Once you become a Christian, there are a number of things that pastors, parents and church leaders will tell you that you need to do: get baptized, come to church regularly, take communion and, of course, read your Bible and pray daily (sometimes they call this “having a quiet time”). Unfortunately, these authority figures are often better at remembering to tell young Christians to do these things than they are at explaining why or how we should do them.
As a result, many Christians are left to figure out how to read the Bible for themselves, and it often goes badly. The Bible is a big book - what part should you read? Start at the beginning? Flip to a random page? Once you settle that problem, you are then confronted with an ancient text that has little explanation and can be very confusing to someone who doesn’t have any guidance. As a result, most Christians who start trying to understand the Bible just stop after a week or so because they don’t understand it, and, quite frankly, can’t know why they are supposed to do it in the first place.
So those are the questions this article will try to address - how should Christians read the Bible daily, and, more importantly, why?
Before I get any deeper into this, I should begin by pointing out that when different people talk about “reading the Bible” they can mean some very different things. A seminary student rigorously combing the scripture to answer their professor’s question, a youth pastor studying a passage she intends to teach on Sunday and a teenager doing a short 10 minute devotional before school may all, in a sense, be “reading the Bible,” but obviously each is using the term very differently. This article is intended to help ordinary Christians who would like to know how to read the Bible devotionally.
With that said, let’s deal with the most important question first: Why do Christians need to read the Bible regularly? What are we supposed to get out of it?
In short, the reason Christians ought to read the Bible is that it will help us grow in our relationship with God. The Bible is God’s Word - His most clear and extensive communication to us. Reading it helps us to know and understand Him better, just like me having regular conversations with my wife helps me to know and understand her better. Like any relationship, our connection with God requires communication to flourish, and reading God’s word is one of the most direct ways for Him to communicate with us and show us how we can live more like His Son.
That leaves us with the question of how to read the Bible. The first thing I recommend is that you pick a set time every day that you can dedicate to reading God’s word. It doesn’t matter so much whether you read in the morning, the evening, during lunch, or on the bus on your way home - provided that you pick a time that you can consistently read. The goal is to make this a habit - like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. By picking a specific time, you make it easier to do it daily.
Next, make sure you have a good translation of the Bible to work with. Discussing all the different translations and why and when you should use each of them would be its own article, but for someone new to reading God’s word, my recommendation would be to start with the New Living Translation (NLT), the New International Version (NIV) or the English Standard Version (ESV). These versions are accurate and easy to understand - perfect for someone just starting. I would generally avoid the King James Version (KJV), the New King James Version (NKJV) or the New American Standard Version (NASB) for new devotional readers. These are good and useful translations for other purposes, but they aren’t really meant for everyday reading. By the way, BibleGateway.com is a fantastic resource that allows you to read the Bible in nearly any translation for free.
Now that we have a good translation, we need to decide what to read. I would encourage you to find a devotional written by an experienced Christian that can guide you as you read the Bible. A good devotional should explain what the text means, give you some background information on the book of the Bible that you are reading and offer some guidance on how to apply the message you read to your life. The Bible is composed of dozens of different books, from different authors and across multiple genres. Knowing what kind of book you are reading will affect how you read it. History should be read differently from poetry, letters are different from biographies. Everything is different than Revelation. Of course, you are welcome to use the devotionals posted daily to this site - you can subscribe to our daily devotional feed below!
Before you begin your reading, make sure to open in prayer. As I discussed earlier, the point of reading the Bible devotionally is to have better communication with God. Prayer is part of that as well. Spend several minutes talking to God - confessing your sins, thanking Him for your blessings, praising Him for who He is, and asking Him to help you and others with their struggles. Finally, ask Him to help you understand His word as you read it.
Finally, after all that preparation it is time to actually read! As you read scripture, make sure you have a pen and paper handy to jot down some notes. Specifically, I suggest you write down two things every time you read:
1) Anything you didn’t understand or that confused you. Keep a list of questions that you have as you read and make sure to ask a knowledgeable Christian about them later (feel free to email me if you’d like!). Often the parts of scripture that are confusing to us are the places we most need to grow - don’t be content with a lack of understanding!
2) How you can apply the message to your life. Scripture challenges us, shows us where we need to grow. It is important to write those lessons down so that we can remember them and live them out!
I hope this has taken some of the mystery out of how - and why - you should make reading the Bible part of our daily walk with God. My last piece of advice to you as your first steps in practicing this discipline is to stick with it. There will be days that you forget, are confused, or are simply discouraged. But as God’s Word becomes a part of your day, it will start to be a part of you.