An Easy, Non-Intimidating Way to Start Reading the Bible
One of the great things about New Year’s Day is it moves us toward reflection on our own lives, and specifically how we can grow in the coming year. For many people of faith, this includes starting, or perhaps re-starting, a regular plan for Bible reading, meditation, and prayer. For those who would like to begin such a plan but aren’t exactly sure where (or how) to start, I thought I would share a simple process that I use each day, a process I learned mostly from Tim Keller who reads through the Bible every year, and the Psalms every month, some twenty years ago…with Bible and journal in hand. Also, the image above this post provides a visual example of what I end up with in my journal “after the fact.” Hope this helps…and happy reading!
One of the joys for believers is the invitation God extends to us to develop our own, consistent pattern of feeding our minds and hearts with the life-changing truths Scripture. As we do this faithfully, we also learn how to pray and personally connect with our Maker himself. Bible study and prayer are among God’s primary means of enriching His children, and meeting us in very tangible, experiential ways with His love and grace.
If you do not already have a “method” for personal Bible study and prayer, the following may be helpful to you as you get started. I suggest that you read through books of the Bible, one book at a time, and one section at a time, perhaps beginning with books such as Genesis, the Psalms, the book of John, or Paul’s letter to the Romans. Or, if it seems more beneficial to you, use one of the Bible reading plans listed at the bottom of this post.
As you read and contemplate Scripture, here are some things you can do to engage personally with God as you do so:
ASK GOD TO GIVE YOU THE HOLY SPIRIT
In the context of teaching his disciples to pray, Jesus promised, “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13). We need the Spirit to help us understand Scripture, and to show us how each part of Scripture points to Jesus and applies to our own lives. So ask the Lord for this gift, and don’t be shy!
Then, consider asking God to clear your mind from distractions and to teach you from His Word as you study it. A helpful prayer might be, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24), or Paul’s prayer from Ephesians 1:17-21 which is a prayer for God to “open the eyes of our hearts” that we may know him better, etc.
READ AND OBSERVE
As you read a chapter or two each day from Scripture, ask yourself, “What are these verses saying? Specifically, what are they saying to me?” You may wish to use one of the following suggestions as a guide for interpreting the meaning of the passage, and to do so with pencil and journal in hand:
- List what this passage tells you about God or Christ.
- List what it tells you about yourself.
- List some examples that come to mind to follow and/or avoid.
“Pray the truth into the heart”—Personally engage with God. Talk with him directly, just as you would a person. Then, narrow what you’ve read and meditated upon down to just one or two main thoughts from the day’s Scripture. For each thought, write or think out answers to each of these questions:
- How can I praise God for what this says about him?
- How does my life show I am remembering and acting out of this?
- What behavior/emotions/attitudes come when I forget God is like this?
- What sins do I need to confess in light of this?
- Why is God showing me these particular things today?
- What do I need to do or to become in light of this? (Ask God for it!)
Think of a short phrase that summarizes what you have learned. Return to and meditate on that through the day, and seek to live it out in God’s strength.
Praise Thank and praise God for the things He has shown you about Himself in your Bible reading and meditation.
Repent Humbly and honestly confess to God the sins that your reading and meditation revealed (and any other sins). Admit to God that continuing in this sin will bring distortions into your life, and that you need obedience to God in order to be healthy and whole as a person.
Ask Keep an ongoing prayer list and pray! You may wish to add a request related to today’s Bible reading.
Yield Commit to God to turn away from sin(s) confessed, and to live a life that is pleasing to Him. Ask God to give you His Spirit to empower you.
Lastly, here are some resources that can help you in your praying life:
THE BEST PENCILS TO USE:
For writing in your Bible (soft pressure, dark lead): Palomino Blackwing.
The Blackwing was used by Steinbeck and Hemingway to write their novels.
For a less expensive, compatible pencil, consider the Staedtler Mars Lumograph 4B.
SOME HELPFUL BOOKS:
A Praying Life by Paul Miller.
Prayer by Timothy Keller.
How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth by Gordon Fee.
SOME HELPFUL BIBLE READING RESOURCES:
He Reads Truth and She Reads Truth. A free, daily plan with a short essay reflecting on the Scripture for the day, delivered early each morning to your inbox. Highly recommend! My wife especially has been using this resource for several years and we recommend it to others regularly. Weekends are “off.”
Table Talk Magazine. A monthly subscription providing rich, theologically rooted essays to accompany each day’s study. Weekends are “off.”
Ligonier Bible Reading Plans. A website that provides several different options for reading the Bible from cover to cover. I personally prefer the chronological approach.
Lectio Divina. A time-tested method for reading the Bible each day, once you have determined what your Bible reading plan will be. A specific, wholistic way to work the text into your heart, mind, and life.
Irresistible Faith Devotional. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. This is a short, five-day study based on my newest book that releases January 22, 2019, by the same title.