As followers of Christ, we are called to regularly read the Bible.
We’re called to know the Bible, meditate on it, and look to it as a source of wisdom. Scripture says that the Word of God is a “lamp to [our] feet and a light to [our] path” (Psalm 119:5). It is a “shield to those who take refuge in [God]”(Proverbs 30:5). Finally, it is the “sword of the spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). The Bible is powerful!
If all of that is true, then why do we often have trouble reading the Bible regularly?
More than two-thirds of Protestant churchgoers don’t read the Bible daily. And roughly one out of 10 “rarely or never” read the Bible.
Yet, most Christians would agree that reading the Bible is beneficial. Reading the Bible helps us connect with God and remain centered on truth. It also prepares us to defend and explain our faith, as 1 Peter 3:15 exhorts us: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Reading the Bible is essential to every believer’s walk with Christ–and should be done consistently. In the following article, we’ll talk about how to develop a stronger Bible-reading routine, as well as how to actually read the Bible to get the most out of it.
The Power of a Disciplined Routine
Discipline is critical for living a fulfilling, successful life.
However, discipline does more than help you accomplish your goals and complete your work. It also produces better mental health, reduces stress, encourages consistent sleep, and promotes physical health.
A disciplined morning routine, in particular, can make a huge impact on a person’s life. The woman in Proverbs 31 rises while it is yet night (Proverbs 31:15)–and proceeds to have an extraordinarily productive day.
Likewise, some of the most successful people in the world wake up early in the morning to get their days off to a good start. Apple CEO Tim Cook wakes up before 4 a.m. Productivity expert Tim Ferriss has an ordered routine that involves physical exercise, hydration, and journaling with meditation. And pastor Matt Chandler wakes up at 5 a.m. to read the Bible before helping his kids get ready for school.
While you can read the Bible at any point during the day, the morning is ideal because distractions are minimal. While it might require discipline to set your alarm clock, the fruit far exceeds the sacrifice: knowing God more, experiencing His peace, and absorbing truth.
Finally, reading the Bible every day is fruitful for every follower of Christ. Whether it’s 15 minutes or two hours, that time can make a significant difference.
“Do what you have time to do,” says Kathy Keller, author and co-founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church with husband Tim Keller. “Sometimes you make extra time to do a more extensive Bible study. Other times, your day presses you...the wrong thing to do is to say ‘I’m too pressed to do the lengthier study, so I won’t do anything.’”
Keller continues, “It’s like exercise–anything is better than nothing!”
Strategies for Consistent Bible-Reading
Resolving to “read the Bible more” typically isn’t going to produce great results. To accomplish your goal of consistent Bible-reading, you need strategies to help you succeed.
Here are six methods that can help you get on the right track.
1. Read the Bible in a year.
Reading the Bible in a year is a great way to get into Bible-reading because it necessitates a long-term commitment. It’s also an excellent way to learn more about your faith, and ensure a comprehensive reading of Scripture.
Here are a few different ways to read the Bible in a year:
- Chronological. Read the Bible in the order that events occurred historically. For example, read the Book of Job shortly after reading Genesis.
- Beginning to end. Read the Bible from start to finish, Genesis to Revelation.
- Partial OT, partial NT. Read daily portions of Scripture from both the Old and New Testaments.
Regardless of which strategy you choose, you’ll want to make sure you stay on track by using a calendar or planner.
2. Read the Bible first thing in the morning.
As mentioned earlier, the morning is an ideal time for reading the Word because it’s quiet and distraction-free (unless of course, you have young children). Pushing your Bible-reading until later in the day also means you’re more likely to push it aside altogether.
Finally, reading your Bible when you wake up can help get you in the right frame of mind. Looking to the Word of God for comfort and insight can help you approach your day with peace and confidence.
3. Set a SMART goal.
A SMART goal is a goal that’s specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Creating a SMART goal for Bible-reading can help you achieve success by attaching concrete details to your plan.
Here are several ideas for SMART goals you could set for consistent Bible-reading:
- Read the Bible every day for 15 minutes.
- Read the entire Bible in one year.
- Memorize one line of Scripture every week.
- Read the New Testament in one month.
Of course, these are just ideas. But they can help give you an idea of how to create a goal that aligns with your schedule and your desire to read more Scripture.
4. Get an accountability partner.
Accountability is a powerful incentive to stay on track. If you’re the type of person that struggles with self-discipline–but responds well to encouragement–then an accountability partner can be a game-changer.
Ask a mentor, friend, or even family member to help you remain accountable to reading the Bible. Be specific about what you’re aiming for (reading the Bible daily, for example). Then, make sure you have regular touchpoints with your partner.
5. Use an app.
Unless you carry a small, purse- or pocket-friendly Bible, your paper Bible may be inconvenient to tote around. Reading the Bible on your phone might not replace reading a paper Bible, but it can be a helpful way to read Scripture on the go.
