By Michael C. Mack
Has your study of God’s Word become tedious or tiresome? You’re not alone.
Quite often, we’ve been taught there is one correct way to read our Bibles. But each of us is different, so how we develop a more intimate relationship with God will be different. Experiment with different ways of engaging with God through his Word. See what works best for you. Here are some ideas to get your creativity flowing:
1. Make spending time with God your #1 priority.
2. Designate a specific place where you will meet with God. Think of this as “holy ground” where you meet with, listen to, and speak with the Most High God.
3. If #2 becomes tiresome or humdrum, find a different place: outside on the deck, at a park, etc.
4. Before you begin reading, ask God to help you see past the words on the page in order to see his purpose, his heart, and his calling for you through the passage.
5. Thank God for the time to spend with him and hear from him; it’s only possible by what Jesus did on the cross.
6. Be prepared to surrender your own thoughts, ideas, and mindset to what God wants you to hear and do. Tell God you’re ready to obey whatever he shows you through your time together.
7. Be attentive to the Holy Spirit as you study. As a Christian, he lives within you to guide you and help you understand Scripture.
8. Consider how you learn best. If you are an auditory learner, listen to the Bible rather than read it. If you are a kinesthetic learner, stand or walk outside or on a treadmill (carefully!) as you read or listen.
9. Hang around with people who are also seeking God’s wisdom. Meet regularly to share what you are learning and grapple with applying God’s Word to your lives.
10. Target your Bible reading toward a particular area of weakness or need for spiritual growth.
Try New Tools
11. If you’ve always used a certain type of reading plan, try something different, such as an intense study of one book of the Bible or even one chapter for a period of time.
12. Change versions of the Bible. If you’ve always studied from the NIV, for instance, try the New Living Translation, The Message, or others.
13. Read one passage in several different versions and pay attention to what you learn from the different ways it is translated.
14. Use a Bible software program on your computer or tablet, such as WORDsearch or Logos, which include numerous tools.
15. Utilize a website or app such as BibleGateway.com or YouVersion. These include tools, reading plans, and even ways to share Scripture with friends.
16. Journal what you are learning, hearing, and praying on paper or digitally.
Evaluate Your Approach
17. Be careful not to simply try harder by your own efforts to be “a good Christian” by reading the Bible. This will lead to burnout and ineffectiveness.
18. Change the way you think about spending time with God (Romans 12:2). Don’t do it because you should, but because you want to spend more time with your Father.
19. After reading a section, stop and reread in light of your own circumstances. Look for the transferrable principle for your situation in the passage.
20. Extend the amount of time you spend each day communicating with God through his Word.
21. Meditate on God’s Word—really think about and even feel what God is saying.
22. Listen for what God is saying to you. His Word will speak to you if you focus on listening. Listen intently and patiently.
23. Take time to slow your pace. Most of life is hurried. Your time with God must not be frantic or rushed.
24. Look for Jesus. Even as you read the Old Testament, look for how these passages point to him.
25. Study a topic. Use a topical index to read every verse you can about a subject of interest.
26. Follow the cross references listed for a passage. Continue until you exhaust that topic or yourself.
27. Read a book or passage to learn about a particular value. For example, Nehemiah and the Gospels can teach about leadership.
28. Study a Bible character. Read everything you can about or by a certain person. What do you learn about God and life through this person’s life?
29. Study with a view toward teaching. Write a brief lesson outline based on a passage and share it with a group, a friend, or a child.
30. Look for intersections, that is, where truth meets real life. When you come to such an intersection, ask, what does God want to transform in me?
31. Ignore verse numbers (and in some cases even chapter divisions). Read from the beginning to the end of a sentence, idea, or story.
Respond in a New Way
32. Do you love music? Put a key Scripture passage you read to a tune—one you make up or a favorite song melody.
33. Create something (art, poetry, dance, etc.) in response to the verses that you read.
34. Put yourself in the historical situation. Investigate the time and culture when a book was written. Then pretend as if you were living in that time as you read. Consider how you would have responded then and how our culture is similar today.
35. Read a shorter Bible book like a letter written to you. If you can, read it in one sitting, as if you just received a letter in the mail from a friend.
36. Pray Scripture back to God in your own words. Try praying a psalm, for instance.
37. Identify any emotions you have as you read. Do you feel mad, glad, sad, confused, or scared? Why?
38. Watch for the passions and yearnings God gives you as you read his Word. What do they tell you?
Read Like a Journalist
39. Always start with the facts, that is, what the Scripture actually says in the context of the culture in which it was written.
40. Who is involved?
41. What are the circumstances?
42. When was this taking place?
43. Where was the setting for this?
44. Why was this taking place? Why is this important?
45. How are you going to apply this to your life?
Apply Ideas from Psalm 119
46. Focus on obeying what you read, not simply knowing it (v. 9).
47. Read God’s Word aloud (v. 13). It can help you retain it in your mind and heart.
48. Tell others what you are hearing from God (v. 13). Share with your small group, spouse, kids, friends, coworkers, and neighbors what God is teaching you.
