I have often found myself struggling to figure out the best way to read my Bible, feel connected and feel like I’m doing it “right”. I tend to be a perfectionist and I have a habit of thinking that maybe God prefers certain methods of scripture reading in my personal quiet time with Him than others. However, as I have been on a journey of spiritual growth, I have realized that there are several ways we can dive into the scriptures that help me grow, and that sometimes God doesn’t necessarily have a preference on “how” we read His Word, but rather, He is significantly more focused on our hearts while we read it. What matters is that we’re doing it, and that we’re doing the best we can with the time and resources we have. Through trial and error, I found a few ways that I feel most connected to God when reading the Word. One method may work better for a certain season of my life than another, which makes opportunities to practice this spiritual discipline so practical. It took me a long time to find these methods, and I am excited to offer them to you today so you don’t have to struggle like I did.
Guided Study Plans — For Busy Seasons
There is a time and a place for a guided Bible study. Many people find going through a workbook with a group to be incredibly motivating and encouraging—and I agree. It’s a fantastic resource for those looking for community, and those just beginning to study the Word though I do want to challenge you to find your own time with the Lord outside of group study. If you’re not sure where to start when studying the Word on your own, or if you’re in a season of life that is incredibly hectic and you only have a few minutes a day to spare, this may be a great option for you.
My favorite way to use this method is through the YouVersion Bible app. There are also wonderful websites that have guided studies as well. I enjoy this app because it’s convenient and has every topic imaginable. If you’re wanting a study on a specific book of the Bible, theological idea, or you want to tackle a topic like loneliness, addiction, or anxiety, this app has reading plans ready to go for you. It includes a devotional as well as scriptures to reference for further study. If you choose, you can combine this method of study with the next to really make it personalized to you.
Four Questions Method — For Application
If you struggle with retaining and applying what you’ve read to your own life, this is a great option for you. It can be used with a guided study like mentioned above, or while studying a single chapter of the Bible. This method requires a pen and paper (a journal to keep your notes in is helpful) to jot down your thoughts. What’s helpful about this method is you can use these questions to study anything from a few verses to several chapters. It’s completely up to your comfort level and how in depth you want to go. After determining how much you want to read, while reading scripture, keep these four questions in mind:
- What is a short summary of what you read?
- What is God saying through this passage?
- What stood out to you?
- How can you apply this to your life?
I have often been surprised when I really take time to think of how something can apply to my life. Even when it seems like it has nothing to do with me, it ends up impacting me in big ways. For example, there are many obscure laws that the Jews were given in Leviticus. How does that apply to my life now? Well, it doesn’t in the way it applied to them. But it does show me the kind of trust and obedience that’s expected when listening for the Lord’s voice. Sometimes just taking time to analyze what you’re reading practically can make a world of a difference in your connection with the Lord.
Commentary Method — For Deep Study
I’ll be honest with you, this method of study is my favorite. It’s the form of study that I desperately crave. Though truly, in certain seasons of life, this method is hard. You can certainly adjust this method to fit your needs, but this form of study requires more focused attention.
My favorite Bible to use with this method of study is a journaling Bible. I found mine on Amazon. It has lines to write in the margins, which makes your notes easy to access for whenever you want to utilize them,though a seperate journal will work just fine as well. Next, you’ll want a Bible commentary. A Bible commentary is a book that goes through the Bible verse by verse and explains what that verse means in detail. My favorite Bible commentary right now is through the Logos Bible app. It’s totally free and extremely convenient. Of course, there are some websites with Bible commentary that are helpful, too, though I’ve found that the Logos app is quite theologically sound. I have used several paper book commentaries, as well as commentaries from Bible scholars from different denominations to really challenge my thinking and understand what other denominations believe. So if that’s a step you’re ready for, by all means, have at it. But it’s certainly not necessary right away.
The next part of this study method is completely up to you. If you’re a creative person that likes color, you can circle or highlight a phrase or a word that stands out to you, study it, write down what it means, and highlight what you wrote in the same color so it’s easy to follow. However, you don’t have to do that at all. You can just write down what stands out to you, reference the commentary when you want it, and really take time to process and try to understand what you’re reading as you go. You can personalize it to work for you and how your brain works. God made us all different, so we’ll all probably look a little different when using this method.
I’ve found that it takes me an incredibly long time to get through a single chapter when using this method. I’ve spent 45 minutes just studying 4 verses that were very theologically challenging…it can be tough. But so worth it. If you would like it to be more tangible, you can set a goal to do this kind of study once a week rather than every time you sit down with your Bible in your daily study. Again, God just cares about your heart and that you’re spending time with Him. He loves time with you and is longing to speak to you in whatever way He can.
God is not limited to speak to you through one specific way of studying the Bible. It all depends on what you’re ready for, the season of life you’re in, and the needs that you have. Reading scripture is a beautiful spiritual discipline that is meant to draw us closer to the Lord and help us dwell in His presence. We have the opportunity to hear from Him through any of these methods of reading scripture, and many others. What matters is that we’re learning and doing our best with the time that we have.
Written by Charissa Wines