We all know that time spent in God’s Word produces increased peace, yields directions and wisdom, and nourishes and refreshes the soul. For some people though, knowing just how to go about spending time with God through study of His word feels confusing and overwhelming. Sometimes we simply don’t know how or where to begin. If that’s you, listen to me when I tell you that there’s nothing to feel embarrassed or ashamed about – we’ve all had those feeling at some point. Today though, I’m hoping to help empower you by equipping you with some my best tips for how to effectively spend time studying the Bible. I pray that it produces amazing blessing and fruit in your life and in your walk with the Lord!
Ask God for Directions!
If you are lost and need direction you would likely stop and ask someone familiar with that area to help orient and direct you. Well, let’s face it, nobody knows the Word better than the Author Himself. Before you open your bible, begin with a simple prayer asking God to take the wheel and direct your time in His word to reap the greatest blessing and for His glory. When you pray simply quiet your mind as much as you can and begin to notice the whispers and small voices you sense. Many times when I begin my study time like this I’ll hear the Lord speak a book of the Bible, or the name of a person in His word. Other times it’s quiet. If that’s the case, don’t worry, when you invite the Holy Spirit to direct your time in the Word, you can rest assured it is in competent hands and nothing you read, study or pray will ever be meaningless or without purpose. God’s Word NEVER returns void and it will always accomplish His purposes. So, even if you don’t understand the reason for what you read in the moment, many times you will experience an “ah-ha” moment later that day, week or months down the road that help you recognize Him at work in your life! When I begin my bible time, I pray this simple prayer:
Lord Jesus, Father God, Holy Spirit I thank you that you have given me a guide book – a map – for how to do life through your Word. I thank you that it is alive and vibrant and timely. I thank you that through it you speak directly into my life, provide wisdom, inspire change, and refresh my soul. Lord, as I open your Word today I do so expectantly and with gratitude. I ask you now to take the wheel and direct this time spent with you. Will you help me to hear you and will you guide and direct me to exactly the words and messages I need to hear from you today that will produce the greatest blessings for me and those around me, and bring you the most glory. I thank you in advance for revealing yourself to me through your Word. In Jesus name I pray, amen.
Consider struggles, celebrations and prayers!
The next thing I do before I spend time in God’s Word is to take a moment to ask Him to bring to mind anything I’ve been struggling with, praying about, or even praising Him for. By doing this I’m making my mind aware and alert to notice any messages He may offer me through His word. Many, many times after I do this I turn directly to a passage that literally jumps off the page at me because it directly addresses the struggle, prayers and celebrations the Lord just helped bring to the front of my thoughts. It’s a wonderful way to be personally minister to by, and through, God’s Word.
Start with Just a Verse
As I mentioned, sometimes I go into a time of study with very clear direction from the Lord. I know that I know that He’s directed me there. Other times though, it’s not as clear. I don’t necessarily always feel super led by the Lord as I read His Word and that’s OK! If that’s where you’re at, don’t let that discourage you. It takes practice to learn to hear God and you can rest assured that as long as your reading His Word, you are being blessed and planting seeds that will reap a good harvest. Just try to relax and enjoy that time. On the days when I don’t feel like I’ve got clear direction I will simply look up the daily verse on a bible app (I love Biblegateway.com but there are many options available out there!) and turn to that verse in my bible. I’ll tell you something, it’s a great way to study because so often it forces me into places in God’s Word I’m not as necessarily inclined to visit and study. It’s a great place to get started!
Use a Devotional
Devotional books are another great tool that I use to help guide my time in God’s Word. There are literally thousands of amazing, divinely inspired daily devotionals you can get your hands on. There are daily devotional apps and of course good old fashioned devotional books. Devotionals are a wonderful tool for a couple of reasons. First, they help guide you to a specific scripture to focus on, and second, they help provide thoughtful application for that scripture. Should you choose to use devotionals to help guide your time with the Lord, I would offer one bit of encouragement though – only use them as a guide TO scripture, not as a replacement for scripture. I can’t tell you how easy it is to find yourself with an open devotional book and a closed bible. Yes, the devotional contains scripture, but friends, there is simply no substitute for the Word of God itself. I can’t encourage you enough on this. If you use a devotional allow it to guide you to a scripture, but read it out of the Bible itself. There are so many times the Lord has led me somewhere in His Word through a one or two verse devotional but I’ve ended up reading an entire chapter that blessed me, or I got a clear message from Him through the verse before or after those the devotional focused on. Trust me on this one, you’ll be so glad for it!
