I recently reviewed the index of the articles on my blog. One article is entitled “Primer on How to Study the Bible.” The link is at: A Primer on How to Study the Bible | Steve Belsheim. After a few years from writing the article, I have a few more observations, etc. about the Bible study process.
In this article I want to reemphasize the importance of praying before engaging the Bible. God is the Author of Scripture. One well-known verse that proves this is 2 Timothy 3:16 (NASB95), which reads:
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
Another verse is 2 Peter 1:21 (NASB95), which reads:
21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
It only makes sense to ask the Author for guidance about what He inspired the human writers to write.
I realize that I must improve significantly this aspect of my Bible study. The pre-study prayer needs to be a major component of my Bible study going forward.
An instructive article (September 21, 2015) by Pastor David Mathis from the desiringgod.org website entitled “Four Prayers for Bible Reading” (link: Four Prayers for Bible Reading | Desiring God) identifies four passages to use in praying before engaging the Bible. My original article briefly discussed all four verses. Here, I discuss two verses; namely, Psalm 119:18 and James 1:22. My plan is to employ diligently these verses to structure my pre-study prayer.
The first verse is Psalm 119:18 in the passage Psalm 119:17–18 (NASB95), which reads:
17 Deal bountifully with Your servant, That I may live and keep Your word. 18 Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.
Let’s dissect this short, but “thick” passage in the context of pre-Bible study prayer. Please note that sources for some of my observations are Bratcher, R. G., & Reyburn, W. D. (1991). A translator’s handbook on the book of Psalms (pp. 1002–1004). United Bible Societies; Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 915). Hendrickson; and PACKER, J. I. (1993). Introduction. In Psalms (pp. 185–186). Crossway Books. Also, I’ll refer to a couple of other translations, which read:
Psalm 119:17–18 (NET) – 17 Be kind to your servant! Then I will live and keep your instructions. 18 Open my eyes so I can truly see the marvelous things in your law!
Psalm 119:17–18 (NLT) – 17 Be good to your servant, that I may live and obey your word. 18 Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.
Verse 17 begins with the expression “Deal bountifully with,” “Be kind to,” or “Be good to.” In the context of a pre-Bible study prayer, this opening expression sets the stage for who I am in Jesus Christ. Before opening the pages of the Bible, I should appreciate that my spiritual life, which comes only with salvation, is through God’s grace. Ephesians 2:8–9 (NASB95) makes this clear:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
It is only through God’s grace that He permits me to continue to grow spiritually. God has dealt bountifully with me to preserve me unto salvation. It only makes sense that I want Him to continue to deal bountifully with me as I engage His written Word.
Verse 17b presents the reason I want Him to allow me to spiritually grow through Bible engagement, and that is to “live and keep Your word.” This means that I want to live a holy life consistent with the proper teachings of God’s Word. The teachings of the Bible are God’s instructions to me so that I can live in a fashion pleasing to Him. While perfection is not attainable during my earthly life, I still want to strive to be holy according to 1 Peter 1:14–16 (NASB95):
14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
I want my life to reflect Jesus Christ so that I am salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) in a spiritually dark world. The way that I accomplish holy living is through obedience to the precepts in God’s Word. In order to obey, I must comprehend the teachings in the Bible.
Verse 18 begins with the expression “Open my eyes.” Here, the “eyes” are the eyes of my heart and my mind. My intellect and heart must be open to comprehend the teachings in God’s Word (i.e., “that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.”) The depth of God’s Word is infinite so that I will always need God to open my spiritual eyes to better and continually comprehend His teachings in the Bible. This is especially the case with respect to the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. God demonstrated His love for me when He provided the one and only plan of salvation through the atoning sacrifice of His only unique Son, Jesus Christ, on the Cross.
My gratitude for Jesus’ sacrifice should cause me to want to better know and obey God’s instructions for living that are found in the Bible. I owe it all to the shed blood of Jesus Christ!! Therefore, I must hunger and thirst to “truly see the marvelous things in” the Bible.
The only way I can “see” or “behold” these awesome teachings in God’s Word is come humbly before Him and ask Him in His mercy to open my spiritual eyes to comprehend and understand His precepts in His Word. Only God can open my spiritual eyes. Just like what happened to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus per Luke 24:45 (NASB95):
45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,
Very briefly, the NASB95 translates the Greek verb diēnoixen as “he opened,” and it means, “33.142 διανοίγωb: to explain something which has been previously hidden or obscure—‘to explain, to open up, to make evident. See Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). In Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 404). United Bible Societies. The NASB95 translates the Greek article and verb tou synienai as “to understand,” and the verb means, “32.5 συνίημιa or συνίω: to employ one’s capacity for understanding and thus to arrive at insight—‘to understand, to comprehend, to perceive, to have insight into.’” See Louw, et al., supra at Vol. 1, p. 379.
In view of Psalm 119:17-18 as seasoned by Luke 24:45, the theme of my prayer should be “O God! You have been so good and loving to save me. Let my gratitude overflow so that I hunger and thirst to know You better so that I come humbly before You asking You to open my eyes to understand and comprehend Your Word!!”
I do not want to gain understanding and comprehension of God’s Word without putting it into practice (i.e., “live and keep Your Word.”). That is why I want to expand on James 1:22 (NASB95), which reads:
22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
Two other translations of James 1:22 read:
James 1:22 (NET) – 22 But be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves.
