Spiritual Disciplines: How to Read the Bible?

There are many “how-to’s” when it comes to reading the Bible including things like: word studies, memorization, reading large chunks of Scripture to get the overarching flow of a passage, diving deep into specific verses, structured Bible studies and so on. No matter which specific “how-to” you engage, there are two things that will need to be the foundational in your Bible reading. First, the Holy Spirit illuminating your heart and mind to the Scriptures. Second, you will need to grow as an active rather than merely a passive reader of Scripture.

Necessity of the Holy Spirit: As believers, we can be assured the Holy Spirit is at work within us. This should give us great confidence as we approach the Holy Scriptures. Not that the Spirit will show us all things or make all things clear. 1 Corinthians 13:12 tells us “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” The Spirit does not give full insight into all things, but he does illuminate truth to God’s children. The Spirit is faithful to work with us in our current state as we pursue growth. In part, this means the Spirit will be revealing different truths at differing levels at different times as we mature in Christ. Just as a math teacher does not start by teaching calculus but builds upon fundamental concepts, the Spirit reveals truth, and, as we mature, deeper layers of this truth or nuances we had not yet seen become apparent. The “thoughts and intents of the heart” are revealed by the Spirit as we approach the Word with a humble, teachable heart and mind. (Hebrews 4:12) We are to be sensitive to what the Spirit is revealing to us as we read the Word, both trusting he is shaping us and striving for continual growth. (Philippians 2:12-13) As we spend time in The Word, we desire the Holy Spirit to shape our view of life and how we interact with others to be more consistent with the teachings of the Scriptures.

Discussion Questions

  1. What does being dependent on the Holy Spirit provoke in you?
  2. The Holy Spirit desires to lead and instruct us in truth. How might we stifle the Spirit as we read the Word?
  3. Describe the balance of being dependent on the Holy Spirit yet working hard to pursue growth.
  4. How might you distinguish between being led by the Spirit vs. led by your own pre-conceived ideas as you read the Word?
  5. List practical ways you can seek to be led by the Spirit throughout your day.
  6. Scriptures to Consider: Colossians 1:29, 1 Corinthians 2:9-14, John 16:13-14

Becoming an Active Reader: One of the biggest hindrances to Bible reading for many of us today is being passive rather than active readers. Becoming an active reader of the Bible requires us to stay focused on our reason for reading. If our “why” for reading is to check off the box of having read the Bible that day, it will have little effect on our hearts or lives. We can be thankful we serve a merciful God who pursues us and is faithful to finish the work He has begun in us. Yet, when we continually see Bible reading as a task to complete rather than an opportunity to interact with the God of the universe, listen to His Words and be changed by them, we become passive readers. In contrast, the active reader engages the scripture with expectation, hope and wonder. Practically this means things like paying attention to the literary style of the passage and how this impacts how we read it, stopping and looking up words we don’t understand, looking up connected passages, listening to and seeking to pursue answers to the questions that bubble up as we read, and slowing down to ponder what we are reading. To read without meditating on the Word will lead to completing the task but not being affected by it.

Discussion Questions

  1. Share methods you have found helpful as you strive to keep your mind actively engaged while interacting with the scriptures.
  2. The Bible has different literary styles such as poetry, narrative, law, prophecy, and epistles. What expectations would be similar/different when reading poetry compared to reading an epistle?
  3. Curiosity is defined as a strong desire to know or learn something. Curiosity is often driven by an interest or questions to explore. What questions might be helpful to keep in mind as you read the Scriptures?
  4. What do you think is a healthy balance between reading and thinking as you spend time in the Bible? (Examples: 90% reading, 10% thinking, 50% reading and thinking, 25% reading 75% thinking)
  5. Scripture to Consider: 2 Corinthians 3:18, Mark 4:1-20, Psalm 1

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For Further Information:

Spiritual Disciplines: Study
An episode from the Salvation Army’s YouTube video series concerning its book, Army on Its Knees.

How to Study the Bible
This ACCFS article is focused on giving you a few guiding principles for studying the Bible.

Literary Styles in the Bible
This Bible Project video shows how reading the Bible can be enhanced as we learn about the ancient literary styles used by the biblical authors.