Let’s talk about how to study the Bible. We’ve talked about Bible journaling and verse mapping, and these will play a part in studying the Bible later, but I want to break it down step by step if I were just sitting down for the first time to study my Bible. Please remember, this is the way I do it. This may or may not be the “right” way, there may or may not even be a “right” way. I believe as long as you’re reading your Bible, actively and prayerfully seeking God’s Will, listening to the Holy Spirit and following the teachings of the Church, that is the “right” way.
The first thing I would do is choose my Bible. I have written about how to choose a Bible here. You can choose your Bible based on translation, margin width, notes and maps section, meditations or reflections contained, which one your church uses as their primary translation or you can even choose your Bible based on which one just feels right in your hands. Are you looking for a portable Bible or one that stays at home on your bedside table or kitchen counter? And print size is important. I purchased a large print Bible a few years ago and love it. I know the older I get the more I will appreciate it.
Next, decide what you’re going to read. I recommend a reading plan, even if it’s just one you made up yourself. If you don’t have a plan, you won’t read. After a while just picking up the Bible, flipping through becomes tiresome, boring, and so disorganized you won’t feel like you’ve read anything because your initial time and energy will be spent figuring out what to read. You can choose a “Read the Bible in a Year” plan, a New Testament plan or Old Testament plan. Gospels, Psalms, Proverbs, Daily Reading…the options are endless. I prefer to read one book at a time, it gives me a better understanding of what I’m reading. (Here’s a Write and Pray the Word plan for the Book of Philippians free for email subscribers.)
Now decide, “How” will you study the Bible. There are Bible studies in abundance for any book, topic or season. I prefer to read the Bible on my own without the aid of a personal written study. The Holy Spirit may be speaking something entirely different to me than the thoughts and ideas the author was inspired with. And although the Spirit can still get His message or inspiration through to me, I’d prefer the path of least resistance and noise. Also, will you study with a highlighter in hand? Use a color key? Or will you use a pen to jot down notes in the margin? Will you keep all your notes and reflections in a journal and keep your Bible neat and clean?
Finally, what is your main objective? Do you want a better overall understanding of the Bible? Are you more interested in the historical facts and figures? Is there a specific virtue you’re working on or a vice you’re trying to root out? Your answer to those questions might reveal a need for some companion books to help you study.
Prayerfully go through these questions to determine the best way to begin your study of the Bible. I’ll have a follow-up post showing how I have answered these questions and what my Bible study looks like. And if you’re a student of the Bible, long time or just beginning, share with us in the comments how you study your Bible.