At times, it is easy for a Christian to stare at his Bible and wonder to himself, “How am I supposed to understand that?” “Where do I start?” “How can I get the most out of reading the Bible?” Since you are reading this, I assume you have come to the conclusion that you want to do more than simply check off a reading plan. You want to read the Word of God and meet with the God of the Word! How can this happen?
Thomas Watson, Puritan preacher who lived from 1620–1686, was once asked this very question. His reply was quite thorough:
- Remove all hindrances, including the love of every sin, the distracting concerns of the world, etc.
- Prepare your heart.
- Read it with reverence.
- Read it in order.
- Get a true understanding of Scripture by comparing its parts.
- Read with seriousness.
- Persevere in remembering what you read.
- Meditate upon it.
- Read it humbly.
- Believe it is God’s Word.
- Prize it highly.
- Love it ardently.
- Come to it with an honest heart.
- Pay attention to its commands and promises.
- Don’t stop reading until your heart is warmed.
- Practice what you read.
Not much has really changed in the nearly four hundred years since he made these observations. However, to make it, perhaps, a little more relevant and easy for our twenty-first-century minds to grasp, I would like to distill these observations into five principles.
1. Read it Faithfully
We do not want to snack every three or four days from the Scriptures; we want to live there. It is better to read the Bible for smaller amounts of time every day, than it is to read larger portions once or twice a week but ignore it the rest of the time.
Remember, you cannot understand it if you do not read it.
2. Read it Prayerfully
Do you ever notice how easy it is to sit down and read the Bible without praying for God’s help to understand what we are reading? I think this stems from the mindset, “I need to check off my Bible reading for the day….”
Since the work of inspiration belongs to the Spirit, why do we forget that the work of illumination belongs to Him as well?
“Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”—Psalm 119:18
3. Read it Actively
If our minds are not engaged, we will not retain what we are reading. However, our minds really believe that they can multi-task, and we often attempt to do just that when the Word of God is opened.
How can we get actively involved in the text?
- Keep a journal, summarizing what you have read.
- Ask questions of the text—why, when, where, how, etc.
- Imagine that you are part of the story.
4. Read it Aggressively
Consider some options to vary your reading program:
- Read through the Bible chronologically.
- Read through the Bible multiple times a year.
The Bible has 1,189 chapters. If you read 3.25 chapters a day, you will read through the Bible once a year.
If you read 6.5 chapters a day, you will read through the Bible twice a year.
If you read 9.77 chapters a day, you will read through it three times a year.
If you read 13.03 chapters a day, you will read through it four times a year.
If you read 16.28 chapters a day, you will read through it five times a year.
I can almost hear some saying, “That’s impossible! No one can read that much of the Bible in one sitting!” I would simply ask, why does it have to be one sitting? Why not read in the morning to start our day, read during our lunch break to reorient our day toward Him, and then read at night finishing our day with Him?
Imagine reading through the Bible multiple times a year, for multiple years—wouldn’t the stories, the main ideas of each book, and the different characters become more familiar to you?
5. Read it Jointly
The Christian life is not a solo journey, we are built together for community.
Share your Bible reading plan with a friend. You could discuss it once a week or more. This would build accountability into the reading and provide insight from another set of eyes on the same text.