Every Thursday we are thinking about spiritual disciplines. Last week we considered the discipline of Bible study. We pointed out that Bible study is dependent on Bible reading. Let’s look at Bible reading as a spiritual discipline.
Bible reading is often one of the first disciplines we suggest for new believers. Bible reading is a basic skill but we can take it for granted and we can falsely assume that everyone knows how to read the Bible. To be a regular Bible reader, we need to develop some habits to help us.
- Find a plan for reading your Bible. Some read for a specific time each day. Others read to complete books in the Bible. Some read to complete the Bible in one year. Within each of those approaches are a number of choices: reading specific genres, reading the Bible in historical order, reading the Bible cover to cover, or reading the Bible in several genres at a time.
- Determine why you read the Bible. Reading it in some legalistic way will usually take the life out of your reading. Decide that you are reading your Bible as a way to know God, not just complete assigned readings.
- Pray before you read. Ask God to reveal Himself to you as you read.
- Start slowly. I often have college students deciding to read the Bible for one hour every day. That usually fails in about three days. Instead, I ask them to complete one book at a time or to read for only ten minutes a day. Habits need time to grow.
- Avoid distractions. Turn off your devices. Maybe get up early. Tim Challies has a suggestion: no Bible, no breakfast. I have often used that simple saying to stay motivated in my Bible reading.
- Consider using a hardcopy Bible. Many read off their devices and that is fine, but those devices can also be distractions. Most of us have a hard time reading the Bible on our phones and avoiding interruptions in our reading to look at every buzz that comes through our phones.
- Read your Bible about the same time every day. I think morning is the ideal time. I think reading before bed is great, but often my fatigue kicks in about that time and I fail to read at all.
- Find a good place to read. I need to sit up, usually at my desk or out on the front porch to stay engaged with the Bible.
- Don’t equate length of reading with Bible engagement. The goal of reading is to engage the Bible and learn about God. It does not matter how much of the Bible you get through if none or little of the Bible is getting through you.
- If keeping a tick list helps you read, keep a tick list. I don’t mark my printed Bible reading plan but I work that plan every day.
- Don’t let boredom come in the door. Keep some variety in your reading. Use a different translation than you normally read. I mix it up by changing when I read and when I pray. Currently, I start my quiet time with a brief prayer for God to speak to me. Then I read a Psalm and think it over a bit. Then I use my PrayerMate app to guide my adoration, confession, thanksgiving, intercession and my personal petitions. Then I finish my Bible reading. In a few weeks, I will change up that order again. Being bored with the Bible is sometimes our own fault.
Reading your Bible devotionally is a good idea. You will also want to meditate on what you read, study some of the passages in depth, and memorize verses. One of the things that has amazed me is that the effects of Bible reading seem to accumulate. The more you read, the more connections you see across the whole Bible. It does have a uniform message and daily reading helps you see it. Today, while reading Psalm 40, I realized several connections to Psalm 71. That kind of insight encourages me. Any Bible reader can have those same sorts of experiences.
If you want to start reading the Bible more regularly, simply google “Bible reading plans” and you will find dozens to choose from. You can also use the YouVersion Bible reading app in your app store. While I don’t use my devices to read my Bible, YouVersion has some great plans. I just pick up my hardcopy and read the passages there instead.
The Bible is an unusual book. There is no other like it. Reading the Bible connects you to its life. You will quickly see that Bible reading is not a science but an art. Enjoy the art and you will find the Artist, our Lord, behind it.
Scripture: Psalm 19:7-11. Which of these descriptions of God’s Word speaks to you? Why?
Dig Deeper: Read Habits of Grace by David Mathis.
Now It’s Your Turn: What is the best Bible reading advice you have ever received? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.