navigating the Unexpected (Broadman & Holman). She and her husband, Jerry, also co-founded Going Beyond Ministries.

Not only is she sharp in her Bible knowledge, she also clearly understands the difficulties of finding balance between pursuing spiritual disciplines and handling everyday chores.

"The enemy wants to put guilt on us, so that we think only spending three minutes in God's Word or having a card with a Scripture verse pasted to a mirror is trivial and won't make a difference," Priscilla says. "But God knows where we are and delights in us. He loves that one little verse being inscribed on our hearts and is using it to speak to us in the regular rhythms of our lives." Here's what else Priscilla shared with TCW about the spiritual practice of Bible study.

How should we prepare before we dive into Scripture?

Go to the Scriptures with an expectant heart that you can and will hear the voice of God speaking clearly to you. Don't approach it as something just to check off the list.

We get so used to approaching God's Word with familiarity and casualness that we forget that it's not just a historical book, but illuminated by the Holy Spirit. He causes it to become specific to our lives—living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).

Prayerfully say, Lord, you know what I'm going to face today, this week, this month. I'm expecting you will have divinely set in place what I need to be equipped.

What's the best way to study the Bible?

Study an entire book of the Bible from beginning to end, so that when you come across verses that speak to you intimately and personally you have a context for their meaning. It will be more deeply engrained in you because you have a setting. It also keeps us from the error of taking things out of context just because we want them to align with what we're thinking sounds nice for the day or coincides with the plans we've already made.

I spent two years in the Book of John, because as a mom with three small children I can't read a whole chapter or two in a sitting. But I can take a verse or two and really meditate on it.

I write one or two verses and put them on the bathroom mirror, above my dashboard, and over the kitchen sink. Those are my verses for the week. So everywhere I go, I look at those verses. By the end of seven days, they've become intertwined with my life.

That's the purpose of studying God's Word. When God told Joshua to meditate on the Scriptures day and night (Joshua 1:8), he wasn't saying scan over these passages quickly, and only when you feel like it. He was saying to make sure it's planted deeply in your heart and mind. That means we have to take time to deliberately, consciously allow these words to be ingrained into our regular life rhythms.

So it's not flipping open the Bible and hoping to hear a word from God?

[Laughs] We need an arsenal of Scripture already in our hearts before we need a word from the Lord. Of course you can dive into the Scripture when you're in need at that moment, but don't take it out of context. It's better to meditate on passages when we're not in need so that when we are, the Holy Spirit can bring them to mind. That's when you can be confident that it's God's work and not you artificially choosing things on a whim.

If we get lethargic in our Bible study, what can reenergize us?

The Holy Spirit. You can't manufacture passion for God and his Word. Take your indifference to him as David did in Psalm 119, "Incline my heart to your testimonies and away from dishonest gain. Turn my heart away from looking at vanity and revive my heart in your ways" (NASB). David is saying, "I need you to give me some passion about your Word. It's not there on its own, God. I need you to revive my heart to your ways."

What should be our goal in Bible study besides accumulating knowledge?

I've been in church all my life and know a lot of Scripture, but for most of my life, there was a disconnect between what I knew to be true and what I believed to be true for me. I knew God had power to divide the Red Sea and raise Lazarus from the dead, but I didn't believe that same power was available for me.

What a tragedy if we have all this information but don't allow it to travel the 18 inches between our head and heart, so that it actually makes us trust him for our Red Sea or Lazarus situations.

If we just read all that stuff but then don't actually make our requests known to God because we don't believe it will happen for us, then we've missed the whole point. It was written so that we'd know the power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power in our lives now.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Ginger E. Kolbaba

Ginger Kolbaba is the author of Desperate Pastors' Wives and The Old Fashioned Way. Connect with her on Twitter @gingerkolbaba.

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