Teaching God’s Word: Preparing Your Heart

Putting together a Bible lesson involves two important levels of personal preparation.  The first is heart preparation, and the second is lesson preparation.  Both are critical to the success of any Bible lesson.  These preparations take time and energy, but they are likely to be the most exhilarating part of your week as you interact with the life-giving truths of Scripture.

In this post, we’ll tackle the issue of preparing your own heart.  There are three critical steps in heart preparation:

  1. Understand the passage.
  2. Apply the passage to yourself.
  3. Apply the passage to your students.

Ask the Holy Spirit for His Help

The Holy Spirit is the ultimate author of the Bible.  Thus, it is critical to enlist His help throughout your preparations.  Practically, this means that you must pray.  Prayer is not just a step in lesson preparation.  Rather, it should permeate your entire week.

Merely beginning and ending with prayer is not enough; all parts of your preparation should be bathed in prayer. It is not a step to check off.  It is an ongoing attitude and action.  It doesn’t end even when you walk into the classroom.

Prayer is more than a step in lesson preparation.  Teachers should pray before, during, and after the process.

Study God’s Word to Accurately Understand It

The first and foremost key to God-centered teaching is to properly understand God’s Word.  The main question you must seek to answer as you study Scripture is “What did the author intend his hearers to understand?” Without an accurate understanding of the Word of God, the next two steps will be not only difficult, but also prone to error.

Note: A helpful resource in developing your Bible-study skills is How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart.

2 Timothy 2:15
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

There are six key questions to ask when studying to find an author’s intent.

  1. What is the purpose of the book?
  2. What is the larger context of the passage?
  3. What is the immediate context of the passage?
  4. What is the main point of the passage?
  5. What timeless principles does the passage teach?
  6. How does God want me to apply these truths?

To answer these questions, begin by reading the passage several times and writing down observations as you read.  If you are starting to study a new book, read the introductory notes for that book in a study Bible like The MacArthur Study Bible.  This will give you a better understanding of the book’s overall content.

Becasue our church, uses the Generations of Grace line of Sunday School curriculum published by Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA, we recommend that the next step you take is to read the background information in the “Prepare with the Truth” section of the Generations of Grace lesson.  As you do this, write down questions such as “What does this word mean?” and “Why did God want him to do that?”

Next, try to write a one-sentence summary of the passage. Then write a key-word outline of the passage. It takes a little time, but if you do one step a day, it really takes just a few minutes each day.

  1. Read the passage several times.
  2. Write down questions.
  3. Read the background information.
  4. Write a one-sentence summary of the passage.
  5. Write a key-word outline of the passage.

Identify God’s Attributes and Actions

As you study the passage and begin to understand its message, remember that the Bible is God’s story.  It is how God has revealed Himself to mankind, and it teaches us how we are to respond to Him.  All the commands, works, and words of God are based on the character and will of God.

When you read a text, you must ask several more important questions, in addition to the six above.  Some examples are:  What is God like in this passage?  What attributes of God do I see?  Are there any attributes that are specifically mentioned in the text?  What attributes are mentioned in the context?  What attributes are displayed in the book as a whole?

  1. Identify the explicitly stated attributes of God.
  2. Identify the implied attributes of God.
  3. Identify the attributes in the context.
  4. Identify the attributes in the book.

It is important to ask what God is doing in a passage and how those actions fit into His overall saving purposes in the Bible.  It is tempting to teach children good morals to obey instead of teaching them who God is and what He expects of them.  But the purpose of our teaching must be to magnify the character of God.

Only when a child understands and submits to God’s character and will can he submit to and follow Jesus Christ as his Savior.  The most important thing that we can do for a child is to introduce him to Jesus Christ.

Leviticus 19:2
Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord the your God am Holy”.

Ezra 7:10
For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.

1 Timothy 4:15-16
Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.  Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.

We reflect and exalt God’s character when we obey Him.

Apply the Truths of God’s Word to Your Own Life

In the opening of The Devotional Life of the Sunday School Teacher, J. R. Miller says, “The real power in Sunday School teaching is not in methods, important as it is to have the best of these, nor in equipment, valuable as this is, but in the teacher’s own spiritual life.”

Prayerfully ask God to show you ways to apply the passage you are teaching.  Make your study for the lesson a part of your personal devotional time.  Pray, meditate, journal, and ask God for a humble and contrite heart.

It is far better to teach children something that God is teaching you than it is to mechanically teach through a passage that you have not applied to yourself. A great temptation and danger in teaching is to prepare a lesson for your class without applying it to your own life.

  1. Ask for God’s guidance in your study.
  2. Identify a specific area of your life that needs to change.
  3. Teach children what God has taught you.

Proclaim the Glory of God

The fundamental purpose of teaching the Bible is to announce the glory of God and to call all men, women, boys, and girls to repentance and worship.  The book of Deuteronomy says it this way: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (6:5). We are to show who God is and how we are to love Him.

We teach the stories of the Bible in order to introduce children to the God of the Bible.  In every Bible lesson, we should teach the answer to the following questions: “Who is God?” “What has He done?” “What does He require?” and “How should I respond?”  Your students should come face to face with God each week as they learn in your class.

This post is excerpted from the teacher training material published by Generations of Grace as part of their line of Sunday School curriculum.  © 2006

Trey Garner
Trey Garner is the Pastor of Children's Ministries at Faith Church. He has been married to his wife Deb since 2001. They have two children named Noah and Lauren. Originally from Texas, Trey appreciates barnwood, armadillos, and Blue Bell Ice Cream.