How To Read & Study The Bible (and Our *Personal* Experiences with the Bible)
How many of you have made these excuses:
“I am too busy to read my bible,”
“I just can not find the time to study God’s Word,”
“ I’ll get my bible reading done at church from the pastor,”
“I will just read the Bible verse from my devotional or my Bible verse of the day app.”
Whether or not you have never actually read your bible on your own or are an avid reader, this blog post is for both of you. Reading and studying the Bible is for ANYONE. We are going to walk through a few steps to begin reading your bible and also some really great tools that we have used before and still use during our bible study time.
The other reason we are writing this is because there is an overwhelming influx of tools on how to study your Bible but it is not easy to figure which one to do.
Take a deep breath and breathe – God knows your heart and He knows you would like to read and grow in your knowledge of the Bible but truly just lost right now. You are here reading this blog post, so you have an urge to learn more and want to get to know God’s Word more.
God knows your intentions, but you do not have to do it alone. With the help from God, godly people and mentors in your life, and hopefully with the help from this blog post, let’s get into reading and studying the Bible.
Quick Facts of the Bible
Here are some quick facts about the bible that we have learned and that you might not have known or never knew. We are all on our journeys on reading the Word, so don’t worry if you need to learn the basics. Let’s have the grace and patience for ourselves just like God has for you.
There are 66 books total & is separated into 2 main sections: The Old Testament and the New Testament.
The Old Testament has 39 books and the New Testament has 27 books, which totals to 66 books in the whole Bible. See the images below for more of a visual representation:
Each of the books were separate books under different titles, until they were collected together over the centuries to make up the Bible that we all know today. The Bible is not in chronological order – I know, what a shock! We were surprised too when we first learned this.
The books of the bible would be called “chapters” IF they were written as the bible as one book (It is one grand story!) Instead, they are called books because they were all separate books/scrolls and often can stand alone on their own.
For example, James is a BOOK from the New Testament and Isaiah is a book from the Old Testament.
The way we find Bible verses (verses are the little numbers within the chapters of the books in the Bible) is not too hard.
Let’s look for Matthew 11:28-30 as an example. Matthew is a first book of the New Testament so this is not too hard to find. You can use the reference in the front of the Bible to find books in the Bible if you cannot find it.
Now let’s find chapter 11. Once you find chapter 11, look for verses numbers 28-30 to read it. It’s at the end of chapter 11.
“28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
With all the quick facts and refresher of the Bible, we hope this will help you feel more equipped to take on reading the Bible and studying to understand it.
Here are 8 methods to read and study the Bible, remember, the Bible is for anyone at any time!
METHODS of Reading and Studying The Bible
We want to share a few things before we get into the methods of studying the Bible.
One, we strongly recommend having a journal or notebook of some sort to write down your findings, thoughts, prayers, and God speaking to you.
Two, if you are only reading a devotional to read your Bible or only read your one Bible verse for the day, we challenge you to do a Bible study and truly read long sections or books of the Bible.
If you feel like you just cannot do this on your own, we encourage you to try and ask for God’s help. We recommend praying before reading your Bible so that the The Holy Spirit can be your guide and give you insights and understanding of what you are reading.
1. Read the whole Bible
There are so many one year Bible reading plans and you can start anytime, not just on January 1st for your new year resolution. The thing you need to know is that you don’t have to finish reading the Bible in a year. You are not a horrible Christian if you skip some days or weeks. But, it is a wonderful commitment to try to read the Bible in a year because you can look back and realize that God helped you through it all.
While there are one year Bible reading plans front cover to back cover, we seriously recommend reading a chronological plan, which means you read according to the timeline in history. The reason why we recommend this type of plan is if you have read the Bible before but do not understand the Bible as a grand story.
We recommend using the Bible Recap as a reference because they not only have the free chronological plan BUT they have daily podcast episodes and they just released a book version of the daily bible reading w/ commentary.
I (Lianna) loved their daily podcast episodes because it helped me to understand what I was reading, each episode was about 5-10 minutes long, and it motivated me to keep going when I saw many Christians committed to reading their Bible in a year.
2. Study a book from the Bible
Yes, a book from the Bible itself. You can pick one book and read it and study it. Now, if you are a young Christian or new follower of Jesus Christ, start out with either Genesis (the first book of the Bible) OR read John or Luke (in the New Testament).
However, if you have been a Christian for awhile and have read the Bible here and there, it is time to get into the books you’ve been avoiding in the Old Testament, like Exodus, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, 1st & 2nd Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, and maybe into some of the major prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.
