A man who became a Christian bought a
Bible. He said, “Have you seen this thing?”
The Bible is daunting. At roughly
770,000 words, that’s about 2,500 normal book pages–equivalent to 12
Bible reading falls into that special
category of things we all know are important but struggle to do, like
diet and exercise.
Every year since 1988 I’ve read the
Bible cover to cover. This is certainly not required, but I’ve
learned some things along the way that may be helpful to you.
As you might suspect, I’ve encountered
every imaginable distraction from lack of motivation, inability to
concentrate, and outright laziness to barking dogs and making the
mistake of checking my email just before I planned to read!
There have been times of emotional
weariness, physical tiredness, and spiritual warfare. Nevertheless, I
succeed because I have a plan.
If you already have a plan, great. But
if you don’t–and even if you do–here are seven tips to help you
make the most of reading your Bible. At the end is an exercise, “My
Bible Reading Plan,” for you to complete.
1. A Purpose for Reading
First, what is your purpose for
reading the Bible? When I attend a meeting I like to ask, “What’s
the purpose of our meeting today?” That way, we tend to stay on
Uppermost, I read the Bible for
communion with God. First and foremost, Christianity is a
relationship with the Father who lavishes His love on me. When I read
the Bible I am literally spending time with the living God who
delights in me. The Bible, along with prayer, allows us to experience
the holy presence of God for a few moments. Communion is what keeps
me coming back. For everything else, there’s google. I also read the
Bible for discipleship–to grow and mature in faith.
So, my purpose to read the Bible is for
communion (knowing) and discipleship (growing).
What is your purpose?
2. A Fixed Routine
Second, what is the best time of day,
frequency, place, and amount of time for you to read the Bible? My
best time to read is early in the morning, because that’s when I’m
fresh. I grab a cup of coffee and settle into a favorite chair for an
unhurried time of prayer and reading the word of God. If it fits your
personality, it’s a good idea to have a set schedule.
Daily Bible reading (often called a
“quiet time” or “personal devotions”) makes sense
for the same reasons we recharge our cell phones. Of course, things
come up–an argument with your spouse, an alarm that doesn’t go off,
early meetings, or cranky kids. On average, I read about five days a
How much time you spend reading is
completely a matter of personal preference, but I like to read one
day from an annual Bible reading plan.
What routine works best for you?
3. Pray Before Reading
Third, how should you pray when reading
your Bible? It’s a good idea to pray when you read. How I pray
connects to my purpose: communion and discipleship. I start by
bringing myself into the presence and power of God. I usually start
“Father, I come to meet with
You. Please meet with me, Your much loved son. (Then I will usually
add a few sentences, mostly repeating Scripture about God’s love for
me and my love for Him).
• “Jesus, I come to meet with
You. Please meet with me, Your much loved servant. (Again, I add
sentences like, “I surrender my life today to Your Lordship.”)
• “Holy Spirit, I come to meet
with You. Please meet with me, Your much loved vessel. (Plus the
additional sentences like, “Lord, I invite You to disciple my
heart, to reveal what’s inside of me, and to speak to me.”
• Also, I pray about things as I read.
How do you pray, or want to pray, when
reading your Bible?
4. It’s Always Good to Have a Goal
Fourth, what is your goal for reading
the Bible? My friend Tom Skinner said, “When you set a goal, you
are literally writing history in advance.”
If you’re new to the Bible, your goal
might be, for example, to read a chapter a day in the New Testament
five days a week. (If you did this you would read all 260 chapters of
the New Testament in one year: 52 weeks x 5 days = 260 chapters).
I don’t micromanage my Bible reading.
Instead, I set one annual goal each year. That’s to read through the
Bible cover to cover annually. I don’t worry if I miss a day or two.
Call me “inconsistently” consistent. I like the flexibility
of chasing down rabbit trails, such as looking up all the verses in
the Bible on, say, “God’s will.” As I write this, I’m 20
days behind in The One Year Bible. It doesn’t matter. By December 31
I’ll catch up.
You may prefer shorter goals. God has
no set formula for Bible reading.
What is your goal for reading the
5. Increase Your Comprehension
Fifth, what can you do to increase your
learning and retention? I mark up my Bible. Some may consider the
Bible too reverent to mark. But from a learning theory perspective,
writing things down improves my comprehension. I’ve got margin notes,
underlines, arrows, check marks, asterisks, and a few chicken
scratches I can no longer decipher!
You can also journal in a notebook, on
a computer, on scraps of paper, or in the margins of your Bible. I do
You may concentrate better with a
display screen or a hard copy. If you learn better by listening than
reading, the Bible is available in all popular audio formats. It’s
totally up to you.
Memorization makes up an important part
of my plan. I keep a list of verses I’m working on. At this point in
my journey, it’s rare to find myself in any situation without a verse
coming to mind.
Another part of your plan could be to
teach the Bible. Preparing Bible lessons drives me deeper into the
Bible than anything else.
What can you do to increase your
learning and retention?
6. What to Do When Your Mind Wanders
Sixth, what will you do when your mind
wanders? My mind wanders all the time. And to be honest, I like it.
There are four possibilities when my mind wanders: the world, the
flesh, the devil, or the Spirit. When your mind wanders, you have to
figure out which one it is. If it is the world, the flesh or the
devil, then of course you want to reel it back in.
However, if I read a text and my mind
goes racing to a relationship that’s not right, or I am convicted of
a sin, or prompted to some good deed, then that is the Spirit and I
let that happen. When I read a phrase or sentence that impacts me, I
like to linger awhile, letting the Word soak into my soul.
What if your mind wanders because
you’re tired and exhausted? When I get that way, I try to read out
loud. If I still can’t concentrate I just stop and live to read
What can you do when your mind wanders?
7. Know What Keeps You Coming Back
Seventh, figure out what keeps you
coming back for more. My commitment is to stay at it each day until I
have what I call “a moment of humility,” an overwhelming
sense of God. It could be an insight, a sense of awe, or feeling
completely and totally loved. It’s a moment when I feel the power and
presence of God washing over me. I’m not looking for a self-help
book. I want the truth. The truth is what’s relevant and applicable.
That’s what keeps me coming back.
What keeps, or will keep, you coming
back for more?
your answers to the questions above into “My Bible Reading Plan”
My Bible Reading Plan
1. What is your purpose for reading the
2. What time of day suits you best?
3. How often do you read, or plan to
read, the Bible?
4. Where’s a comfortable place to read
5. How much time do you spend, or want
to spend, reading the Bible?
6. How do you pray, or want to pray,
when reading your Bible?
7. What is your goal?
8. What can you do to increase your
learning and retention?
9. What can you do when your mind
10. What keeps, or will keep, you
coming back for more?
In my new book Man Alive, I show
men God’s plan to harness that raw, restless energy we feel into a
powerful spiritual life. Read the first chapter at ManAliveBook.com.
Patrick Morley began
teaching a weekly Bible study to a handful of men on Friday mornings
in March 1986. This group grew to the 160 men who meet weekly in
Winter Park, Fla. Since 2000, Internet technology has enabled
thousands of men from around the world to participate each week by
viewing or listening to the study. Pat is the author of The Man
in the Mirror, a landmark best-seller for men drawn from Pat’s
own search for a deeper relationship with God. For more teachings by Morely, go to pastoringmen.com,
or visit his ministry online at maninthemirror.org.