A Scholar's Devotion

A Scholar’s Devotion with Stephen Fowl

Going through seminary, students are taught to study the Bible and uphold its doctrines about God while also being encouraged not to neglect their devotional times with God. Yet during my own devotional time I, and probably many others, often ask, “Is this approach the best way to grow spiritually, or is there a better way? What could I do differently? Should I incorporate my studies with my devotions?”  

Each week, I ask a different scholar two questions about how he or she spends time with the Lord and continues to love him with all their mind, strength, and heart. While no one method or style is “the only way,” we can draw on one another’s experiences. 

This week, I have asked Dr. Stephen Fowl if he would share his thoughts with us.

1. How do you spend your devotional time with the Lord, and how do you practically seek to deepen your love for Christ?

For 30 years I’ve worked at a Jesuit university.  It is not surprising, then, that aspects of Ignatian spirituality have rubbed off on me.  The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins noted, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”  This is a poetic reflection of Ignatius of Loyola’s desire that those who joined his company would learn to find God in all things.  This, I suppose, is simply another way of following Paul’s command to the Corinthians to bring every thought captive to Christ.  In this light, I aim to attend to God’s presence in all aspects of my day and to reflect on how I succeeded or failed to find and respond to that presence.  This requires regular periods set aside for quiet reflection during which I spend most of my efforts trying to be quiet enough to listen to God.

Ignatian spirituality is deeply imagistic.  I am much more tied to words.  In particular, as an Episcopalian, I am rooted to the words of the Book of Common Prayer.  The prayers in the BCP are deeply Scriptural and the pattern of worship relies on Scripture reading, particularly the recitation of the Psalms.  In addition, I participate in a version of communal lectio divina with two other colleagues.

I never try to shut out the fact that I am a biblical scholar in any of these enterprises.  This is what God has called me to and God can certainly speak to me in and through my scholarship and through the texts I study.  Having said that, if I have a choice in the matter, I try to avoid engaging devotionally texts I have recently written about.  That still leaves me quite a lot to reflect on.


Stephen Fowl is Professor of Theology and Dean of Loyola College of Arts & Sciences at Loyola University Maryland. He has written commentaries on Judges and Ruth, Ephesians, and Philippians. He has written books on idolatry, and on the Theological Interpretation of Scripture (here, here, and here). 

Thank you, Dr. Fowl!

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