For many Christians trying to pursue discipleship in daily life, it is difficult to figure out how to integrate things like Bible reading, prayer, and fasting into a daily routine. Bible reading can be extremely daunting. The Bible is a massive book filled with truth and wisdom, but it is difficult to know where to start. For many readers today the Bible will be the largest book they have undertaken to read in a long time, if ever. In this post, I will share some tips from my own personal Bible reading experience together with some Biblical reasons for a few of them.
1. Set aside a time for Bible reading.
The length of time that you set is irrelevant. The priority of the time is what is important. If you don’t read regularly, set aside 5 minutes to read at roughly the same time each day. Maybe your best time is first thing in the morning (not so much for me). Alternatively, it might be your lunch break or before bed. I have had productive reading times sitting in my car before going into work, in the evening before bed, and after waking up. After you get used to 5 minutes, try to increase your time by a little bit each week or two. I have found that much longer than 30-45 minutes tends to lose its effectiveness, but do what works best for you. Again, length is not the key.
2. Pray before and after reading the Bible.
The most perfect expositor of the Holy Scriptures is the Holy Spirit. What better way to learn what a book teaches than to talk to the author? In fact, the Bible teaches that the Spirit must open us to understand the Scriptures. 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 describe how our understanding of the Scriptures is covered as with a veil, but the Spirit of God removes that veil. Why should we pray both before and after? The first prayer is what is called a prayer of illumination. In it, we give thanks to God for His goodness and grace in revealing His will to us in the Scriptures, confess our need for His Spirit to enlighten our minds and hearts to understanding, and ask for understanding of the passage that we are to read. The second prayer is a prayer of application in which we thank God for the specific wisdom of the truth and ask for His guidance in applying it to our own lives.
3. Read continuously in at least one book.
Each book of the Bible was written to be read as one document. Our system of chapters and verses is very modern compared to the age of the Scriptures themselves. Does this mean that we should read the whole book in one sitting? Not necessarily. It does, however, establish the importance of context. A verse of Scripture can mean all kinds of things if it is taken out of context. Even the devil can use the Bible for his own purposes. In order to understand the true meaning of a passage, we must understand the context of the passage. This begins by understanding in the context of the book. There are other aspects of context, but these are more applicable to study of the Bible rather than a daily reading time. I tend to read either sentences by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, or chapter by chapter. The key is to link the passage to those around it. It also prevents us from skipping things that might be deemed “irrelevant to today” or passages that we “disagree with.”
4. Read from both the Old and New Testaments
The whole canon of Scripture is useful for building up the man of God (See. 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Likewise, the best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture itself under the direction of the Holy Spirit. In light of this, it is wise to read both the Old and New Testaments together. Reading the Old Testament without the New shows us the need for a Redeemer without reaching its consummation. Reading the New Testament without the Old shows the coming of the Redeemer without giving the context. I like to say that we read the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament, and we read the New Testament on the shoulders of the Old Testament. In practical terms, try reading a chapter of Old Testament each day with a few verses from the New Testament.
5. Select a good translation of the Bible
In general, all translations of the Bible have their merits with the exception of translations taken with severe abuse of the original language (e.g. the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses). However, not all translations are good for daily reading. I recommend a literal or with limited dynamic equivalence. Some good ones are the New American Standard Bible, the English Standard Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New King James Version, the New International Version, the New Living Translation, and the Holman Christian Standard Version. This doesn’t mean that other translations are bad or useless. On the contrary, other translations become incredibly useful for serious study of the Bible. Despite its age, the King James Version has many qualities that make it excellent to understand the meaning of the text. Even dynamic equivalence translations can be helpful for certain practices of study. Some of these include the Jerusalem Bible, the New Jerusalem Bible, and the Good News Bible. I recommend extreme caution with paraphrases like The Living Bible and The Message.
6. Endeavor to read the whole Bible
At some point in your Bible reading, you will want to read the entire Bible. Some people try to read it straight through in a year. While this a very straightforward way to do it, it often times goes poorly for people reading the Bible for the first time. I have read through the whole Bible several times, but each time I have done it in a slightly different way. I recommend finding a good reading plan. In order to read through the Bible in a year you will need to read about four chapters a day. Alternatively, you can read three chapters a day and five chapters every Sunday. There is no wrong or right way to do this. The main value is that it will prevent you from skipping parts of the Bible that are perhaps uncomfortable to you as a reader or that you want to ignore. Remember, all Scripture is inspired of God.
7. Let reading lead to other practices
As hinted throughout, reading the Bible is a gateway to deeper understanding. Bible study, memorization, meditation, and application are all essential aspects of proper use of the Scriptures. Reading the Bible should inspire us to dig deeper. We should develop a hunger for the Word and not be content with just a taste. Our study should drive us further and make us hunger for more. Also, as we look into the Word, the Word looks deeper into us. Together with the Holy Spirit it convicts of sin and produce a change in His people. If we read the Bible and do not make the appropriate application to our lives, we are living in disobedience (See James 1:22-25).
I hope that you find these tips and resources helpful to you as you develop a plan for personal godliness. With any luck I will have more resources related to Bible study, memorization, and meditation as well as prayer, fasting, and other components of discipleship.