How to Study the Bible

Do you struggle to pick up the Bible and read it? Are you someone with multiple versions and study tools but no clue how to use them? The purpose of this post is to help you find a way to ease Bible reading into your life and create sustainable reading patterns.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Matthew 5:6

From one of Christ’s most known sermons comes an admonition with a promise: thirst for righteousness will be filled. Why? Because God desires a people that desire Him; He won’t leave you stranded when you search for Him. The point is not perfection. The point is just to start.

There are many ways to approach the Bible. One of the easiest methods is known as the S.O.A.P. method.

S.O.A.P. is a simple way to break down any scripture and make it practical. The anacronym stands for:

  • Scripture
    • Read a passage from the Bible and write it down in your journal. Some people choose to write out the whole scripture because it helps them remember it. Others paraphrase it or just write the reference.
  • Observation
    • Write down any observations that you make about the passage. For example, note who is speaking, who are they talking to, why they may be talking about that subject, etc.
    • This is also a good time to note any questions you may have about the text. For example, note any terms you are not familiar with, so you can research them and find their meaning.
  • Application
    • This is when you start translating the scriptures you read into your everyday life. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and find answers by digging deeper for contextual meaning.
    • Write down questions you have about the Scripture. Dig deeper with a concordance to find other scriptures related to the one you read, and read them too. Use a dictionary and commentaries to discern contextual meaning of words.
    • Translate what you learn into actionable steps you can apply to your life.
  • Prayer
    • This is where you connect with God and talk about what you have learned. Ask Him to help you commit the Word to memory and apply it to your life.
    • It’s a good idea to write down prayers in your journal because they can serve as mile markers on your journey when you look back on your writing and see how God has answered them.

S.O.A.P. is an effective way to approach any scripture and make it practical, but it is not the only way to read and learn. You can also do a noun study focused on a specific person, place, thing, or idea. You can also focus on a specific book and read that. This article goes into detail explaining five ways to approach Scripture. This article shows you how to deep dive on a scripture with the Inductive method.

Whatever method you choose, commit to it daily for at least a week. New habits form into lifestyles after a month of exposure to them.

What tools do you need?

First and foremost, you need a Bible. There are many different translations available. Choose a Bible that translates the established Canon with accuracy. Some of the reputable versions include the New International Version (NIV), New Living Translation (NLT), New King James Version (NKJV), and the Amplified Bible (AMP). Pick one that is reputable, in your native language, and clear enough that you can read it without too much of a struggle over language. While it is not harmful to read a translation Bible, it is important to know the difference between versions and translations. Only versions go back to the actual original text to translate them forward into modern language. This can be an important distinction when it comes to accuracy in the text.

When you study, it is a good idea to have something to take notes. It is helpful to keep a journal. Journaling records progress and can be a source of encouragement when you are feeling low. Many new journals have a space at the front for an index. If you list your prayers by page number, you can easily go to specific ones as God answers them, update them, and reflect.

If you are not opposed to writing in your Bible, it is a good idea to have Bible-safe pens and highlighters to mark Scriptures that stand out to you. Because Bible pages are usually thin and printed on both sides, you want a highlighter specially made for it. Anything else will bleed through to the other side of the page. Bible highlighters are available at any major book store. Safe writing pens are also available.

If you are finding yourself studying on the move, consider screenshoting what you read and type your notes in a writing app on your phone.

Need a Plan?

If you learn best by having a plan to follow, you are in good company. Most readers respond well to being told a given plan of verses to read through a specific frame of time. There are even Bibles organized to read them in chronological order.

Many Bible reading apps offer free reading plans. Here is a link to a free reading plan from Billy Graham ministries.

Do you connect to better to music than writing?

If music is your thing, consider downloading the free app, Verses.

Verses gives you scripture in theme-based playlists. Most of the songs have a gentle, folksy acoustic style, and they are sung by talented artists. It is a good way to get scriptures stuck in your memory. A reader is also available to audio read the Bible.

Final Thoughts

Reading the Bible is all about connecting with God on a daily basis and inviting Him into our everyday lives.

The goal is to hear from God and find direction and comfort for your personal situation.

The most important tool you have to accomplish that is your consistency.

Overcome your fear and doubt by turning the page and doing the work.

From Genesis to Revelation, God’s Word is your guide to abundant living–so do not neglect it.

Charles F. Stanley, “Jesus, Our Perfect Hope”

Green Acorn: A Prayer

We certainly associate Spring with growth, but Autumn is the start. We have to shed our leaves and let things die for them to grow anew.

Millie, editor of Sylvia magazine
Reading by author, Rebecca Whitman

What will you start in me today, Lord?

What gentle bud will cocoon its life and wait for Spring? What leaves will shed and rot to feed the root of this dream? What branches will You prune from me because they bare no fruit? Will it be a wandering branch of thought or a whole arm out of touch with the mission?

I wait and listen…but I’m a little scared too.

It’s been a fear unsettled since I returned here, yet I want You to unearth it. Uproot it like the weed it is and water me with the Miracle-Gro of Your presence. I feel like I can’t hide away enough in You. Isn’t that part of the evidence here of transformation?

I give you…everything.

I surrender everything I have because I know it is a gift from You–a resource given to use not hoard. I know you will take care of me and get resources to me if you know you can get them through me.

I work through my waiting.

I pursue greater trust in You. I write down my dreams, and I’m not afraid to dream big with You! I make plain the steps to fulfill what I can, but, ultimately, it all falls apart without Your hand.

I have looked up at the sky through a world full of acorns.

I have seen the light through the leaves and let them fall on me. I have let brown acorns root and take residence where they should not have been, while the good green ones fell away from me. Why was my soil not good enough for their seed? Why did some other woman grab them with her earth, become their lover–their mother of children?

My ground, though aged and weak, has rested. The once stripped soil is fertile ground once more. I wait–with thanksgiving and expectation–for tomorrow’s planting and harvest. I thank You, Lord, for the green acorn You have chosen and are preparing for me today.