With St. Ignatius “whose heart was
always striding forth in eager desire
for Jesus.” (From the plaque)
Do you ever feel like your devotional life has become dry and lifeless, like a hot summer day? You try to read God’s Word, and you try to pray. But you feel like you’re spiritually wilting away inside. I’ve been there, many times. But recently I discovered a way to experience personal Bible reading revival that surprised me because it was so simple.
Here’s what happened. I went on a 3-day silent retreat at a Jesuit Center near Reading, PA. I’ve taken personal retreats before and usually I study a book of the Bible then pray for long chunks of time. But this time I was tired and stressed out, and had to force myself to go. When I arrived, I struggled to get into retreat mode, but it just wasn’t happening. I was sitting there in a daze.
So I gave up and went for a walk. After a while I stopped and began reading the Psalms aloud, beginning with Psalm 1. No thinking, no analysis. I just read aloud with expression, then moved on to the next one. I was amazed at how that simple practice made the Bible come alive again for me. Then I started praying aloud too. And the more I read and prayed aloud, the more I felt God was present with me, and that we were having a dialog.
By the end of the 3 days I had done a lot of walking, and a lot of Bible reading and prayer outside. I made it all the way to Psalm 81. I learned that experiencing God’s presence comes in “moments,” 5 minutes or so when I become very aware of the Spirit’s presence. Those are times of pure joy and renewal. But then, the moment dissipates and I realize I’m thinking about golf, or work, or something I want to buy. My attentiveness to God drifts. Instead of feeling guilty, I just say, “OK, that’s it for now…”, and get up and walk to a new place and begin again.
If you’re experiencing the dog days in your devotional life right now, I’d encourage you to take a walk with a small Bible and begin reading it aloud and talking to God. You’ll be amazed at how soon you’ll feel in step with the Spirit once again (Galatians 5:25).