There are two common imbalances made in studying the Bible, one is to believe that because we have the Holy Spirit there is no need to use exegetical tools and methods to study the Bible - and the other is to believe that because we have good exegetical tools we have no need of the Holy Spirit.
The first approach is a problem because the books of the Bible were not originally written to us Londoners in the 21st century, and so were not written with words and concepts that we easily understand today.
The second approach however ignores the fact that we have the Holy Spirit as a helper to us, and furthermore that any study of the Bible should lead us to walk more closely with God, and so therefore should start with us walking with God.
Before getting the books open, it is worth (even essential) to spend time praying, praising, and asking God to help us to understand what he meant when he wrote the text, so that we can now learn to obey it correctly.
Robert Stein writes about how although an unbelieving scholar can understand the meaning of a text well, and even understand implications from it - they will have no significance to him.
NET 1 Corinthians 2:14 'The unbeliever* does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.'
*Grk "natural person." Cf. BDAG 1100 psuchikos "an unspiritual pers., one who merely functions bodily, without being touched by the Spirit of God."
A believer however can understand a number of implications from a text, and the Holy Spirit can make one of those implications in particular jump out and have important significance for that believer.
If you want to read more about this then Stein's book is very easy to read and informative (especially his definition of implication rather than application), it's called "Playing by the rules: A Basic guide to Interpreting the Bible" Robert Stein.
Each week when I'm preparing sermons I find a number of implications in the text, but I'm hoping the Holy Spirit will give one of them significance to me where I have a life changing experience. I'm also hoping the same to happen for the congregation - and for this to happen I need to be led by the Holy Spirit to know which implications to make known to the congregation.
So even though we have many exegetical tools at our disposal, we still need the Holy Spirit's help so that our study of the text results in life changes.
Another important part of spiritual preparation I believe is to place ourselves under the authority of the text. Sometimes when appraoching exegesis we can feel that we are mastering the text, instead of realising that what we should be doing is understanding the text so that we can come under it's authority.
I also sometimes find it helpful to view exegesis as part of my worship to God. Sometimes I play a worship CD in the background and break into a song everynow and then during my exegesis - try it some time.
Next time Step 2: General Introduction