Friday, November 18, 2011

Mike Bickle's Scripture Reading Technique Applied

Sometime ago I started reading through a book by International House of Prayer founder Mike Bickle. At one point he goes into a semi-lengthy discussion about how it is far more important to methodically pray the Bible than it is to simply study the Bible.
Praying the Word back to God is much different from Bible study. While I am a serious advocate of Bible study, it cannot be mostly about the accumulation of more information and facts. Instead, Bible study must lead to dialogue with God...

Again, Bible study is important. Study alone, however, is not enough, for it fails to bring the presence of God to our hearts. The Bible was meant to be the conversational material that we bring to God. For example, when we read a passage in the Bible that tells us of God's love or mercy, we cannot just underline the passage and move on. It is not enough to just think about the passage or tell others about it. On the contrary, we must turn the words of the Bible into an active dialogue with Him.

Practically speaking, if I am reading a passage such as Psalm 51:1, where David prayed, "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies," first, I thank God, saying "Thank you, God, that You promise to have mercy on me." Next, I ask Him for more revelation. I would pray something like, "Reveal Your mercy more and more to me" and so on. Likewise, if I read a passage like Matthew 22:39 that says, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," I first commit myself to obey it, then I ask Jesus for help. I pray, "Lord, I set my heart to love people." Then I ask the Holy Spirit to help me to love my neighbor well. As I read through the Word, I pause to pray these short phrases to God. Praying the Word helps me to enjoy my times of prayer as He releases more and more of His presence in response to my praying His Word. [pg. 33-34; The 7 Commitments of a Foreunner, 2009]
I decided to try this out myself. So let's see, I'm going to open up my Bible and go to a random verse...ah, here's one, Judges 19:29! All right, here we go...

When he entered his house, he took a knife...

OK, let's see here...Dear Lord, I thank you that you have given this man a house, and that you have likewise given me a house. I also thank you for my knife - in fact I have many knives, so I thank you for your providence in that regard, in that you give to us so much. Please give me more knives so that I may thank you more.

...and laid hold of his concubine...

Huh...OK. Um...Dear Lord, I thank you for giving this man a concubine to lay a hold of, which I assume is in mercy and grace. Please, Lord, reveal many, many, many concubines to me that I may lay hold of them, and show them my knife, so that they may know of your providence and come to a knowledge of your truth.

...and cut her in twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout the territory of Israel.

Wait, what?! Um...Lord I thank you that you have revealed how to cut up concubines, um, may I have a chance to cut up a concubine and send her throughout Israel. Reveal a concubine to me so that I may cut her up and send her via mail to Israel

All right, all right, all right, this isn't working out. Let me try another verse. Ah, here we go, Ezekiel 4:15.

Then He said to me, "See, I will only give you cow's dung in place of human dung..."

Eh? Well all right. Lord, I thank you that you have revealed cow's dung to me in place of human dung. It almost seems like a downgrade, but as you said to the apostle Paul, your grace is sufficient during my suffering, and I know that no matter what kind of dung I have, it will be enough. Please give me strength to get through the dung of life, whether it be cow's dung or human dung.

"...over which you will will prepare your bread."

Uh...Lord, I thank you that you have provided me cow's dung to cook my bread over, may the bread be delicious, and let me make a commitment to always cook my bread over cow's dung...wait...

You know what? I still have faith in the system. I'm going to try one more random verse. Lessee...ah here we go, Matthew 27:5! This is from the Gospels, so it can't possibly be too bad! All right, here we go...

And Judas threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary...

Ah, perfect! Lord, I thank you that you instilled in Judas a sense of repentance. Instill in me a sense of repentance, that I too may cast away the blood money I have accumulated in my life, and cast it before my enemies in their individual sanctuaries!

...and departed; and he went away...

Ah, even more perfect! Lord, I thank you that you not only gave Judas a sense of repentance, but you made him realize he had to not only give back, but turn away from, all that had plagued him. Please, Lord, make me realize that I too need to just depart and walk away from the Sanhedrin in my life. Give me revelation of what sanctuaries I should depart from and go away from.

Awesome! This is working out splendidly! Now, how does this verse end...?

...and hanged himself.


Obviously, this post is written in the spirit of satire. All of the verses I've cited can be understood within their proper context, but you won't be able to understand them by trying to pray over them. That is why I would argue Bible study is far more important than "dialogue." Theology matters, and we can only form our theology from God's revelation, which He has given us that we might understand Him better. As we've seen here, not every verse in the Bible can be turned into an "active dialogue," and even if it can be done in such a way, it does not mean it is meant to be done.

Now, can prayer combined with scripture reading be helpful? Yes of course - it can even be respectful. Charles Spurgeon suggested that we pray before and even after we enter into a study of the word. Most churches, after reading from scripture, give a prayer related to what was read. However, to turn scripture into a kind of meditative therapy where you "dialogue" with God by trying to apply the verse to your daily life is to miss the point of God's revelation, and is in fact closer to mystic paganism than it is historical Christianity.

If you wish to enter into dialogue with God regarding the words of scripture, I might suggest an alternative to Bickle's methods. First, find every passage dealing with God's Law and commands in regards to sin and doing right. Admit before God that you have failed to uphold His Law and stand before Him a sinner worthy of nothing but condemnation and deserving of nothing but hell. Second, read every passage dealing with the righteousness of Christ and His justification of those who repent and believe in Him. Pray to God to give you such repentance that you may be saved, and thank the Lord for His mercy that, though you were a sinner and deserving of the full brunt of God's justice, He has shown mercy upon you by dying and paying for your sins, that you may be presented spotless before the Father on the day of judgment.

God bless.