In church, we’re taught to read the Bible but not how to read the Bible. It seems daunting, but reading and understanding the Bible is an essential part of Christianity. New believers and lifelong learners alike can struggle when it comes to being consistent and understanding God’s word.
I was introduced to the Bible as a child, but never read or studied it until attending a Christian high school. Even then, I remember struggling with the terms and style of writing that’s used. Some stories stuck, many didn’t.
For years I was intimidated by the Bible, even overwhelmed. It just didn’t make sense to me! If you’re there, keep reading. Even if faith has been a part of your life for a long time, there’s always room to improve your Bible study habits.
1. Get the right translation
Very few people will actually prefer the King James version over others. It’s the most difficult to read and doesn’t make as much sense to today’s modern English speakers. Many churches use the NIV, which is a well-respected translation. The ESV is often referred to as one of the most accurate translations.
Check out Bible.com where there’s many different translations of the same verses and get a feel for which you prefer. There are dozens of translations, so find the one that helps you learn the best.
2. Write in your Bible
Are you sure? Yes, you heard me. Don’t be afraid to highlight or take notes in your Bible. Mark the passages that are important to you, and it will be easier to find what you need when you come back to it later on.
3. Start small
Some people like to start from the start and begin by reading the Bible right from Genesis. If that works for you, great. But for many, that’s a daunting task. Start with reading one chapter a day and once that becomes a habit, you can up your game.
4. Schedule Bible study
Consistency is key here. When it’s planned, you do it. When it’s a wish, it doesn’t happen. Schedule time on a consistent basis to read and study the Bible. Make it the same time each day so you develop a routine, and pair it with events that trigger your brain into remembering. For example, open your Bible with breakfast each day.
5. Pray first
Ask God for focus and understanding while you read your Bible. Use this time to build your relationship with the Lord. Open your heart to the Lord and ask to see and hear his message. It makes a difference.
6. Forgive yourself
The Bible doesn’t say “Thou shalt read one chapter each day.” Some days you may only read a verse, and others you may miss altogether. Don’t fret, be easy on yourself. It’s a difficult journey, and to succeed in the long haul you’ll need to be forgiving of yourself.
7. Write scripture
Everyone’s heard that writing things down helps you remember. Make it a habit to find one verse each day that you like and to write it down, whether on a notebook, journal, or whiteboard. Keep a log for this purpose because someday you’ll be able to look back at what you were thinking about during those times. It’s a record of your walk with God.
8. Choose a book
Certain books, like Philippians and the Gospels are easier to read, especially for beginners. Many of these verses are powerful and meaningful. Some also say the New Testament is easier to read than the Old Testament. Try it out for yourself and see what works for you.
A big mistake that beginners often make is opening the Bible and just starting to read. While this is great, having a solid plan of action will help you to be consistent and succeed with your Bible study in the long term. Bible study is rewarding, so create your plan today and get started on your journey of becoming closer to God.
9. Read the full context
It seems pretty simple to find a verse that sounds good to you, but in order to truly understand the Bible, read the surrounding chapters and verses to find out the whole story. Invest time into finding the author, who it was written to, and why it was written. Only then can you obtain the full understanding of what’s being talked about.
It’s common to see verses online and on social media taken out of context. The Bible is much more than reading a singular verse, and the full picture must be grasped in order to truly have the real meaning of a passage.
10. Have a teachable spirit
One thing I know for sure is just how much I don’t know. There are many things in the Bible we wrestle with. Concepts, truths, theology- it’s hard. Sometimes we just want to understand a basic truth! Dig and ask questions, but remember that we can’t and won’t understand it all. Keep asking the hard questions and don’t quit!
11. Allow God to speak
The Bible is not about, “what’s in it for me?” Read to understand, not to check off a list. The Word truly comes alive once you begin to soak in what you read. As you spend time in the Word daily, God begins to reveal more and more to you.
12. Choose a character to get to know
Find someone in the Bible and get to understand everything about them. This is a fun way to read the Bible while diving into someone’s life. It’s almost like watching a movie about that character. Ask questions like, how do they know Jesus? What’s their relationship like? What do I have in common with them? And, what can be learned from their life?
13. When you learn, write it down
We forget 80% of the things we read and hear, so use a notebook or journal to write down important insights you gain throughout your readings. When we show respect toward the things we learn, God is willing to share more. Keeping a journal of your learnings also makes it easy to go back weeks, months, or years down the road and remember key points that were important to you.
14. Listen to it
Who says we have to read the Bible? Listening to it can be a good change of pace and can offer up a different perspective. Plus, it’s easy to listen while you drive, cook, or tidy up around your home. Some podcasts and websites will even break down passages for you and explain it to you in terms easier to understand.
15. Share it with someone else
Those around us can enhance our study. Read an interesting story? Share it with a friend or family member. When you share what you read out loud, you’re more likely to remember it and it opens up discussion to deepen your connection with Christ.
16. If you don’t understand it, look it up
Let’s face it; you’re not going to understand everything you read. There will be terms that don’t make sense to you and terms that are tough to fully understand. Don’t hesitate to hop on Google and search a word or phrase. Thousands of others have probably asked the same question and there’s an abundance of resources out there to help you gain understanding of the Word of God.
17. Pause and listen
It’s great that you’re seeking out the word of God, but just as important is to slow down and listen. When we quiet our minds and meditate after reading the Bible, God can better work to enlighten us through the Holy Spirit.
Like how you prayed before reading the Bible, pray after as well. Ask God for understanding and the ability to remember what you read. Ask Him to clear up anything that’s still confusing to you and to provide you with the strength to continue on your journey of becoming closer to God.
18. Study with others
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” — Proverbs 27:17
For some, sticking to a new habit may be difficult without help. However, if we dedicate times to study with someone else or with a study group, we now have accountability. The major benefit of studying with others is the addition of new perspectives. Stuck on a verse or not understanding a story? It might make perfect sense to someone else, and they’d be happy to share their thoughts on the subject.
19. Seek guidance
While some questions can be Googled, sometimes it’s best to reach out to your Pastor, priest, or Bible study teacher. These individuals have wisdom from years of Biblical study and have a much more mature understanding of what you’re reading.
20. Stay positive
Learning the Bible is a lifelong journey. God is pleased with effort to learn His words, regardless of how clear your understanding is. With time and consistency, you will begin to understand deeper and God will show us more of His kingdom.
Bryson Bernarde is the author for Keep God in Life, a blog focused on providing helpful life tools to Christians to give them the strength, hope, and motivation to stick with Christ. As a lifelong entrepreneur who’s made it all and lost it all, Bryson pulls from his experience in struggles and hardship, understanding what it’s like to go from the very top to the bottom, quickly. This ignited his newfound focus on helping others to not lose faith as they climb to get to where they want to be in life.