Here are 30 great tips on how to read the Bible effectively.
#1 Remember that the Bible is God’s Word
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Whenever you pick up the Bible, remember that it is God’s voice speaking directly into your life. Acknowledge this truth, and thank God that He speaks to you through His Word.
#2 Expect God to move when you read
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.” It is not simply words that were written and remain static for all time; they are continually breathing new life into our lives, and we can discover new aspects of God’s truth each time we read them.
Be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in your heart as you read the Bible. It’s all well and good to take Scripture in, but unless you let it change your heart and refresh your mind, it will not do you any good.
#3 Pray as you read
Have an attitude of prayer as you read the Bible. Take a moment when you sit down to read it to pray that God will minister to your spirit as you read. This applies whether you are following a standardized reading plan, or if you are turning to Scripture for a specific need in the moment.
If you have a mindset of prayer that is focused on God, you will be more receptive to the truths of Scripture. As you read, and as you understand how God is speaking to you, continue to pray to Him as you read. Thank Him for His loving care, ask His forgiveness for where you have sinned or fallen short of His designs, and request His strength and peace as you seek His will for your life.
#4 Find the right translation
Some translations can be more difficult to read than others. Reading several translations can help you uncover deeper, richer meanings behind the text, but it is best to choose one translation to consistently read from every day.
You could choose the translation your pastor or small group uses so that you are keeping closely in touch with others you study with. Or you could do your own research for the most accurate translation. Ultimately, it can depend on your own personal preferences as well, but be sure to find a reliable and accurate translation to read from.
#5 Find a Bible reading plan
There are numerous Bible reading plans available. Many go through the Bible in a full year and are easy to begin on January 1, but you can begin any plan at any time. Most reading plans will go through the Bible in a year; some can take shorter or longer depending on how each daily reading is broken up.
Some prefer to begin in the Old Testament, and some prefer to begin in the New Testament. Some plans break up the Bible into groupings based on the subject matter or literary form. Or if you’re looking for something simple, you can just prayerfully read a chapter or two a day. The key to beginning – and completing – any plan is to stay consistent and follow through till the very end.
#6 Make it a daily habit
God is able to do His best work through the Bible when you faithfully make it a part of your daily routine. Simply taking a few minutes at the beginning or end of each day to read the Bible will retrain your mind to keep Scripture at the forefront of your thoughts.
Find the schedule that works best for you. Some prefer to read the Bible immediately when they wake up in the morning, and others find pockets of time throughout the day or right before bed. The specific timing doesn’t matter; what matters is making it a daily habit.
#7 Make it your first priority
Reading the Bible should always be a high priority for Christians. This can take some effort if you are just starting the habit, but it always pays off by bringing you closer to God each day. If you have not already started reading directly from Scripture each day, today is the perfect day to begin.
#8 Read the entire Bible cover to cover – don’t leave anything out
It is easy to pull key verses out or focus on books that are easier to comprehend. People sometimes avoid longer, more complex passages in the Old Testament for this very reason.
However, it’s critical that you read the entire Bible in order to fully understand God’s message to us and to see how God is working throughout history. Nothing is in the Bible by accident; remember, all Scripture is given to us directly from God. Don’t leave anything out.
#9 Use a devotional
A devotional can be helpful in unpacking the deeper meaning or application of Scripture. Most devotionals will begin with a single verse or a short passage, then explain the text or give a life application.
A devotional should not be a complete substitute for reading the whole Bible, but you can begin with a trusted devotional then open up the Word and read through the larger passage provided for that day’s entry. This can help you to apply the Bible to your daily life.
#10 Use additional resources
You don’t have to have a degree in theology or Biblical studies to understand the Bible, but some extra tools can always help.
Your local bookstore – or even your church library – will have a variety of resources to help you understand and interpret Scripture. This can include Bible commentaries, atlases, dictionaries, and more. You can also read books on your favorite authors to further explain the Bible and better understand what God can teach you through it.
#11 Start at the beginning and read straight through
If you’re looking for a place to start when beginning your journey through Scripture, there’s no better place than the first page. Sometimes the easiest solution is to begin in the first chapter of Genesis and read straight through until the last page of Revelation. You are able to see the story of God woven through the Bible; this is the way most people begin a year-long reading plan.
#12 Start in the New Testament
If you are a new Christian, or even picking up the Bible for the first time to learn more about Jesus, you might consider beginning in the New Testament. The Gospels make up the first four books of the New Testament, and they are the full story of Jesus Christ – the very center of the Gospel and the core of the Christian faith.
Reading through the New Testament first can also lend context to the Old Testament, by seeing how prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus throughout the New Testament.
#13 Start with just one book
The Bible is bound together as one Book and is the full revelation of God to us, but you should remember that it is made up of 66 smaller books. This can help make reading the Bible more manageable if reading the whole thing at once feels too daunting.
You can simply choose one book of the Bible and begin there. Consider one of Paul’s letters in the New Testament; most of those can be read all in one sitting without too much time.
#14 Start with just one chapter – or even one verse
You don’t have to spend two hours a day reading the Bible in order to get the most out of it. You can start by committing to reading just one chapter a day. You can make it through the entire Bible in just over three years by doing this.
