I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11)
It’s no secret that Bible reading is a fundamental discipline in the life of the Christian. It’s also no secret that it can sometimes be very difficult to take time out of your day and read, and sometimes even more difficult to get anything out of it. The writer of Hebrews says in chapter 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Here are 5 tips for more effective Bible reading:
Prayer is the Christian’s way of communicating with God. What’s amazing is that we can know that when we pray, he hears our prayer. The Apostle John writes in 1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” and also in Revelation 8:4, “and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.” He not only hears our prayers, but they are pleasing to Him. How does this apply to your reading? Every time you open the word of God you should pray and ask Him to do certain things. Ask Him to keep you focused (this means you should probably leave your phone in a different room), to convict you, and to encourage you.
We should remember that we don’t have to just pray right before we read. I’ve found that when I pray before, during, and after my reading, I get a lot more out of it and feel much more connected to God. It can be very easy to feel like you’re reading a textbook when reading the Bible, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Pray to God and ask Him to work through your reading. Pray for each new page you come across, pray for understanding for difficult passages, pray for God to help you apply what you’ve learned. You can’t pray too much when you’re spending time with God.
One trap that many Christians fall into is to not plan out a portion of their day for their Bible reading. This is problematic for many reasons. First, since it is not a priority, it will most likely not happen. If you don’t make it a part of your schedule (something that needs to happen) then you’re much more likely to let other things take it’s place. Another problem is that since our time is a gift given to us by God, when we choose to treat reading time like sprinkles on ice cream (they come last and sometimes you don’t get them) we are in essence telling God that we don’t have time for him. Obviously, there are days when you wake up late and miss time to read, and then have work or school all day, and then other commitments, and by the time you get home you’re too exhausted to eat let alone read, and that’s understandable. The point is, we should plan out time to spend with God so that He is not an afterthought. Try waking up a little earlier in the morning to spend 15-20 minutes reading the Bible. If there is no way ever that you’d ever be able to ever get up earlier than you already do, then schedule it out sometime in the middle of the day, or in the evening. We should plan to make reading a part of our schedule. Proverbs 16:3 reads, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”
I know, this doesn’t start with P, but honestly I looked up synonyms to “write” that begin with a “P” and the only one was “pen,” and that really wasn’t what I was going for. We’ll stick with write. Writing while you’re reading can have amazing effects on your retention (study after study proves this). Don’t feel any pressure here, though, because writing can take on many forms. You can take mini notes in the margin of your Bible, or extended notes in a journal. You can write a quick “here’s what I took out of my reading today,” journal entry, or a long “here’s what I learned, what I’m going to do with it, what it means to me, etc.” entry. Either way, just try writing a little bit while you’re reading.
Aaaaaahhhh, back to the alliteration. Reading your Bible is awesome. You can learn a lot about history, wisdom, life, etc., but if you don’t do anything with what you’ve read, why are you doing it? Paul writes in Philippians 4:9, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” And remember, the word of God is living and active, so we should be too! Many of the writings in the Bible give us specific commands that we should live out. If we read the Bible without actually obeying what God commands of us, then it is a pointless exercise. Put what you’ve read into practice, make it count!
Last, but not least, we have to think about what we’ve read. After Moses gave the Israelites the law, and then died, God told Joshua (his successor) in Joshua 1:8, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Notice that God said to meditate on it day and night. We can’t just read out Bibles and then move on. Yes, acting on scripture is imperative, and this begins with the way you think. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:7, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” The Bible is replete with verses on the importance of our thoughts (e.g., Rom. 8:5-6,12:2; Col. 3:2). After you’re done with your reading and praying, make sure you take some time to reflect on what you’ve read. The more we think about God’s word, the more likely we are to put it into practice and see it change our lives.
So pray, plan, write, practice, and ponder.
Finally, this is not an exhaustive list of tips for more effective Bible reading. Reading in community, reading a study Bible, asking good questions, and reading commentaries are some other amazing ways to be a more effective student of the Bible.
All scripture is taken from the English Standard Version