James 1:22 (NLT) – 22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
The NASB95 translates the Greek verb ginesthe as the ongoing command “prove yourselves,” and it means, “13.3 γίνομαιb: to possess certain characteristics, with the implication of their having been acquired—‘to be.” See Louw et al., supra at Vol. 1, p. 149. The NASB95 translates the Greek noun poiētai as “doers,” and it means, “② one who does what is prescribed, a doer w. obj. gen. (cp. 1 Macc 2:67) Ro 2:13; Js 4:11. (Opp. ἀκροατής) π. λόγου 1:22f. π. ἔργου a doer that acts (opp.: a forgetful hearer) vs. 25.—B. 1299. DELG s.v. ποιέω. M-M. TW.” See Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). In A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 842). University of Chicago Press. Emphasis added. Very clearly, the NET translation presents the theme of v. 22a – be sure you live out the message.
Verse 22b contrasts a mere listener to the one who lives out the message. The NASB95 translates the Greek noun akroatai as “hearers,” and it means:
24.56 ἀκροατής, οῦ m: (derivative of ἀκροάομαι ‘to hear,’ not occurring in the NT) one who hears—‘hearer.’ οὐ γὰρ οἱ ἀκροαταὶ νόμου δίκαιοι παρὰ τῷ θεῷ ‘for not the hearers of the Law are righteous in God’s sight’ Ro 2:13. In rendering Ro 2:13, it may be necessary to specify certain limitations with regard to being ‘hearers,’ for example, ‘for not just those who listen to the Law are righteous in God’s sight’ or ‘for those who merely listen to the Law are not the ones who are righteous in God’s sight.’
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). In Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 282). United Bible Societies. Emphasis added.
The NASB95 translates the Greek verb paralogizomenoi as “who delude,” and it means, “88.153 παραλογίζομαι: to deceive by arguments or false reasons—‘to deceive.’” See Louw et al., supra at Vol. 1, p. 758.
The person of v. 22b listens to the message of God’s Word and deceives themselves into thinking that listening alone is good enough to please God. They do not act on the teaching of the message. I would not be pleasing to God if all I did was accumulate Bible knowledge and not put it into practice in my life.
The theme of my prayer overall should be along the following lines:
O God! You have been so good and loving to save me. Let my gratitude overflow so that I hunger and thirst to know You better so that I come humbly before You asking You to open my eyes to understand and comprehend Your Word!! O Lord. I commit to You that I will practice in my life (and my life will reflect) the teachings from Your Word that You allow me to understand and comprehend.
I hope this article has been of help.
In my earlier post I included an exemplary prayer. I’m not going to do that here. Just take what I have written, and other things God has taught you about Psalm 119:17-18 and James 1:22 and formulate your own prayer from the bottom of your heart
IF YOU ARE NOT A CHRISTIAN
… please (1) read through “God’s Plan of Salvation” so you can understand what God did for you through His only unique Son, Jesus Christ, and (2), from the bottom of your heart, pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” meaning every word. If you do, you will be reconciled to God – saved – through Jesus Christ.
God’s Plan of Salvation
In the beginning, God, who is holy, created the entire universe. As a part of His creative actions, He made humans (male and female) in His image to know Him. For a while, everything was right between God and our ancestors, Adam and Eve. But Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God, whereby Adam’s sin was passed down to all of humanity, creating a separation between God and humanity. We cannot do anything to bridge that separation so that without God’s intervention, hell is our eternal destination. Fortunately for us, in His great love and mercy, God provided us with the only means of salvation through Abraham’s lineage by sending the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, God’s only unique Son. While retaining His deity, God the Son became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, thereby fulfilling the Law, and died a substitutionary atoning death on the cross, taking on Himself the punishment for the sins of all people. Jesus rose from the dead, showing that God the Father accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, thereby exhausting God’s wrath against humanity. God now calls on every unbeliever to repent of their sins and completely trust in Christ alone that Jesus died for their sins and rose to life from the dead. Every unbeliever who repents and trusts in Jesus Christ will be forgiven of all their sins (past, present, and future) and born again as a new creation in Christ, possessing guaranteed eternal life with God.
Scripture References: Genesis 1:1, 26, 31; Habakkuk 1:13; Genesis 2:7-25; Genesis 3:1-7, 22-24; Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:19-20, 23; 5:17-19; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Colossians 1:15; 2:9; Matthew 1:18, 20, 24-25; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:24; Hebrews 2:17; 9:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 1 John 4:10; John 3:16-18; Mark 1:15; Acts 17:30; 26:20; Romans 1:4; 4:25; John 3:5-8; 1 Peter 1:3.
Lord, Jesus Christ, the only unique Son of God, thank You for Your free gift of eternal life. I know I’m a sinner who cannot save myself no matter what I do, and I deserve to spend eternity in hell. But, I know that because You loved me so much, You voluntarily died on the cross for me taking my sins upon Yourself, and You physically bodily rose from the grave showing that Your sacrificial death was sufficient payment to give me eternal life in Heaven. I now repent of my sins and completely trust alone in what You did for my eternal salvation. Please take control of my life as I now receive You as my Lord and Savior. Thank You so much for saving me. I am now Yours forever!
(Scripture references: John 1:1-4, 11-14; John 3:16; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:21-26; Isaiah 53:4-6; Mark 1:15; Acts 16:31; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-10, 13; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; John 10:27-29).
NOTICE OF PERMISSIONS
I am mindful of and respect the rights other authors and/or publishers possess in their works. I thus try my best to not violate any copyright rights other authors and/or publishers possess in their works. The below copyright permission statement is the result of my best efforts to understand that limited usage or “fair use” is available and/or to secure direct permission for specific works. The quotations from commentaries are considered to be “fair use.”
Scripture quotations marked “ESV” are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture marked “NASB95” are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”
Scripture marked “NCV” is taken from the New Century Version. Copyright © 1987, 1988, 1991 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
The Scriptures marked “NET” are quoted are from the NET Bible® http://netbible.com copyright ©1996, 2019 used with permission from Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved”.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scripture marked “GW” is taken from the God’s Word Bible that is a copyrighted work of God’s Word to the Nations. Quotations are used by permission.