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Bonhoeffer's Guidelines for Meditating on Scripture

  1. “Meet Him first in the day, before you meet other people. Lay upon him everything that preoccupies and weighs you down, before new burdens are laid upon you. Ask yourself what still hinders you from following him completely and let him take charge of that, before new hindrances are placed in your way.

  2. As you read scripture “Do not look for new thoughts and interconnections in the text as you would in a sermon! Do not ask how you should tell it to others, but ask what it tells you! Then ponder this word in your heart at length, until it is entirely within you and has possession of you.

  3. “What Text and how long should the text be? It has proven helpful to meditate on a text of approximately ten to fifteen verses for a period of a week. It is not good to meditate on a different verse each, since we are not always equally receptive.”

  4. “If during meditation our thoughts move to persons who are near to us or to those we are concerned about, then let them linger there.  That is a good time to pray for them. Don’t pray in general, then, but in particular for the people who are in your mind. Let the Word of Scripture tell you what you ought to pray for them.” (This point I find most useful for keeping on task when your mind wonders as it pulls the passage back to the forefront and refocuses your mind back to the selected scripture).

  5. Bonhoeffer recommends a half hour to get the maximum from your time but also complete quiet so as to remove any distractions. Your aim is to let the Word guide you not any other external triggers like music etc. I hope these five points begin to lay the foundation for building up your personal prayer life. For sure there will be difficulties in this age of distractions. But the rewards are great for those that continue to persevere. Bonhoeffer encouraged his seminarians not to be impatient with themselves, as they began to learn the practice of meditating on scripture. If your thoughts wonder do as the 4th principle wisely instructed and allow wherever your mind has wondered to be part of what your scripture meditation is for that day. By doing this you incorporate the person or place to which it has wondered and it assists in finding your way back to the text. Rob Jr.

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