How To Read The Bible Effectively

8 min read

Spending time in God’s word can be a hugely enriching experience for any Christian but knowing how to read the Bible can be a challenge.

What order should we read it in? How do we get the most out of it? And how do we motivate ourselves to pick it up in the first place?

It’s a big book after all. In fact, it’s lots of books, all related but different and often written in different styles and genres.

Some of it is exciting and some of it is more difficult to read. So how do you start?

In this mini guide on how to read the Bible we’ve listed some ways that you can build a daily reading habit and let the Word of God minister to your life.

What book of the Bible should I start with?

The first thing a lot of people want to know is where you should start. With the Bible being a collection of texts, you could technically start anywhere.

It might sound obvious, but one option is to start at the beginning, in Genesis, and read it from front to back. One benefit of this is seeing the full arc of the Bible story unfold in front of you.

Yes, that’s right, although the Bible is a collection of different texts, with different authors, themes, and mini narratives, it’s actually one big story. A larger meta-narrative which covers creation, fall, exile, redemption, the start of the church and new creation. If you want to read more about this six act structure and how we fit into this overarching Bible story, have a read of this.

There’s a lot of benefits to doing it that way but it’s not for the faint hearted. Particularly if you’re new to the Bible you might get stuck on some of the… meatier bits of the Old Testament.

For first time readers, a popular option is to start with the Gospels and more specifically the Gospel of Mark. The shortest of the four Gospels, it’s also thought to be the earliest account to be written. As such there’s a helpful urgency to the way it tells the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Another great place to start is Ephesians, one of Paul’s letters. This relatively short book perfectly encapsulates the good news of Jesus Christ and how that should impact our lives.

Of course, the idea isn’t to read as much of it as you can, as quickly as possible. The main thing is that you get started somewhere and get something from the parts you do focus on. So how do you do that?


1. Pray before starting

This simple thing is a game-changer. Jumping straight into the Bible without first being in a position to receive is usually not the best way to start.

We’ll often squeeze our Bible time into the few available gaps in our day; whilst eating breakfast, on our lunch break or before going to bed.

Whilst these are great times to read the Bible we can also have a lot on our mind. Whether it’s concerns about the day ahead or processing what’s happened so far, it’s hard to take in what you’re reading when you’re thinking about other stuff.

Taking a moment to meditate and invite the Holy Spirit to fill you with his presence before reading is a great way of making space for the word of God.

He also wants to speak to you through His word so ask Him to do that. The Holy Spirit will minister to you as you read and may reveal things that are relevant to your situation or could change your perspective.

2. Meditate on single verses or small passages

The next few points concern ways to read the text itself. They each have benefits and will suit some people more than others.

One way of reading the Bible effectively is focusing on single verses or small passages at a time.

This practice is sometimes referred to as Lectio Divina and has been practiced by Christians for centuries.

By contemplating these small passages and leaving space to chew over what it’s saying, we allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us through the words and discover things we hadn’t seen before.

Not sure what verse to pick? Bible apps are great for this as they’ll often suggest a verse each day. More on that below.

3. Read whole chapters at a time

One of the easiest ways to read the Bible daily is to read chapters at a time. Most chapters are small and in most modern translations split up the passage by topics or scenes.

This isn’t always the case but taking a book a chapter at a time is generally a good way of taking in a decent amount of information whilst not overwhelming yourself.

Man Praying with Bible
Praying or meditating whilst you read is a great way of consuming scripture. Image: Patrick Fore

 

4. Read whole books

Alternatively, you could read whole books of the Bible. The small ones at least.

This can be a highly rewarding way of reading scripture as it allows you to take in the full scope of what the author is saying or the story that’s being told.

This is easier to do with some books than others. For example, unless you’ve got an afternoon to yourself and a strong coffee to hand, reading the whole of Isaiah in one go would be a challenge for most people.

But most of the epistles in the New Testament could be read in one sitting easily. Indeed, that’s arguably how they were intended to be read, aloud to the congregations or the people they were addressed to.

5. Use a study Bible

Reading a translation of the Bible on its own is fine however some may benefit from reading a study Bible.

These have notes on each page as well as introductions to each book giving more context, history, and information about the book.

They’ll often have maps and pictures too which can add to our understanding of the Bible, the people that wrote it and the social and cultural context in which it was written.

6. Try different translations

As you may know there are numerous translations of the biblical text. The content is still the ‘canonical Bible’, a universally agreed upon set of texts, but different words will be used.

The most popular English translation is the NIV (New International Version). This is a great place to start. It’s written in plain modern English and is one of the best ways to get an accurate, authentic translation of the original text.

But you might find other translations that bring the Bible to life for you. Other popular examples include ESV (English Standard Version), NLT (New Living Translation), and NKJV (New King James Version).

Whilst not a direct translation, The Message Bible, is a popular read. This presents the Bible in a modern and colloquial paraphrasing and can bring the text to life for modern ears. This might be a helpful way of understanding certain bits of the Bible and put them in a new light.

Glorify app bible screen
The Bible screen on the Glorify App

 

7. Use a Bible App and listen to the Bible

Bible Apps are a revelation for smartphone users.

Not only do they give you instant access to various Bible translations, but they also present helpful ways of reading the Bible, through plans or studies.

Apps such as YouVersion, Dwell and Logos have a wide range of plans that can help you to build a daily Bible reading habit. You can also do them alongside friends, so there’s a social aspect too. For more on Bible apps and software, check out our other posts.

The Glorify App is another great way of reading the Bible and our daily worship includes a reading of scripture and a devotional which can help to expand on the passage. You can listen to the Bible too which can be great if you’re on the move.

8. Get a Bible In One Year

The Bible in One Year is pretty self-explanatory. These make reading the whole Bible in a year an achievable goal by splitting up the Bible into daily chunks.

A bit of the Old Testament, a bit of the New and usually a Psalm or Proverb as well. It provides a good mix of scripture that is manageable in one sitting.

It’s still a habit that can easily fall by the wayside and the daily sections are fairly large but it’s worth giving it a try!

9. Read scripture out loud

If you’re struggling to focus on the text or even if you just want a new way of reading the Bible, why not read it out loud?

This can bring the words to life and add a new dimension to what is being said, particularly with Jesus’ words in the Gospels.

It’s also closer to how this scripture would have been received by its original audience. Of course, you might need to find a quiet spot to do it in…

Make it easy

However you choose to read the Bible and at whatever pace, it is bound to be a good thing. You’ve got all the time in the world.

Part of the vision for the Glorify app is that it provides an easy way for people to access, read and receive from the Bible in their daily life.

Each day we look at a section of scripture and you can always read more if you want. Start your daily worship today.

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