Reading through the Bible slowly can give the added benefits of allowing more time for prayer and meditation as you read, letting the love of God work deep into your heart.
#15 Find a quiet place to read
One of the best tips for reading the Bible effectively is to minimize distractions. Turn off your phone and computer, as well as any TV or music. Find a quiet place to read, whether it’s a special room in the house, closing your office door, or even in your car (not while driving, of course). This allows you to pay closer attention to what you’re reading and keeping you fully focused on God.
#16 Read with your heart open
God wants to change your life and make you His, and the primary way He does this is through the Bible. Open up your heart to what God is telling you through His Word, and you can discover the riches of His love and His will for you.
#17 Read to understand and comprehend – use your brain!
Just because the Bible should affect our hearts doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use our minds as well. The Bible is meant to be fully understood and comprehended – God is revealing His heart in each word, and we should be able to use our intellect to interpret the Scriptures properly.
#18 Understand the context
It is very easy to take a single verse out of context, and give it a meaning that is far from what is actually intended. If you have a favorite Bible verse, try reading the entire chapter that surrounds it, or even the whole book. See what the Bible is actually saying, rather than reading a false doctrine out of it.
#19 Use the SOAP method
A common method of effective Bible reading is the SOAP method. It’s an acronym for a powerful way to apply the Bible to your life:
- Scripture – read the Bible, then write down key verses that have impacted you
- Observe – see what you can learn each time you read, or what stands out to you
- Apply – how can what you just read change how you live your life?
- Pray – pray for God to lead you into His truth
#20 Write your thoughts in a journal
Journaling is a great way to get more out of your daily Bible reading. By writing down your thoughts, feelings, and even prayers, you can mark key milestones in your faith walk and see how God is working throughout your life.
#21 Memorize as you read
We can read the Bible all we want, but the most important way to experience Scripture is to share it. However, it is difficult to share God’s Word with others if we read it, then promptly forget it. Memorize key verses that uncover the powerful truths of the Gospel, or recite these verses to yourself in times of struggle or blessing.
#22 Listen for Scripture in other places
Scripture has made its way into everyday language in more ways than you would think. Christian music will obviously be based on the Bible, and may even incorporate whole verses into their lyrics, but other common phrases often have their roots in the Bible. Keep your ears open to hear how the Bible can be used in your conversations.
#23 Read the Bible for every season of life
The Bible is applicable and necessary for every season of life and every age. Just because you’ve read the Bible once doesn’t mean that it can still speak to you years later. Some of the sweetest moments in the Word can come when we revisit a passage that spoke to us as a child or a teenager, then we find new ways to apply it later in life. God will always uncover new aspects of Himself through the Word.
#24 Focus on the individual stories
Many Bible studies will focus on a particular character, focusing on shorter passages or single books of the Bible. This can be an excellent way to approach reading Scripture: choose a character you want to learn more about, then read through the passages that focus on that character. You can also buy a study book or commentary that dives deeper and helps you learn even more.
#25 See the narrative woven throughout all the books of the Bible
Remember that every single smaller story fits into a larger narrative. God is working through the totality of Scripture, and nothing happens by accident. Prophecies in the earliest pages of the Old Testament find fulfillment and completeness much later, but God is still moving through it all.
Don’t ignore how every piece fits together in God’s perfect design.
#26 Focus on God as the main character
God performs more actions and speaks more words than any other character in the Bible. This should be the most significant focus as you read: understanding that every page is God’s interaction and relationship with humanity. The Bible is not simply a collection of human works, but it is the direct revelation of the mind and heart of our heavenly Father.
#27 Look for Jesus in the whole Bible
Jesus Christ is also the primary subject of Scripture. God’s Messiah was promised from the beginning of the human race, and the Christian faith is the telling and retelling of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. Read through the Old Testament to see how Jesus’ coming was promised and foretold for centuries, then read the New Testament to see how Jesus has restored our relationship with God.
#28 Read with an accountability partner
If you find that you are struggling to keep up with your reading plan, try getting together with an accountability partner. You can go through the same reading plan together and discuss what you are reading and learning. This can also help you hold each other accountable for staying faithful to the plan and can help you better understand what God is saying throughout Scripture.
#29 Join a Bible study group or a church family
You can get even more benefit from the Bible by joining with other believers in a Bible study or church setting. Corporate worship, or worshipping together with other believers, is an essential part of growing in your faith and is in fact commanded by God throughout the Bible.
Consider joining a study group that meets regularly, and read through the material with them. This can help you participate and build others up with what you are learning, just as they can help support and encourage you. You can also join a church to hear from a sound biblical pastor each week and better understand the Bible.
#30 Persevere – just keep reading!
Reading the Bible should become a habit for every believer; but, like all habits, it takes time and effort to make it second nature.
Don’t feel discouraged if you miss a day or two, or if you don’t feel particularly connected to a certain passage on a given day. Scripture should be an essential element of a healthy relationship with God, not simply a task to check off your list each day.
We put our attention and time into what matters most to us. You can show God that He is the main priority of your life by dedicating time to the reading and application of His Word.
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Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. She is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.