Responding appropriately to God’s word, whether it is being read or it is being preached, requires an important preparatory step that is often neglected. God’s word is said to be “living and active” and sufficiently able to have a transforming impact on our lives (Heb.4:12; Jer.23:29; Jn.17:17). Often the difference between the times it impacts our lives and the times it doesn’t, Jesus told us, is not a question of the quality of the word, but a problem with the receptivity of the heart (Lk.8:15).
Being receptive requires some prep. So before we open the Scriptures in church or at our kitchen tables, we would do well to echo the words of King David who prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps.139:23-24).
That kind of prayerful prelude to any encounter with God’s word can dissolve our stubbornness, soften our defenses, and eliminate any obstinate resistance we may have to being transformed by his truth. It is a simple yet vulnerable step, which will yield tremendous dividends in our lives. Therefore, let us always be careful to prepare to welcome the Lord’s truth, accepting it “not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work” in us (1Th.2:13).