By Susan Hill
Charles Spurgeon said, “Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.” Sadly, biblical literacy is on the decline. A poll in Christianity Today revealed that only 19 percent of church-going Christians read their Bible every day.1 Tape-recorded readings of the Bible have proven that an individual can read through the entire Bible in seventy-one hours. That means it would take no more than 15 minutes each day to read through the Bible in less than a year.2 Perhaps you already engage in Bible reading every day and want to make the most of your time in God’s Word. Or maybe you’ve not been in the habit of spending time in the Scriptures, but would like to start. Here are three suggestions for getting the most out of Bible reading.
Pray before you read. The Psalmist wrote, “Open my eyes so that I may contemplate wondrous things from your instruction.” (Psa. 119:18) One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to illuminate the Scriptures for us in a way that helps us understand them (1 Cor 2:14). When I approach the Scriptures, I want to learn things that I couldn’t know apart from the Holy Spirit revealing them to me. So before beginning my Bible reading, I often pray, “Holy Spirit, I pray you will teach me things I could not know apart from you.” Also, as I come across things in the text that I don’t understand I ask God to reveal the meaning. The answer doesn’t always come right away, but I’ve learned that if I continue to pursue the meaning of a text and pray for guidance, the answer comes.
Meditate on the text. There’s a time and place for reading large sections of Scripture in one sitting, but it’s also beneficial to read a small section (perhaps a chapter or two) and choose a key verse upon which to meditate. Unfortunately, many Christians in the West have abandoned the practice of meditation because it has become associated with Eastern religion. But meditation is a thoroughly biblical concept. Psalm 119:15 says, “I will meditate on your precepts and think about your ways.” Meditating on Scripture will increase our understanding of the text. People often claim they don’t know how to meditate, but that’s not true. If you are capable of worrying you already know how to meditate. To meditate is to turn something over and over in your mind and to think about it from every possible angle.
Interact with the text. As we read the text it’s crucial that we ask ourselves, “What did the original author intend to convey in this passage?” It’s important to take note of the context and look at the surrounding verses. Be sure to ask questions of the text. What is God revealing about Himself in the passage? Does the passage contain truths about God that prompt you to praise Him? Are there imperatives in the text that motivate you to pray for the grace to obey? Does the passage lead you to confession because it sheds light on your sin? Incorporating God’s Word into your prayer life will bring vitality to your prayers like nothing else. Hebrews 4:12 says, “ For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
As Christ-followers we are called to be people who study and obey the Word of God—and in doing so, we’ll come to know the Author. There’s nothing more satisfying than pursuing a relationship with Christ through the study of God’s Word, so let’s be people who are immersed in the Scriptures.
- Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines For the Christian Life, (NavPress, 1991, 33).
Susan Hill is a writer, Bible teacher, and full-time editor at Lifeway. She is the author of Dangerous Prayers: 50 Powerful Prayers That Changed the World, as well as numerous devotional books. She and her husband John live near Nashville, TN with two unruly Golden Doodles.