Scripture Union taught me the discipline of daily Bible reading..."John Stott,
Whether you are completely new to Bible reading, or whether you've been at it for years, you probably need help in making God's Word a part of each day. The truth is, we all do. The following are some practical guidelines you can use. They fall into two categories: Preparing and Reading.
The first thing you'll need to read the Bible regularly is a sincere desire to do so. Maybe that seems too obvious, but it is important. If our habit of daily Bible reading is to be successful and profitable we must develop a hunger to know God better through his Word. And we need to ask God for this hunger in prayer - constantly.
The next thing you'll need to do is get a Bible that's clear to you. With so many good translations today, both traditional and contemporary, you can find one that's easy for you to understand.
Another very important part of preparing to read the Bible is to choose a system. It's frustrating when you have ten or twenty minutes set aside for Bible reading to waste time randomly flipping through your Bible deciding what to read. Without a systematic plan, you'll probably read and reread the books you know best and avoid the ones with which you are unfamiliar. There are many helpful Bible reading systems available from your church, denomination, or local Christian bookstore. Evaluate several and then choose a plan that systematically takes you through all parts of the Bible. And follow it.
Two simple, but helpful preparations are find a spot and set a time. When you read the Bible, choose a place where you can be alone and concentrate. Also, plan a specific time of the day for Bible reading. If you don't it's too easy to skip it. Whatever time you set to meet with God, however, the important thing is that you keep your appointment! Now let's turn our attention to how we go about actually reading the Bible.
"If you aim at nothing, you'll probably hit it," is a phrase we sometimes hear. This applies to our Bible reading as well. If we are not aiming to meet God in his Word, we won't. So, consciously come to your time of Bible reading expecting to hear God speak to your life situation. Come expecting to learn, expecting to change, and you won't be disappointed.
Next, read your day's passage thoughtfully and prayerfully. Start by considering the context of your passage. That is, familiarize yourself with what comes before and after what you read so you keep the verses in their proper perspective. Then read the passage slowly. You may even want to read it twice to make sure you get it all.
After reading, meditate on the text and its meaning for you. This will involve your intellect as you answer questions such as "What is the main point of this passage?" "What do I learn about God?" "What does Christ require of me today?" It will involve your imagination as you put yourself in a parable, illustration or biblical story and reflect on what it would be like to "be there." (For example, try to imagine your thoughts and feelings if you were in the crowd watching Jesus' crucifixion.) And it will involve your heart, as you honestly apply God's Word to your life, when it hurts as well as when it inspires.
After you've grappled with the text, think of ways to take its message with you into the day. Keep a notebook of your discoveries, memorize a key verse, tape a 3 x 5 card with a helpful verse to a familiar spot in your home or office, or make up a melody and "sing a verse" throughout the day.
And don't forget prayer. Since God is speaking to you through the Bible, naturally you will want to answer him in prayer. Pray before you read, asking the Holy Spirit to give you insight. If you come to a verse that touches a particular need of yours or spotlights a sin you've given in to, stop and pray about it. And when you finish reading, pray again that God would help you act on what he's said to you. Bible reading combined with prayer will transform your daily Quiet Time from a religious habit into a two-way interaction with God.
Pray before reading, asking God to help you understand and receive his Word. Through Christ you are in the Father's holy presence. Approach him boldly, humbly and expectantly.
Read carefully the Bible passage for the day. Refer to the preceding and following sections as necessary, so that you read in context.
Reflect on what you have read, waiting in openness, ready to obey God's Word to you. First, think through the passage, asking yourself such questions as:
Then, complete your meditation by reading the S.U. Bible study guide. In light of these insights from your fellow Christians, think further about what God is saying to you.
Apply what God has taught you from today's reading to the circumstances of life - situations at work, home school, or church. Use what you have learned in order to become more like Jesus.
Pray again. This time, turn the things you have learned into prayers. Thank God for his greatness and love. Confess your sins. Remember the needs of others. Adore the Lord in his beauty. Go forth to serve him with joy.
"How am I supposed to have a 'quiet time' with God when I can't even get some peace and quiet myself?"
"My pastor says a 'quiet time' is important, but for me, well, it's kind of dry."
"Look, I read the Bible and pray already. But what makes it come alive?"
