“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Romans 10:9-10 ESV
The above verse is a truth expressing salvation, and it also teaches an important principle to grow as a Christian:
Stating one’s belief in Christ often strengthens a person’s commitment to Christ.
This principle resonates with my own walk with Jesus. If I am sharing the gospel, simply stating what I believe about Christ serves to reinforce my own sense of belonging to Christ. Also, in my own time of Bible reading and prayer, speaking the scriptures out loud reinforces the truth of God’s word in my heart and mind.
Several years ago I began the practice of reading one Psalm each time I choose to do Bible reading. In his book Under the Unpredictable Plant, Eugene Peterson describes the Psalms as “the school for people learning how to pray. Fundamentally prayer is our response to the God who speaks to us. God’s word is always first. He gets the first word in, always. We answer.” Although when I started reading the Psalm regularly, my mind would wander, or I would get sidetracked by a particular phrase I didn’t understand. In order to keep my mind engaged, I began reading the Psalm out loud.
Reading verses out loud helped me tremendously. After reading the entire Psalm, I began circling one or two verses in each Psalm which the Holy Spirit impressed on me, or which applied directly to my day or situation. After reading the Psalm, I would repeat those circled verses two or three times out loud, in order to remember them. I found myself recalling particular verses of Psalms two or three weeks later.
So why is the practice of reading verses out loud, and in particular the Psalms, so helpful?
Let me suggest several reasons. First, the Holy Spirit has inspired the Bible, and God’s word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). Therefore God’s word has the power to penetrate into our hearts and change the way we think. When we read scripture, God gives us our daily spiritual bread. C.H. Spurgeon put it this way, “Scripture is like a lion. Who ever heard of defending a lion? Just turn it loose; it will defend itself.”
Second, we tend to remember more fully what we speak out loud, as opposed to listening or reading one time. One key to memorizing scripture is to repeat the scripture verse enough times so that it registers in your memory.
Third, reading out loud keeps my mind from wandering when I open the Bible. I always sit down and read at a chair or at the table. I have a Bible App on my phone, but I don’t do my regular reading from my phone or computer, because it is too easy to click on something else. For me, there is something unique about sitting with the printed Bible in front of me; it helps keep me focused.
A fourth reason reading a Psalm is beneficial is because when I speak certain words out loud, I am often reminded of how to pray, or reminded of someone or something to pray for. This prompting happens more often when I read out loud, rather than reading silently. For example, if I read Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, He saves those who are crushed in spirit.” I am reminded of people who have experienced disappointment, people who are grieving, people who are struggling with decisions, as well as my own disappointments and times of sadness. This leads me to pray for people specifically.
Lastly, I think reading God’s words out loud reminds us of the power of God and gives us the courage to obey Him. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by Satan, he spoke God’s word in order to defeat temptation, “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) We defeat the devil by using God’s word, the Sword of the Spirit. Whatever your Bible reading routine might be, I encourage you to read a portion of verses out loud, as a way of declaring your faith in God, your confidence in His word, and your willingness to receive His power and follow Him.
Grace and Peace, Pastor Jim