Third, we must approach the Bible with humility. God gives grace to the humble, and he resists the proud (James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). We do not come to the Bible with confidence in our powers of interpretation; we approach with humble dependence on the God who is eager to reveal himself.
False teaching is spread by a vain interpreter who has “undertaken by his own strength and wisdom to decide authoritatively on the meaning of Scripture; without being aware of the ignorance, prejudice and weakness, which influence his judgment in religious matters; without knowing the utter inability of the natural man to discern the things of God, and without attending to those means the Scripture itself has appointed for the redress of these evils.
And so we approach the Bible with deep reverence and humility in proportion to our self-distrust when handling eternal truths.
Finally, we approach the Bible in prayer. Sincerity, diligence and humility are all gifts from God, and therefore a right approach to Scripture presses us toward prayer. “Prayer is indeed the best half of our business while upon earth, and that which gives spirit and efficacy to all the rest. Prayer is not only our immediate duty, but the highest dignity, the richest privilege we are capable of receiving on this side of eternity.” One of Newton’s hymns captures what we participate in when we pray:
Thou art coming to a King, Large petitions with thee bring;
For his grace and pow’r are such,
None can ever ask too much.
We pray rightly when we pray largely. We approach God as a King only when we pray for things that an all-sufficient King alone can offer, which includes accurate understanding of his Word. Therefore, in light of these prayer privileges, all theological education, our work in the original languages and our access to commentaries will only stoke our pride if we fail to approach the Bible with true sincerity and humility, evidenced in dependent prayer.
With that in mind, Newton can say that the prayerless are “utterly unqualified to ‘search the Scripture.’” Only the prayerful—those whose prayers are properly King-sized—are rightly positioned to dig into and discover and be changed by the magnificent wisdom of God and the precious things of Scripture (Ps. 119:18; James 1:5).
This article originally appeared here.