Most of us are hungry to get to know God better. But with all the distractions of modern life we often find ourselves living on spiritual snack food instead of a healthy diet of God's Word. How can we discover the secret of a meaningful daily walk with God? How can we enjoy the benefits of daily Bible reading and prayer? Here are seven suggestions that may help you have a better quiet time in a noisy world.
Find a Bible translation you like. Maybe get a notebook and pen. Choose a place and time when you can concentrate. For many this is first thing in the morning. But you don't need hours. Just 15-30 minutes is fine. The point is, decide to begin… today.
People refer to the habit of daily Bible reading and prayer. Of course, a quiet time does involve discipline. But don't miss the point. Your quiet time is really a meeting with the living Christ. Don't focus so much on the mechanics of the process that you miss the Person behind it. If you want to have a more meaningful quiet time, view Bible reading and prayer as daily dialog with God, a daily meeting.
Have you ever heard someone confess, "I'm having trouble keeping a regular quiet time. I know I ought to do better, but …"? Remember, God really loves you. And he wants to meet with you. Don't focus on guilt for not "paying your dues" to God. Rather, in whatever time you have, focus on expressing your love and devotion to him. Soon you'll find yourself feeling less guilty and more excited about meeting with God.
Many people say, "I love to cook but I hate to decide what's for dinner." The same principle is true when it comes to a daily quiet time. That's why it's helpful to use a daily Bible reading plan or devotional guide. Scripture Union has many, and there are many other good Bible reading guides available from other publishers or your church denomination. The point is, find a plan and stick to it. Then you won't have to spend your quiet time in "menu planning" and you can experience "the joy of cooking."
Even good things can become routine. To keep your daily walk with God fresh, vary your approach occasionally. Read the passage in a new Bible translation. Keep a journal of your reflections. Try a "through the Bible in one year" schedule. Sample different Bible reading plans or study one Bible book in depth using a commentary. Experiment on your own, but remember, it's not about the method, it's about the Person.
It's a noisy world out there and you can't always control it. When distractions come, incorporate them into your quiet time. If young children interrupt, invite them onto your lap and read the Bible together. If the phone rings, pray for the person after responding. If your mind wanders, give those thoughts to the Lord in prayer. Don't get angry or frustrated. Just come back into the presence of your Heavenly Father. He's waiting for you.
Prayer is not just talking to God, it's also listening. Take time to still yourself in God's presence. Give your worries and concerns to him. Wait in salience listening to the still small voice of his Spirit. Think back on the experiences of the last day. How did you see God's hand at work? Reflect on what you've read in God's Word. What is God saying to you? Invite the Holy Spirit to be present. When you really love someone, you take time to listen.
How can you have a quiet time in a noisy world? Take the first step. Beginning today, set aside a few minutes each day to be alone with God. Ask him to give you a hunger for his Word and a freshness in your prayer life. Put into practice some of the ideas from these Bible reading tips and find a Bible reading plan you like. Soon you'll discover that those few quiet time minutes may become the most meaningful part of your day.
If you want to start a group Bible study, here is a method you can use.
Pray to begin the study, that God would speak through his Word.
Focus on the topic using an opening "ice breaker" question.
Read aloud the passage selected for study. You may want to read it in two or three translations for better understanding.
Discuss the passage thoroughly. Encourage all group members to participate.
Pray about the special needs and concerns of the group and for help in applying God's Word.
In addition, you might want to begin with a time of singing, praise and worship or a time for refreshments and fellowship.
Bible reading and prayer go together. To pray systematically, you can use this Daily Prayer Guide. In addition to asking God to help you apply what you learn from his Word, focus on the prayer topic for each day. And of course, take time to bring your special needs and concerns, as well as your thanksgiving and praise, to God in prayer.
Pray for the universal Church, the Body of Christ, especially where it faces persecution.
Pray for our country, the President, Vice President and all government leaders.
Pray for the world and for any places of conflict, war, disaster or special need.
Pray for your local community and for the individuals and issues that influence it.
Pray for world missions, missionaries you know and for the spread of the Gospel.
Pray for the ministry of Scripture Union.
Pray for your church, its ministry, pastor(s), leaders and congregation.
Understand God's Word like never before...