Updated: May 5, 2020
How many times has your New Year resolution been to read through the Bible or maintain your daily devotional life? For me, it has been a yearly goal. Yet, somehow every December I look back in disgrace realizing I came nowhere close to achieving it.
Until this year.
2019 was the year that I finally managed to read the entire Bible from start to finish. I will be honest, there were a couple of times I grazed over a passage or two. I will admit I don't remember everything I read. However, this was such a huge improvement compared to how I have done for the past 18 years that I just felt compelled to share what I did that worked.
Before this past year I thought I had tried everything; reading plans, email subscriptions, Bible study lessons, devotional books, even cell phone apps. Nothing stuck. Finally this year I said, "Enough! I will not print another 100 day Bible plan! I will not buy any more books!" I'm not saying that those methods aren't great or a huge blessing for other people, they just never held up for me. If you haven't tried any of those tools I DO recommend giving them a shot, but if that doesn't sound like something you will succeed at- keep reading.
Below I have listed what I feel were the keys to my success at reading the Bible and also enjoying it:
1. Purchase a Bible You Like- For so long I used the Bible from my childhood, the Bible version that was popular, or the Bible someone gave me for free to study from. This year for the first time I actually went to the book store, sat down, and spent time looking through all the various Bibles offered. I looked at different versions, sizes, and designs. I picked one that I was attracted to. I picked one that used language I could relate with. I also picked one that had commentary centered around a theme I knew I wanted to know more about (the theme of my particular Bible is Jesus). Perhaps you want to know what Bible I chose. I'm not going to mention it here. My point is for you to go find a Bible that fits you. Make your Bible experience your own.
Maybe you are thinking, "Well I just want to use my Bible phone app." This is a good way to start, but I encourage you to also purchase a physical copy. There is something beautiful and special about having an actual book to sit down with where you can turn pages and write notes (if you want!). That being said, if you are like my husband and absolutely DESPISE reading, a Bible app is a perfect option because it often allows the Bible to be presented as an audiobook.
2. Think About Questions You Have- Have you heard things about God or religion that you don't understand? Do you want to know what the Bible says about how you should live? Do you want to know what it says about science, or earth's origins? The best way to begin reading the Bible is to think of or write down things you care about. If you have questions you are passionate about, that passion can motivate you to read the Bible and learn something you want to know.
3. Google is your BFF- Once you have questions in mind, you can start looking for answers. Go online to Google or your favorite search engine and type out "What does the Bible say about ______?" Filling in the blank space with your topic of interest. When the search brings up results, try to avoid articles and focus on websites that give you a list of verses you can go lookup. After locating a particular verse, I often go read the entire chapter where that verse is found so I can understand the context. Below I have listed my 3 personal favorite websites which will come up and provide you with a list of verses on your topic:
4. Start small & be patient- It is so important to be gentle with yourself as you start reading the Bible. The Bible is a massive, detailed, and often hard to comprehend book! Do not feel like the amount of time you put in is equivalent to how much you care about or love God. For years I was very excited and interested in knowing God but I was instantly bored when I opened my Bible. Like any other hobby or activity that you do, you must train yourself. Start reading the Bible for a few minutes each day. When you feel yourself losing interest or getting distracted, stop reading and come back to it later. This might even mean come back tomorrow. I do not agree with people who demand that you read or pray for X amount of hours a day. I also do not agree that you MUST read the Bible in the morning or you MUST read it at night. Read it when you want to! Putting all these obligations on yourself does not develop sincere worship and love for God. Have faith that as you give God what you can, He will slowly work on your heart. He will inspire you to spend more and more time with Him. As crazy as it is, I am now at a point where I have to stop myself from reading the Bible or I would never get anything else done! I could study it for hours! No one could have EVER told me that would happen! I would've never believed it...but it happened. It can happen to you too.
5. Pray- Sometime in the near future I will do an entire post on prayer, but I am going to briefly talk about it now. Prayer is going to really help you as you read the Bible. As you read, you must pray for understanding. Pray that God will allow you to discern what the Bible says. Pray that God will help you find resources and people who can assist your Bible studying.
Prayer is not what people think it is. Prayer does not mean getting on your knees, locking yourself in a closet, or even closing your eyes. I actually pray frequently with my eyes open. I pray a lot while driving in the car. I pray a lot out loud when no one is near me. I often pray in my head while in conversation with other people! I am not saying this to brag but to give you inspiration- I pray off and on all day constantly. Half my thoughts in my head are for me and half are for God. Prayer is a direct discussion with God.
God is always with you, He is always watching and experiencing your life with you. You do not need to start every conversation with him saying "Dear Jesus" and ending with "Amen". Honestly, when it comes to private prayer time I would urge you to stop doing that. Stop doing it because it makes your experience with God feel rehearsed. Think about it... who else do you talk to like that? Dear Melissa, can you help me find my lost dog? I hope what I just told you comes true. We simply don't talk like that. Talk to God like you mean it. Talk to God in a manner that makes it real for you. I'm not advocating for disrespect, but when I first came out of a lifestyle of drinking and chasing after boys many of my prayers included profane language. Of course, I'm not saying you should curse at God! My point is, that was where I was at in my life at that time. That is what it took for God to become real for me in those low moments.
Perhaps you are thinking of the Lord's Prayer as I discuss all this. The Lord's Prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. It is often referenced and used to "teach" people how to pray. I am going to give you something to think about. Perhaps the explanation of the Lord's prayer in the Bible is less about structure and more about topics. It's less about using perfect grammar or wording and more about what you are saying. We see evidence of this through various Bible characters. I think of David, Job, the prophets, and the disciples. Go read their prayers and you will see that it is not about formatting. Speak from your heart, and God will speak back. Often He will speak back to you through what you read in the Bible.
As you practice the above steps, I believe that you will develop a love for the Bible. The Bible is hard to read at first, but once you get into it you can hardly put it down! The Bible is the story of our lives, our world, and our Creator. It is the most precious and thought-provoking book we have. We all desire to read it and understand it even if we aren't always aware of our desire. As you lead your studying with your own questions, you will come across new passages and things you want to know. Over time I have faith that you will want to read all of the Bible and maybe you'll make it through a reading plan after all!
You clicked on this post for a reason. God is calling you to find the truths you've always longed for.
Start your journey today: www.biblegateway.com