Opening up the Bible and reading it can sometimes feel stiff. How are we supposed to connect with God by reading an ancient book?
But the reality is, God’s word helps us know who he is, who we are, and what life is ultimately about. And God’s word is what he uses to speak to us.
Connect with God through reading the Bible
There is not a strict “only way” to read our Bibles in what Christians call a “devotion” time. But here are some of my suggestions to get you started or to rekindle your daily time of connecting with God through his word (and some free resources too!).
Choose a plan.
Choose what to read and a regular place and time. What you read will change, but choosing a regular place and time helps Bible reading become a part of our daily habit, which forms our thinking and being in the world in all the right ways.
I suggest committing to reading through the Bible, one book at a time. Every book is part of the larger story of what God is doing with the cannon (the 66 books of the Bible). He is painting the big story of who he is, who we are, and his plan for redemptive history. (It’s an epic story with a happily ever after!)
By reading through a book, we are able to:
- Connect the dots within that one book and see the purpose or bigger idea God intended.
- Protect us from misunderstanding (or misusing!) a verse because we have the larger picture of its purpose in the passage.
- Help us trace the place of that book in the larger story God tells us through the whole collection of biblical writing.
The YouVersion Bible App has many reading plans to choose from. But, again, I suggest choosing a plan that paces you through one book at a time to grasp the message of the book. (Some plans sprinkle in Psalms and Proverbs, which is okay since those are poetry and wisdom books and can be read intermittently and not miss the message of the poem or passage without the rest of the book).
Whatever book in the Bible you choose, read a little (or a lot) every day, depending on how much time you set-aside for devotional Bible reading.
Check the Bible book background.
Each book of the Bible includes a purpose the book was written and an original audience that book was written for. Some include poetry, parables (stories to teach truth), or narrative (among other genres and literary tools).
By learning about the book we choose for our devotions, we see the passages from a clearer perspective.
Some of my favorite free resources:
- The Bible Project: Videos that overview books of the Bible.
- Insight for Living: Introduction and big idea of each book of the Bible.
- Sonic Light: Free online commentary. More detailed than the above resources.
Pray before you start reading the Bible.
Opening ourselves to the Lord and inviting him to speak to our hearts through his word is essential. Devotional reading is all about digesting the truth of God’s word in a way that it penetrates our hearts.
Not sure how to pray? Start here.
Some suggested prayer practices to start your devotion time:
- Silence. Set your alarm and sit in silence before God for 3-5 minutes (or longer). Discipline your mind to focus on him and not entertain other thoughts. Sometimes people choose a word to repeat, focus on an attribute of God, or simply focus on breathing. The point is to submit ourself to God from an inner calm in order to open ourself to his presence and leading.
- Worship. Sing a song that is a prayer to God.
- Honest Submission. Simply praying a few words inviting God and submitting yourself to him.
Slowly read the Bible.
Read at a slow enough pace to really digest the words. We can read out loud to help us hear God’s word. We can re-read a passage or verse that catch our attention.
Read in a way that feels right to you in order to grasp the message of the particular passage of text. Sometimes I pause in my reading to think about it, pray for understanding, or write some thoughts.
It is important to observe and consider what we read so it can inform our minds and penetrate our hearts.
Here are some suggestions of what to consider:
- Summarize the passage in your own words (thought or write it out).
- Does something seem strange or not make sense? Write down your questions for later study.
- Did something encourage you? Make a note.
- What did you learn? Something about God? His plan? Who we are? How to live for him?
- Does one verse stick out to you in particular?
Whatever sparks a response in your mind or heart, highlight, underline, ponder, and/or write down.
Look back at what you took notice on. Pray about your questions, convictions, encouragements, observations, whatever is on your heart.
What is stirred up in your heart that requires action?
- Are there questions you want to explore in Bible study?
- Is the Holy Spirit prodding you to change something? Do something?
- Is there something you need to ask God forgiveness for? Thank him for?
Optional: I like to keep a notebook or journal specifically for my devotional time with God. We can write down reflections, questions, and prayers. It is a great way to process what God is doing in and through our lives.
Other things to consider:
Your devotional time with God can include a variety of other things. The important part is keeping your set-apart time with God consistent, whatever time of day works for you and where ever that place is.
Here are some suggestions:
- Go on a solo hike and talk with God.
- Sing a worship song.
- Dance to the Lord.
- Draw or practice other art in a heart of worship.
- Lay out your requests to God in prayer.
- Pray about things you are thankful for.
- Cultivate a special place to meet with God daily (a chair, a corner, a closet, the car during a break at work, etc.)
Bottom line, a devotional time with God should include three things: Prayer, time in God’s word, and reflection.
What are some ways you like to connect with God in your devotional time?