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  • Writer's pictureJean Brender

Sensing God's Presence and Speaking in Reading Scripture

Have you ever read something that changed your life? Engaging our mind and heart in reading the Bible has the power to transform our lives (1). For in the words of scripture, we can sense both God's presence and speaking regarding our situations.

Saint Augustine (354-430) had such an experience when he was in his early thirties and while in despair about how he had been living. One day as he was weeping in remorse over his failings, he heard a child chanting in the distance, "Pick up and read, pick up and read" (2). After some thought about the significance of the child's words and what God might be urging him to read, he picked up a copy of the book of Romans and opened it to Chapter 13:13-14 (3). The first part of the passage described Augustine's situation quite well: "not in partying and getting drunk, not in sleeping around and obscene behavior, not in fighting and obsession" (vs. 13). He found the remedy to such a life in verse 14 in the words, "Instead, dress yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, and don't plan to indulge your selfish desires." Relieved and overjoyed, Augustine experienced a profound change of heart that very day, and his life turned around to the extent that he eventually became a bishop and doctor of the Church (4).

A couple of years, I was grappling with trying to forgive someone who had hurt me deeply. One Sunday morning, I sat down to read the Bible before leaving our home to attend worship services at a local church. At the time, I was reading a chapter a day out of Matthew and on that particular morning, Matthew 9. As I read through the chapter, I paused after verse 36: When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. I had probably read that verse at least a ten times in my life, but this time I was stunned. Jesus most likely knew what was in the hearts of the people around him, some who might later even call for his crucifixion. Yet, he felt compassion for them and was moved to help them.

I prayed that God would help me have compassion like Jesus for the person who had hurt me and that I would see her as Jesus sees her. That morning, I began to see her as lonely, vulnerable, and afraid. I telephoned her that day and found that I was finally able at that point to put my hurt aside and converse kindly with her. Over time, our relationship healed; the image of the compassionate eyes of Jesus in Matthew 9:36 has continued to help me in my relationships with others.

In Hebrews 4:12, the author writes: For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Reading the Bible is a powerful means by which we can sense God's presence and speaking in our lives and circumstances. Are you ready to pick it up and read it today?


  1. Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 50.

  2. Saint Augustine, Confessions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 152.

  3. Saint Augustine, 153.

  4. John R. Tyson, ed., Invitation to Christian Spirituality (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 103.

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