Chunk it Up!
When my son was learning to read, his teacher taught him to “chunk up” the word. Rather than trying to decipher a long, confounding word like “important”, she taught him to take it in chunks - “im” “por” “tant”. Then, take each chunk and link it back together in a way that made sense. When we’d read together, if he struggled with a word, I’d remind him, “Just chunk it up.”
Several years later, I was studying God’s word and realized the same method is incredibly helpful in understanding the Bible. One of the most frequent comments I hear from people when I coach them spiritually is that they are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start studying God’s word. Or, that they get sidetracked or bored when they’re reading the Bible. The solution to both of these obstacles is also the solution to understanding the Bible in a way that helps you apply it. Simply use the “chunk it up” method. Rather than setting out to read passage after passage simply for the sake of reading the Bible front to back, try reading it in very small bits and pieces. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you and then choose a single verse or two. Read it, then read it again. Read it in several translations. Read each single word individually. Look up and research each word. The key to loving time in God’s word comes when we dig deep in an effort to understand it. It becomes fun, like a treasure hunt! As the Lord brings illumination to words and begins to draw connections and word pictures, it’s like a puzzle coming together right before your very eyes. Studying the Word this way will help you understand how truly alive, powerful and timely God’s Word is. Read, study and love the Word of God. It’s fun, try it!
I’ve talked about the SOAP method of studying the Word here before. Sister’s, let me tell you, I still love this method SO much. I just think it’s really one of the most powerful ways to read God’s Word. More importantly though, it helps you apply God’s Word. And, let’s face it, if all we’re doing is reading but we’re not applying what the Lord has to say, we’re not going to experience the depth of blessing He desire for us, nor will we have the impact on the world we have the potential for!
What is SOAP? SOAP stands for Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer.
Using SOAP as your guide to bible reading is a powerful way to make the Word of God come alive in your everyday life. It is especially helpful if you’re new to studying Gods word and need a place to start! Before you begin, I highly recommend getting out a good old fashioned pen and paper to write out your SOAP. I promise you it will have infinitely more power than simply reading through the steps! And, as always before spending time in God’s word, I recommend praying! Ask Him to reveal himself to YOU on a personal level and to give you clear discernment to recognize His voice!
How does it work?
1.) Scripture: To begin you choose a scripture. We have provided a daily scripture calendar to guide you, but don’t feel limited by these suggestions. Let the Holy Spirit guide you if there is a verse He has for you each day! First, read the scripture verse. Because it’s kept short you can really study the verse. I would suggest re-reading it, using bible study apps to read it in several translations, look up the meaning of words to really gain understanding of their meaning. This is your time to really understand the verse.
2.) Observation: What did you observe about the scripture that struck you. This can be one sentence or a whole book.
3.) Application: How can you apply the observation so that it affects your life today? What is God revealing to you? How can you make His word alive and applicable through that scripture verse today?
4.) Prayer: Write out a prayer to God based on what you just learned and ask him to help you apply this truth in your life.
Two years ago, we offered an entire 31-day challenge entirely devoted to the SOAP method of studying God’s Word. That content is still available in an archived format and you are welcome to check it out! It’s never too late to start a great habit and I guarantee diving into 31-days of SOAP will bless your socks off! You can read more about that SOAP challenge here.
Father God, we praise you for your Word. We thank you that you love us enough to provide a place where we can go and know that we are hearing directly from you. We thank you that you give us a guidebook for how to do life. We thank you that you never withhold wisdom from us when we need or ask for it. We praise you that your Word is alive, and relevant, and personal, and timely. Lord, please give us an insatiable desire for your Word. Please cause us to prioritize time spent there – that we put it first on our list and never last. Please give us the divine ability to hear from you as we seek your Word. Please bestow on us in huge measure the ability to read and understand your Word. Finally Lord, help us to be mindful and obedient to apply what we read in scripture. The Bible is our richest treasure Lord, help us to go after it with more gusto that we would silver or gold and to guard it and value it with everything in us. We love you Lord and we thank you in advance for the work you plan to do, and the blessing you plan to pour out through our time spent with you in the Word. In Jesus name we pray, amen.