By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Praying through a passage of Scripture is the single, most instantaneously and permanently transformational spiritual practice a Christian can learn, says Donald Whitney, associate professor of Biblical spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where he also serves as senior associate dean.
Whitney is one of the speakers for Connect 2010, the annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, to be held Nov. 14-16 at the Sheraton Towson at 903 Dulaney Valley Road in Towson, Md.
Additionally, Whitney and David Uth will speak about “The Care of a Minister’s Heart” during a ministers’ brunch Monday at 9:45 a.m.
Whitney, who previously served at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., is the founder and president of The Center for Biblical Spirituality. In addition to teaching, Whitney travels across the nation each year speaking in conferences and churches on biblical spirituality.
That translates to 100 airplanes a year for the past 16 years of traveling and speaking in churches, conferences and retreats. At the heart of his teaching is Biblical spirituality, which focuses on spiritual disciplines.
Whitney believes that a believer’s two most important spiritual disciplines are the intake of the Word of God and prayer.
“As important as prayer is, I believe it is more important for us to hear from God than for us to talk to God,” says Whitney, the author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (NavPress, 1991).
He has also written How Can I Be Sure I’m A Christian (NavPress, 1994), Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church (Moody Press, 1996), Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health (NavPress, 2001), Simplify Your Spiritual Life (NavPress, 2003) and Family Worship (Center for Biblical Spirituality, 2006).
Confronting the almost universal problem of a boring prayer life resulting from people saying the same prayers over and over, Whitney urges people instead to pray through the Scriptures. He often instructs his students to take a Psalm (or a paragraph from a New Testament letter) and pray through it verse-by-verse.
“Simply talk to the Lord about what each verse says and about what comes to mind from it,” he says, noting that Christ has people all over the world that are young and old, well-educated and poorly-educated, with high IQs and low IQs, and yet virtually all of them can apply this simple solution to boring, repetitive prayers.
Noting that many who read the Bible don’t remember what they’ve read, he also suggests, “If all of God’s people are to benefit from reading the Bible–and they are–then doing so has to be fundamentally simple. But what’s often missing is meditation on Scripture.”
He adds, “Reading the Bible is the exposure to Scripture. And that’s the starting place. On the other hand, meditation is the absorption of Scripture.”
“The single greatest devotional need is to meditate on Scripture because everything flows from there,” he adds, quick to point out that biblical meditation is not the same as worldly meditation. Biblical meditation leads to prayer, which leads to application of the scripture, which leads to an experience with God.
Whitney, who previously served in pastoral ministry for 24 years, most recently as pastor of Glenfield Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), says that it doesn’t take long to meditate on the Scripture. Bible readers can do that without adding more time to what they are already doing.
“Simply read through a passage, meditate on a phrase or a verse, and afterward you’ll find that you’ll be able to remember it throughout the day,” he said.