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What Is S.O.A.P.?

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S. O. A. P. is an acronym for “Scriptures, Observe, Apply, Pray” and is a bible journalling method that helps one not only to understand the Scriptures but also to monitor one’s understanding of it.

Journaling is an excellent way to both record and process what God has spoken to us. It’s also a useful tool to use at a later time, to reflect on and review some of the ‘gems’ that you have received. Without writing them down, you may forget those blessings and some very important lessons! And while journaling is a very personal time with the Lord, you may want to share some of your daily journaling with your small group or mentors. Through discussion, you may be able to look deeper into what God is speaking to you, gain new insight and even encourage others. (Why Journal?)

In brief here are the steps as described by e-How:

  1. Find a quiet time and space to read your Bible, preferably at the same time each day. Many people find that reading scripture in the morning helps get their day off to a focused start.
  2. Complete the “S” by reading the scripture. Don’t just skim through it, but really think about what it means. Imagine what the people involved were experiencing. Write down a verse or two that really stood out to you in your journal.
  3. Complete the “O” by writing down observations about the scripture you just read. You may want to write your own summary of the passage, but more importantly, think about what God has to say to you through this part of his word.
  4. Complete the “A” by writing down how this Bible passage applies to you right now, in your daily life. For example, in the parable about the prodigal son, which character do you identify with most: the loving and merciful father, the son who squanders his life and then repents or the resentful older brother? Do you see similar situations in your life right now? How can you respond in the way Jesus taught?
  5. Complete the “P” by writing down a prayer. This is a personal message from you to God, so don’t worry about getting the perfect words down. Just make it honest and heartfelt. Remember that God always listens, and already knows your needs. He just wants to hear from you.

The S. O. A. P. Method is journalling method, and not really a bible study method. People have begun using journals as a way of praying. It does help one focus on one’s thoughts and allows one to address God from a "grasped" life-situation. In Augustinian terms, journalling helps one "enter into oneself" so that one can "go beyond oneself" — the two steps of interiority. Note however that this method should be taken as a second step, that is, to be employed AFTER one has studied the text of Scriptures. In other words, it complements — on the prayer-side — an intelligent reading of the Scriptures.

So how would a journal entry based on the S.O.A.P. method appear? Here is one…

June 12, 2009

Scripture: We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. (2 Cor. 4:7)

Observation: The "treasure" that Paul refers to is the gospel he has been entrusted to preach. It is a treasure hidden in a vessel of clay, the body of the preacher which is exposed to violence and manifests "the dying of Christ". Human "mortality" and its inclination towards death is for Paul "death for the sake of Christ". Like a candle that burns brightly but at the same time melts, so the evangelist who has given himself to Christ participates in His Death while he "gives life" to his community of faith. And yet, Paul is not writing only about "the dying" part; he also speaks about "the life of Christ manifested in our body". He is not speaking of the future here, but of the Resurrection already somehow "present" even as he "dies".

Application: Working in the Basic Ecclesial Communities is unglamorous, tiresome, time-consuming, uncomfortable. It is most often a source of ridicule not praise, of rejection not acceptance. But among the people I work with, the BEC experience can be a source of joy. It is rewarding in that it gives me a sense of direction, of purpose in life. It may be difficult and I may feel incompetent at times, but it does give me the assurance that I am never alone. When I go to my cell group, I find the Lord, the head of His small Church. And more and more, as I continue sharing the bread of the Scriptures with my "cell family", I also taste the goodness of the Lord. The Resurrection, my resurrection, has begun.

Prayer: Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, They shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves. (Psalm 126:6)

Lord, I thank you for another day’s work in your field. It is difficult work and my wallet doesn’t look any better because of it. But each day in your field is another opportunity to be with You and those You love. Keep us all from harm and let us always taste of your goodness.

The above example is based on this analysis and explanation of 2 Cor. 4:7-15. The entry was written shortly after I posted the aforementioned article. Notice that while I copied only the first verse for "Scriptures", I intended it to allude to the whole selection of 2 Cor. which was the first Mass reading of that day back in 2009. The "Observation" is a brief description of the things I already got from the text while studying it. The "Application" on the other hand is based on the day’s thoughts in my work in the BEC. The "Application" is me looking at my life in the light of the Scripture passage I am thinking about. The "Prayer" is based on a psalm that came to mind as I was thinking of Paul and the difficulties he had to undergo.

Summary

1. S. O. A. P. stands for Scriptures, Observation, Application, Prayer

2. The SOAP Method is a prayer-journalling method, not a study method for Scriptures

3. The SOAP Method complements an Intelligent Reading of the Scriptures or a study of Scriptures that is: (a) based on a Sentence Flow; (b) informed by study aids provided in one’s Bible or other study instruments (e.g. Bible Dictionary), and (c) takes into account the principles laid out in Dei Verbum 12.

Soap on the Web

Update, March 5, 2012

Originally posted 2011-07-24 22:44:49. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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