One thing you will want to do on a daily basis is study the Bible. You may, however, have some questions about this. For example, you may ask yourself, How do I study the Bible? Or, Where do I begin reading? This feature will answer those questions and give you the information you need to develop the basic techniques necessary for effective Bible study.
Pray for Wisdom and Understanding. The most often overlooked and undervalued aspect of Bible study is prayer. Yet prayer is essential to gaining wisdom and understanding when you read God’s Word. Through prayer, you can approach God and acknowledge your incomplete knowledge of his Word, as well as your need for him to open your heart to his instruction. Therefore, determine to begin each study with prayer. Only God can give you the wisdom to understand his Word.
Read in an Orderly Manner. If you received a letter and read only a few sentences here and there, the letter would not make much sense to you. But if you read the letter in order, you would understand it. The same holds true when you read the Bible.
Sadly, many Christians do not realize the shallowness of this approach when applied to reading the Bible. They read a portion of Matthew, a story from Daniel, a verse or two from Exodus, and then a chapter or so from Revelation and wonder why they do not have a good understanding of God’s Word. Furthermore, they end up misinterpreting the meaning of these passages because they have failed to grasp the context from which they came.
To avoid developing this poor habit, you need to discipline yourself to read the Bible in an orderly manner. One way to do this is to use an established reading plan. A reading plan lists Scripture passages to be read in a certain order. Many of the existing plans were created with a goal in mind. Some plans break the whole Bible down into 365 daily readings. Others help you read through he Bible in the order that the events actually happened. For now, you may want to use the following plan as your reading guide. Start with the Gospel of John. This Gospel was written so that we might believe that Jesus is the Son of God (John 20:31). Then, after you have finished reading John, read the rest of the New Testament. Once you have finished the New Testament, you should read the books of the Old Testament. There you will see the coming of Jesus foreshadowed and learn all about God’s people, the Israelites.
Finish What You Start. In life, the benefits of doing anything are often not realized until the task is completed. The same is true when reading a book from the Bible. Once you choose a book to read, read it from beginning to end. Although you may benefit spiritually by reading a verse from one book or a story from another, you will benefit more by reading the entire book from which the verse or story came. Reading the entire book puts each verse and story in its proper context. Thus, you will have a better understanding of what each verse and story means. In addition, by reading books from beginning to end you will become more familiar with the Bible as a whole. You may even discover passages that will one day become your favorites.
Meditate on God’s Word and Ask Questions. Thinking about what you have read cannot be overemphasized. Meditating on what you have read helps you to discover the importance of the passage. It also helps you to examine your life in light of what God reveals in his Word. One of the best ways to begin meditating on God’s Word is to ask questions. Here are a few questions to help you get started:
• What is the main subject of the passage?
• To whom is this passage addressed?
• Who is speaking?
• About what or whom is the person speaking?
• What is the key verse?
• What does this passage teach me about God?
To see how the text might apply to you personally, ask yourself these questions:
• Is there any sin mentioned in the passage that I need to confess or stop
• Is there a command given that I should obey?
• Is there a promise made that I can apply to my current circumstances?
• Is there a prayer given that I could pray?
Invest in a Few Good Resource Books. The Bible mentions or assumes that
you know about many ancient customs that are completely unfamiliar to us today. Much of the subtle meaning behind these references that would give us greater insight into and appreciation for God’s Word is therefore lost to us. To understand the culture in which the Bible was written, you may want to purchase a few good biblical resource books. There are two types of resource books you should look into purchasing: (1) a
one- or two-volume commentary on the whole Bible and (2) a Bible dictionary.
Most one- or two-volume commentaries are concise. They give you the necessary information on important words, phrases, and verses from the Bible. They will not give you commentary on each verse, and they will not go into detailed explanations on any one verse. But they are good resources to help you begin to understand God’s Word. The price for such a commentary can range from twenty-five to forty dollars per volume. Bible dictionaries contain short articles (in alphabetical order) on people, places, events, and objects found in the Bible. Some Bible dictionaries also contain maps, diagrams, and pictures of biblical cities, regions, and artifacts. Bible dictionaries cost between twenty-five and thirty-five dollars. You can find these resources wherever Christian books are sold.
If you apply these practices to your daily personal Bible study, you are bound to develop habits that will help you grow in your faith.