49. Rejoice in God and his Word as you read (v. 14). How are you inspired to respond? Stop reading and clap your hands. Throw your hands in the air and yell, “Yes! Thank you, Lord!” Do a fist pump and shout, “Woo-hoo!”
50. Reflect on God’s ways (v. 15). What does the passage teach you about God’s nature?
Pray as You Read God’s Word
51. Thank God for the privilege to go to him.
52. Surrender what you want for what he wants with your life. Not your will but his be done.
53. He alone is God. Praise him. He is worthy of your praise, adoration, love—all that you are.
54. Confess sorrow for your sin.
55. Ask: “What do you want me to see today? What do you want me to hear from you?”
56. Ask God what he wants to change in your heart.
57. In what area(s) are you conforming to the world rather than to God?
58. What part of your mind needs to be transformed and renewed?
59. Pray: “Help me to be humble and quiet before you so that I can truly hear what you have to say to me. Help me set aside my own agenda or anything else that would keep me from hearing from you.”
60. You have an enemy who does not want you to hear from God. But know God is for your. Pray that he sends his angel armies to protect you and your family today.
61. Thank God for his Holy Spirit who guides, comforts, and counsels. He has taken up residence in your heart and has given you power through his Spirit to do the things he is calling me to do.
62. Acknowledge that God’s Word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path. May it be your guide for living.
63. Believe that his Word shows you how to live life his way, which is the best way for you to live.
64. Accept his Word for what it says.
65. Seek God’s help: “Help me to obey what you tell me in your Word and through your Spirit. I will obey your Word!”
66. Confess: “It’s not about me. It’s all about you. I am your vessel. Show me how you can use me to bring about your purposes. I belong to you.”
67. Adore: “I love you, Father, but I know I can do that only because you loved me first. Thank you for your unconditional love.”
Apply More Ideas from Psalm 119
68. Write a key verse on an index card and put it somewhere you will see it throughout your day. When you see it, read it and think about how you can live it out (v. 9).
69. Remember the point of studying God’s Word: to seek God with all your heart. It’s all about your relationship with him (v. 10).
70. Stick with it (v. 10). Busyness and Satan will try to derail you. (They work in tandem.) Your commitment to the kingdom of God is a threat to Satan’s kingdom.
71. Hide God’s Word in your heart (v. 11) to help you not to sin.
72. When you come across a passage that speaks to you, stop reading and praise God for it (v. 12). Thank him for communicating to you through his Word.
73. Delight in God’s decrees (v. 16). Whatever you take delight in is where your heart will go.
74. Choose the way of faithfulness and set your heart on God’s laws (v. 30). God has given you the freedom to make your own choices. Choose to follow God and to study his Word.
75. Make Bible study a lifetime commitment (v. 44).
76. Fall in love with God’s Word (vv. 47, 48). That may sound weird, maybe a bit fanatical. But your attitude is vital.
77. Make study a regular practice (v. 57). Put it on the top of your calendar or task list every day.
78. Consider your own ways and then turn your steps to God’s way (v. 59). Look inside yourself and recognize your deficiencies. Then turn to God’s Word to seek his way to live.
Remember These Don’ts
79. Don’t hurry. Spend time hanging out with God at his pace, not yours.
80. Don’t study just to “be fed.” Study in order to feed others.
81. Don’t focus on the spiritual practice itself. Focus on the relationship.
82. Don’t blindly follow what others (even preachers) tell you is the “right” way to do Bible study. Find what works best for you.
83. Don’t give up if one form of Bible study doesn’t work well for you.
84. Don’t keep going if a form of study isn’t working for you. It doesn’t mean you’re not a good Christian!
85. Don’t stick with one practice forever, even if it worked well for you years ago. If it isn’t helping you connect with God’s heart today, try a different approach.
86. Don’t neglect God’s Word!
87. Don’t make this practice legalistic. Beware of the way of the Pharisees. This is about love and relationship, not duty and law.
Study with a 2 Timothy 3:16 Lens
88. How does this passage teach me what is true?
89. How does this help me realize what is wrong in my life—how does it rebuke me?
90. In what specific ways is this correcting me?
91. How is this training me to do what is right?
Ask God as You Read
92. What does this mean?
93. What are you saying to me?
94. How does this relate to me?
95. How can I live this out?
96. What are you promising me?
97. What are you telling me to change?
98. How are you encouraging me?
99. How are you challenging me?
100. How does this affect my relationship with you?
101. How does this affect my relationships with others?
Michael Mack writes our weekly Where You Live feature and leads the ministry, Small Group Leadership. www.smallgroupleadership.com