Getting a bit irritated at us? We were irritated at ourselves too when we began to read what we did not like or understood. Growing and learning the Bible can be uncomfortable and not easy. But, how can we begin to understand the Bible if we keep reading the New Testament? The Old Testament may be daunting to read but it is still relevant today and it always points to Jesus Christ, over and over again. The Old Testament reveals our great need for Jesus Christ because we could not follow the Law completely as imperfect human beings born into sin.
I (Lianna) recommend Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin (don’t write off the book just because it has “women” in it, all you men readers) because she defined our bad habits of reading our Bible and goes step-by-step on reading and studying the Bible.
Here are some ideas to start off reading a book of the Bible:
- Pray before you start
- Read the background BEFORE you read (who it was written by, where, when, the style it was written, and themes)
- Read the book
- Read the book again and write notes in your journal,
- Read commentary and notes and write in your journal what you’v learned and what God is revealing to you and continually be in prayer in the whole process of studying the book
Know this: this is the hardest of all the methods of Bible study. If you are reading James, which is only 5 chapters, you may be done studying it within a week or two. But, if you are reading Jeremiah, which is the longest book of the Bible, it may take you about 3 months or so. The point is we are called to read, study, and know God’s Word. The more we do this, the more we learn of God and His plans.
3. Study a topic/theme in the Bible
This one is a bit more of a longer study, since you have to pick out all the relevant bible verses that relate to the topic you have chosen to study. It can be a topic that you have struggled with and need God’s help with His Word or a topic that you want to learn more about like God’s salvation.
Let’s use an example: anxiety. Where does the bible talk about anxiety? You can do a search online for “Bible verses on anxiety”. I found about 30-40 bible verses on anxiety and worry, the most popular one being Philippians 4:6-7. How does God help me overcome anxiety and worry? How do I combat anxiety when it comes? Doing this on your own or n a bible study group with people can both be encouraging.
4. S.O.A.P. Method
Here’s a good explanation on the S.O.A.P. bible study method:
“SOAP stands for: S-Scripture, O-Observation, A-Application, P-Prayer
Scripture – Read a passage of scripture and write down a verse or two that jumps out to you.
Observation – What are your personal observations that you note from this scripture?
Application – How does it now apply to your everyday life? What can you do to apply this in your life today?
Prayer – Write a personal prayer based on your observation and application.
This is a good method to do if you are still feeling a bit intimidated in studying the whole Bible, but still want to start somewhere. You can pick out a Bible verses section to read and study, but be sure you know the whole context of your Scripture reading as well (who it was written by, where, when, the style it was written, and themes) so you don’t study in the wrong context or take it out of context.
A few more methods:
Here’s a few more Bible study methods that we found that we haven’t really done but if you are interested, check them out:
Meditate on a Bible verse
Read this article if you are interested in any of these 4 methods. He does a good job explaining what each one means and how to study the Bible in those methods.
head here–> 11 Ways to Study the Bible
Our Personal Experiences of Reading/Studying the Bible
We share our personal experiences of reading and studying the Bible – we wanted to share because there may be many of you reading that think they are alone in their desire to pursue reading the Bible more, but feel discouraged in beginning.
We share from a female and male perspectives below…
You do not have to finish reading the rest of the blog post if you do not need to read it, but it’s there to encourage you in your own journey of studying the Bible 🙂
A Female Perspective & Experience with The Bible
Lianna’s story: I (Lianna) was in the same boat of wanting to read my Bible as you about 5 years ago when I was 20. (Wow, I forget that I am 25 right now lol)
And, to be honest, I am kind of back on the same boat again but with a different perspective.
5 years ago, I truly wanted to read the Bible more but I never dove into the Old Testament because I thought it was boring and truthfully, I did not understand the context. I didn’t understand and I did not WANT to understand. Until I had a revelation. How can I say I am a Christian if I do not know the Word? How can I begin to take the role of a Christian mentor to young girls and youth at the time if I was not practicing what I was teaching them?
So, slowly like a baby beginning to learn to walk, I stumbled into reading and studying my Bible. You would think that’s the end of the story? Nope. In the beginning, reading my Bible was so difficult and so boring for me. I did not desire to read the Bible nor did I want to understand it. When I was at my wit’s end, I prayed to God to help me have the desire to read. And, overtime, God gave me that desire to read and study and gain new insights through the Holy Spirit.
Now, I’m kind of in the same boat again but in a different way. At this point, I’ve already read the Bible in one year, and I have gained a new understanding of the Bible as a whole story of God’s plan in motion from the Garden to the Resurrection of Christ Jesus to the Day that we will be reunited with Jesus Christ in heaven. But, I have now begun to view my Bible study time as a long checklist and if I did not check each one off, I failed for the day. Pretty sad right?
