I’m glad you like the idea of finding guidance for your life in Scripture—where God has always spoken, God does speak still. But you are right: there is a learning curve. It takes a while to get the big picture of things in the Bible. You have to invest some time before it can be much help.
People in our culture also face other obstacles in going to the Bible for guidance: we assume we need to analyze and scrutinize the Bible with our intellect, and then obey the letter of the law.
But what if God wanted to nudge you toward something your academic analytical brain would dislike?
That’s a puzzle: you need an approach to guidance that
- uses the Bible
- overcomes your lack of Bible background, and
- gets around any tendency to intellectualize and legalize.
My go-to guy for this is again St. Ignatius of Loyola. I wrote to you about his practice of the daily “examen” or “examination of conscience” as a way to pick up God’s guidance over time. He also has wisdom about how to hear God’s side of the conversation of prayer through Scripture.
When you came to Ignatius to discern the will of God, he took you on a month-long retreat. The examen helped you understand the Big Question you needed to ask God about. But then Ignatius needed to help you ask the question, and listen to God’s reply.
Ignatius would have you spend a whole lot of that month in what he called “the prayer of the senses.”
He would give you a passage from Scripture, usually a story with Jesus in it. You would study it till you knew it well.
Then you would meditate your way into the passage using your senses one after the other.
- A good hour in the story imagining what your eyes would have seen if you had been there.
- Another good hour imagining what your ears would have heard if you had been there.
- Another good hour imagining what you would taste and smell.
- Another good hour imagining what your body would feel.
By that time you would be totally involved in the story, imagining yourself there as one of the people in the presence of Jesus.
And by that time you would be ready, still using your imagination, to have a conversation with Jesus about your Big Question.
So if you give this a try, take your journal and meditate with all your senses through a story early in John’s Gospel, maybe Nicodemus or the Woman at the Well.
Then write out the conversation you imagine, in the context of that story.
Now Ignatius was no fool. He wouldn’t let you think that what you imagined in this process is God’s word to you, pure and simple.
You need to keep asking the question, in the Bible, using text after text.
Clarity emerges over time, through discernment.
No time to say more today. If you want to explore it, check out my chapter on St. Ignatius in Kneeling with Giants. And let me know how the conversation goes for you!
If you would be interested in jump-starting your prayer life in an online class, click the link below. I’ll let you know next time I offer one.