Listening to God Through Reading

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In my last blog post, I talked about the challenge of making time for pastoral reading. I figure that all pastors need mentoring in leadership and preaching, so reading books on the topic are important.  So I continue to carve out 15-30 minutes a day for pastoral/professional reading. 

But today I want to talk about another kind of reading that we may need even more: spiritual reading. I recently attended a conference on spiritual leadership. The conference teacher, the Rev. Dr. N. Graham Standish, encouraged us all to read many books on leadership. But he also encouraged us to spend considerable time reading books spiritually. So what does this mean? To read a book spiritually is to read it for spiritual formation. It is to read a book appreciatively, not critically. It is to read a book for inspiration, not information. It is to read a book with this question in mind: “What is the Lord saying to me through this reading?” Standish says that the Lord is continually speaking to us through our reading—of God’s Word and other spiritual/devotional books. The question is: are we listening?

Spiritual reading is about quality, not quantity. Yes, I still feel compelled to chip away at my pastoral reading list. But even more I want to rest in God’s presence and hear what he is saying to me through spiritual guides of past and present. So I’ve begun to set aside at least 30 minutes a week for intentional spiritual reading. Sunday afternoons have worked well so far. After feeding the flock God’s Word, I seek to rest in His presence and feed on the works of godly people like Francis de Sales, John of the Cross, Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. I get up feeling refreshed, nourished and guided for life and ministry.

What are your thoughts about the concept of "spiritual reading?"  What has been your experience with this practice?

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I found that I very much resonated with this comment: "It is to read a book for inspiration, not information." I have only VERY recently begun reading more non-fiction, Christian non-fiction that is, and have found myself inspired by the stories and words of others that so beautifully tell of God's faithfulness. I would add that it was not that long ago, in a season of feeling far from God, that I realized that contemporary voices of faith were drawing me back to God in unique ways I could not have anticipated. I've come to the conclusion that many writers, because of how their own stories weave into what they share, end up seeming to me as a kind of testimony, not unlike when someone I know personally shares a story of God in their life.  Great topic and not just for pastors (which I am not.)

Community Builder

Hello Rebecca,

Thank you for responding to my blog post on spiritual reading.  I'm glad you're enjoying reading books spiritually.  Yes, I agree that there are so many good stories to read!  (So many books and so little time! :)  Sounds like you're enjoying non-fiction (autobiographies?).  I have a few biographies on my shelf that I plan to enjoy over the summer.  Let's keep listening to God through our reading.   

Peace of Christ!

--Leon

Some are autobiographies, but most are more general non-fiction. I am finding that what the author is teaching is often illustrated or the result of their own learning or  life experiences, so is autobiographical in that way. 

Community Builder

Good to hear from you again, Rebecca. 

I'm glad you're finding such enjoyment and spiritual nourishment in your non-fiction reading.  Yes, I too enjoy hearing people's stories--whether it be about themselves or others.  I find they give me perspective and inspiration.  That's the wonderful thing about spiritual reading: when we read books spiritually, we realize we're not alone.  God is with us

Peace of Christ! 

--Leon