Years ago I began using a method for engaging the scriptures called SOAP. The method was crafted by Wayne Coderio and made popular through his book The Divine Mentor which I heartily recommend to you. The acronym, SOAP, stood for Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer.
The basic idea was to ask the Holy Spirit to highlight one or two verses in your Bible reading and then apply the 4 parts. 1) Write out the Scripture. 2) Make notes of observations – who, what, where, why? 3) Write down an application of how you want to respond to God’s word. 4) Write out a prayer based on the passage and your application.
Over time, as I used this method personally and with a group of men, I needed to add one component: Exhortation. The reason for this was due to God’s speaking to our church about the need to “speak truth to one another.” Often when we read that verse (Eph. 4:15) we assume it means to be frank with others about their failings! While it’s true that we need to be honest with one another (Eph.4:25), verse 15 is speaking of not being carried away by false doctrine. We should speak to one another edifying truth from God’s Word to encourage faithfulness. As a church, we memorize scripture to help us with just that. In order to add the “Exhortation” component to SOAP, I needed to change the acronym to incorporate the E. So we changed it to SHAPE. The “O” which stood for “observation” was changed to “H” for “hermeneutic”. If you’re familiar with the word, it’s basically the same idea of who, what, where and why.
So expanding the idea to include exhortation we have:
S) Scripture – write down the passage.
H) Hermeneutic – make observational notes about the passage – Who is speaking? Where are they? What is the occasion? Why is this being said?
A) Application – What is your response to the passage? What is God speaking to your heart?
P) Prayer – Write out a prayer of response to God’s word to you.
E) Exhortation – Speak a word of truth to others. (Call, text, social media, etc…)