My checklist went like this: read the Bible in where I was studying, check cross-references in my ESV study Bible and ESV footnotes, write down what I learned or any new insights through the Holy Spirit, then write in my prayer journal, read my devotional, continue reading a different spiritual book I was reading at the time and then pray at the end.
If you are reading this, I am sure you are like, “That is quite A LOT.” I know. I went overboard. But, then I was watching someone I look up on their Instagram stories and she is a Christian.
She was sharing how she studies the Bible; however, she explains that her quiet time is not the same each day. She said one day she read a Bible verse and meditated on that verse, prayed, and wrote in her journal while worshiping God. But, the day before, she did a word study on “waiting on the Lord” and she was deep-diving into the Bible, commentary, and dictionary while writing down 11 pages of what she learned in her journal.
The point is that she reminded me that our quiet time and reading and studying the Bible is not just for us; it’s to build an intimate relationship with God the Father. God is not impressed by what we do for Him; He just wants us, all of us, our hearts, our minds, our souls, our spirits, fully aligned with Him. But, we will never experience this if we do not commit to drawing close to Him and learning more about God through the Bible.
This truth and revelation lifted so much weight and burdens from my shoulders. Even though we have seasons and changes, even in each day in which we will not do the same thing for our quiet time or we do not feel like it, God knows our hearts. He knows my heart. And, He longs for us to go to Him, no matter what that looks like.
A Male Perspective & Experience with The Bible
David’s Story: So I am going to be real and honest right now as I am writing this. I wish that I could say that I have been reading my bible for years and years. Well, that’s not true. I have read it off and on for years and years. Not consistent or giving much effort in wanting to learn more. I grew up in church and I thought that I knew it all and I did not need to learn any more. I got the clear picture and that was all I needed to know. Well, my thinking and thought process was clearly wrong.
I picked up the bible occasionally when convicted or reading a book following along during a bible study or a sermon. I got saved when I was 11 years old and did not really start to study the bible on a daily basis until I was 25. Why did it take 14 years to study my bible on a daily basis?
I had to understand in my heart, mind and soul that nothing in this world would fulfill me like God’s word. Growing up, I honestly hated reading in general. It wasn’t until after graduating from college that I understood the value of reading and learning.
I guess because it was on my own time and not the professors’ agendas or time but it was my choice, so I began the reading journey. Trying to read a book took me months to finish because I had not learned the art of reading. Yes, it is an art and it takes practice to get comfortable with it and enjoy it.
So there I was in my early adulthood self, trying to finish my first non-fiction book out of college. Eventually I did finish it. This got me excited and felt refreshing to learn again and study. However, there was still a void that I would not understand on how to fulfill it for another several years.
After reading dozens of different varieties of books for several years, I could not believe I was feeling this way but I actually enjoyed reading. I was attending church one Sunday and the pastor was talking about the bible, on reading and studying it and how to do it.
I was so inspired by his message that I went home and began to read it. Going from non-fiction and fiction to God’s Word was completely different. I remember thinking to myself, I can read the bible, I have read all these other books it should be easy. Little did I know that I was wrong, very wrong.
I started in Genesis, and it was tough. It felt like I was back to where I started after college. After the first several days, I was beginning to feel refreshed after my reading and studying God’s word. I was able to think more clearly throughout the day. I felt more at peace with my day and the schedule that I had planned out.
What was happening to me? What was this feeling? I did not have these feelings after reading my nonfiction and fiction books. At the same time, it was hard to read the bible because some days, I would read a section and not understand it. Or I would read and have to go back and read the sentence over again to understand it better.
What I am trying to say is that I had to practice being in God’s word, learning about Him and His ways. Just because you read one Bible verse a day doesn’t necessarily mean that you will understand the context and understand God and your relationship with him better. I’m not hating on The Bible Verse of the Day apps or anything like that but all I’m trying to say is it’s not enough even though it’s better than not doing anything at all.
If we have a desire in our hearts to learn more and be in a better relationship with your Lord and savior then I encourage you to start reading his word and your life will change. You will be able to see yourself in your “old skin” (who you were before) and wish you would have started sooner. Cease the moment, make time, and get started today!
Overall, we know there are so many ways that we can read and study the Bible. All the methods may seem overwhelming to you, but all we are challenging you is to start. Just try reading a book in the New Testament like John or James and commit to reading it. Or start at the beginning at Genesis.
Everyone is on their own journey of reading and studying the Bible. Don’t compare your journey to someone else’s. Remember, God wants you.
Thank you for reading,