How to Engage with Scripture
According to a study done by LifeWay research in 2017, almost 9 out of 10 American households own a bible but more than half of Americans have read little or none of the bible. If you fit into the 53% of people who have read less than half of the bible, you likely haven’t experienced the bible as an intimate, active conversation with God. If you have read through the bible in the past but struggle to make it a meaningful part of your day, it’s time to view the bible as a method of life transformation through communication with God.
In no way will I ever claim that there is only one correct way to read your bible. Every word you read, no matter how few and far between, will always be beneficial. God's word is alive and active; every word has the power to change your life. Moreover, God can change your life whether you read His word or not. Many lives are transformed through God's sovereign power with no involvement of a Christian church or Holy Bible.
That being said, I see my bible as an invitation, and I hope you will too. God invites us into His word to learn who He is, to encourage us, and to instruct us. It's a wonderful gift we have been given.
My approach to reading my bible is motivated by a desire to honor God. I am grateful for His saving grace and His power to transform my life. I desire to read my bible with humility and expectancy; the humility to be teachable and the expectancy that God will teach me.
If you have been struggling to read your bible regularly, or it's become just another task to check off your list, I hope you'll give this method a try. There's nothing to lose but so much to gain.
A Life-Changing Conversation
I believe that one of the ways we minimize the power of reading the bible is by making it one-sided. We read the words. We think about what it means. We ask God to bless us. We go on with our day. We don't allow any space for God to join the conversation.
How often have you read a section of scripture and thought, "I don't understand what that means" or "I don't get how that applies to me." ...but then you don't ask God. You resign yourself to your ignorance. Or worse, you feel unintelligent and the bible seems irrelevant.
By inviting God into the experience, we gain new insight that is both personal and applicable. His word comes alive for us.
Information + Application = Transformation
Studying your bible is important. It's good to know the context in which words are said and understand the meaning behind specific words and verses. But if the purpose of reading your bible is to analyze the text, without learning how to apply it to your life, then you're missing out on the opportunity for transformational life change.
Most of us don't plan on becoming theologians and biblical scholars, so why do we spend our reading time acting like knowledge is the ultimate goal?
When we begin a conversation with God through His word, we gain a better understanding of our purpose, our direction, and our immediate next steps. He gives us the wisdom we need honor Him with our lives.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
- Romans 12:1-2 (emphasis mine)
When the word of God comes alive for us, it's powerful and personal. It renews our minds and transforms our lives.
What You Need
To read God's word, you need a bible. For this method, I recommend a physical bible but the YouVersion Bible app is a good second choice. Be sure to choose a translation that you can understand.
Additionally, have a journal and a pen.
What to Read
Pick a book of the bible and read through it in small portions each day (10-15 verses). It's better to read a small passage that you can remember and apply to your life than a large passage that overwhelms you with information.
Tip: If you're a newer Christian or new to reading the bible, start in the New Testament.
To help remember this method of bible reading, I use 4 R's. This method is based largely on the teaching of Ken Dyck (creator of Freedom Session & Authentic Living) with additional influences from the "SOAP" method. There are several other similar methods of teaching as well.
Regardless of the exact method or acronym you follow, find what works best for you--ensuring you create a dialogue with God.
Write it Down
When we want to remember something important, we write it down. We should do the same thing when we spend time with God. Expect Him to speak to you and value His words enough to remember them.
On your journal page, write the date and then follow the format as you go through the steps.
Tip: Evernote can be used as an online journal
Step 1: Read
Start reading. When something stands out to you, use your pen to place a mark in your bible. Marking with a pen gives you more options than simply highlighting everything.
I use a small tick ( ` ) to note something that stood out to me. For parts that really catch my attention, I use square brackets ( [ ] ) around the phrase. For single words that seem significant or are repeated, I use an underline ( _ ).
Choose what works best for you. The purpose is to engage with what you are reading.
In your journal, write down the verse you read. You can also include a summary in your own words.
Step 2: Receive
After you've written down the part of the passage that stood out to you, pray. Ask God what message or truth He wants to impress upon you with that scripture.
Dig deeper by asking specific questions:
What are you wanting to teach me with this verse? How does this verse apply to my day today? Is there something you would like me to start doing? Is there something you would like me to stop doing?
Through this process, you are engaging in conversation with God regarding what He wants to talk to you about.
Step 3: Reflect
Now take the time to write down what you feel God spoke to you. You don't need to worry about getting it exactly right! Just summarize the general message that you felt He was trying to impress upon you.
If any other bible verses come to your mind that relate to what you read, write them down to look up later.
In addition, take a moment to think of any action steps that you can apply to your day or your life based on what you've just learned.
Step 4: Respond
Now is the time to continue the conversation with God through prayer. Thank God for his faithfulness in your life, the truths that he is teaching you, or anything else for which you feel grateful.
It's at this point in my own routine that I bring my wants, needs, and desires before God. By focusing on learning from him first and then bringing my needs to him second, I come before him with humility and openness.
Tip: Write your prayers in your journal as a way to recall past requests and remind yourself of His faithfulness
The Holy Spirit
When Christ ascended up to heaven, He promised His disciples that He would send them a helper. We understand this helper to be the Holy Spirit--an integral, but often overlooked, part of the Trinity.
When we engage in a conversation with God, through the Holy Spirit, we are able to hear His Word speaking directly into our lives. One of the greatest transformations of my life came as I learned to engage in my daily bible reading this way.*
I would love to hear how your conversations with God change your life too! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you'd like some support getting started, try one of our reading plans by clicking the button below. You can also download my free guide "How to Have Life Changing Conversations with God." It includes the same information as a convenient download for you to tuck into your bible.
Plus, be sure to share what you're reading and learning in our community group!