In April 2020, I gathered a small group of men together to study the stanzas of Psalm 119 on weekday mornings. Over the months that followed, our group continued to meet, taking turns to read a passage of scripture and talk about it. Our readings included the Psalms, the parables of Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount, and the book of Hebrews. Meeting every weekday for communal Bible study helped us stay spiritually focused and connected during the pandemic.
The Hampton Roads Church adopted this form of community Bible study using a New Testament reading plan in 2021, and many new groups were formed. We’ve continued these group discussions with a reading plan in the Old Testament for 2022.
In these groups, we take time to read a passage, discuss it, then pray. This “read, talk, pray” format is similar to a haverim study group, a teaching method practiced in some synagogues. The Hebrew word haverim means “group of friends,” from the root Hebrew word haver (חָבֵר, Strong’s number H2270), which is translated as “friend” in Psalm 119:63 (NIV) and as “partner” in Proverbs 28.24. In a synagogue, haverim study groups typically break into pairs to study a passage, then come together to discuss it with the full group. This teaching approach provides scriptural insights through a “group of friends” taking time to read, talk and pray.
Each morning we start our session with a reading from the Scriptures. While the main purpose of the scripture reading is to introduce our discussion, there’s also value in hearing the Word read out loud. When we hear the words of Scripture read by others, it helps us to focus on the words and the message. We hear how the Word energizes and brings out emotions as others read it aloud. We don’t get to experience this by reading the Bible in a personal quiet time.
After reading the day’s passage, the haverim discusses it. In our group, we’ve used various Bible translations, and also refer to commentaries and other Bible study resources. The differences in words chosen by translators and thoughts provided from commentators have helped us better understand the message or theme of passages, and have fueled our discussions. Talking about the passage helps us to hear what others are learning from the Scriptures and to gain new insights and convictions. I’ve often left our morning sessions with new insights or renewed conviction to better obey and follow God’s Word.
In our haverim sessions, we also reserve time to pray after we read and talk. Our prayers include the convictions we’ve gained, but also include prayers for our families, God’s church, our character, and other needs. Praying together strengthens the bonds of fellowship within our haverim “group of friends.”
For more information on haverims and resources for starting your own group, please see bentonblog.com. For the Hampton Roads 2022 Old Testament Reading Plan, see hamptonroadschurch.com. I’m happy to talk about our haverims and how to start one in your congregation – I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.