A Bible-reading app (such as with Tithe.ly) can act as a quick reference throughout the day. It can also help you stay organized and tuned into your Bible-reading plan.
6. Tackle one book.
The Bible can be intimidating to read because of its length. The average Bible has 1,200 pages of small text, representing a formidable task for anyone. Add the fact that much of that text is difficult to understand and loaded with historical context, and you have a challenge.
Tackling one book of the Bible is a simple way to begin a consistent Bible-reading routine.
Instead of attempting to understand large swaths of Scripture, choose a single book to focus on. For example, you might choose the Gospel of Matthew, or an Old Testament prophet, such as Isaiah. Then, commit to reading and studying that portion of Scripture for a set amount of time. Give yourself space to read the book line-by-line, look up historical footnotes, and meditate on the meaning and significance of the Word to you.
It can be easy to get distracted when you’re reading the Bible, especially when you’re re-reading portions of Scripture that you know well. But the Bible is far from boring–the Bible is meant to evoke a response!
As Hebrews says, the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
Keep a journal on hand when you’re reading the Bible. Write down Scripture that resonates with you, and journal a response. When you make a habit of responding to the Bible this way, you’re more likely to engage with Scripture and to return to the Word again and again.
8. Read the Bible in a community.
A strong Bible-reading routine is key to your own devotional life with God.
But the Bible is also meant to be read in a community–at church, in a small group, and with friends and family. After all, for much of history the Word of God would be read out loud to a community of believers. It was meant to be learned and absorbed together.
A Bible study or small group can enrich your Bible reading, keep you accountable, and supplement your own devotional life with different perspectives.
How to Read the Bible
Once you’ve committed to regularly reading the Bible, you’ll want to adopt a strategy for getting the most out of it. Here are four ways to get the most out of your commitment to the Word.
Do an inductive Bible study.
Inductive Bible study is a simple strategy for reading and understanding Scripture. One of the reasons that this mode of study is so powerful is that it doesn’t require any training or higher-level education. Anyone can follow the simple steps of inductive study to glean insight from the Bible.
The three steps of inductive Bible study can be summed up as follows:
- Observe. Don’t just read a passage of Scripture. Observe the details. Who are the main “players”? What is happening or what is being said? Where and when is this happening?
- Interpret. Think about what the author was trying to communicate to the original audience. The simple meaning is often the right one. If something doesn’t line up with other Scripture, it’s unlikely to be true.
- Apply. How can you apply this truth to your own life?
Inductive Bible study is a great way to approach any portion of Scripture with focus and intentionality.
Meditate on the Word (Lectio divina).
For over 1,000 years, Christians have been using lectio divina to study the Word of God. Latin for “Divine Reading,” this method is meant to develop an experience of communion with God during the reading of Scripture.
The steps of lectio divina are:
- Lectio, or read. Read a short portion of Scripture 1-3 times. Read slowly, and try reading it out loud at least once.
- Meditatio, or meditate. Meditate on what you’ve read. Mull it over in your mind, ponder it, and absorb. Remember that meditating on the Word doesn’t mean emptying your mind, such as with eastern meditation. It’s to fill your mind with His truth!
- Oratio, or pray. Pray a response to what you’ve read.
- Contemplatio, or contemplate. Pray in silence to God. Receive His love, His grace, and His truth.
Lectio divina is a Christ-centered path to understanding the Word of God, and is ideal for diving deep into a particular line or verse. It can also help develop a richer prayer life!
Study context and original languages.
Bible commentary can be extremely helpful for getting a deeper understanding of Scripture and even provide a more enjoyable experience of reading the Bible.
Commentary on historical context can help us understand the original intent of the Word. It can also help us set aside our own preconceptions and biases to understand how the Scriptures would have been received and understood in a particular time and place.
Looking at the original language–whether Greek or Hebrew–can also provide a more accurate understanding of Scripture. If you’re reading the New Testament in English, for example, you’re not going to pick up on the complexities of the word “love” in Greek, which takes several different forms in the original Greek.
Memorizing Scripture compels you to return to the same portions of Scripture and focus on specific words, sentence structure, and chains of logic. It’s also been a spiritual discipline for millennia. During Biblical times, Jews would use various methods to memorize portions of Scripture, a valued part of spiritual discipline.
Memorization also happens to be good for your brain, improving neuroplasticity and creativity.
Most importantly, memorizing Scripture can give you a stronger spiritual foundation and help you to absorb and know truth at a deeper level.
Be Patient with Yourself
A final note: Don’t be too hard on yourself when you miss your Bible reading, fail to meet your goals, or don’t understand Scripture. Remember that reading the Bible is not a task or To Do list item. It’s a joy, a privilege, and a lifelong journey with Jesus!