How to Read and Study the Bible on Your Own If You’re Struggling
Studying the Bible is crucial to your walk of faith. But some people have trouble reading let alone study the Holy Book. It could be because they don’t know how to or they don't have a study method. Can you relate?
Anyone may read the Bible but not everyone will study it. If this is something you struggle with it’s time you try something else.
Don’t do what I did
My first time attempting to read the Bible was in the middle of a summer’s day. It’s the King James version- not modernized. The words “thou” and “seeketh” are in there. The Bible isn’t even mine but it’s all I have. I want to read for the sake of reading the Bible. Not to get closer to God or gain biblical knowledge.
I lay on my stomach, cushioned by a pillow under my chest. I don’t remember what book I was reading but it’s in the Old Testament. I read sentence by sentence not understanding anything. The words are familiar but I don’t know what I’m reading. In the process, I doze off several times.
This leads me to stop because it “isn’t working.” I won’t try again for years until around the time I got saved.
Here is why it was a poor attempt:
Lack of prayer
No spiritual intention
I used a Bible version not helpful to me
I wasn’t aware that I had to study the Bible to understand it. If you’re only reading the Bible it’s not going to benefit you as much as studying will. I’ve learned this over time.
What to expect
Every time you read is going to be different. Sometimes you’ll be so into reading the Bible that it’ll be difficult to put it down. Sometimes God will speak to you through the Word. And other times you don’t get anything or may find yourself dozing off.
This happens to me when I read late at night. And that’s only because I fail to read in the morning.
As you read, write down questions, words, or historical facts you don’t know or would like to know more about. Seek those answers.
You’re going to come across words and things you may not know. Look them up or figure it out based on the context. Move on if you don’t find the answer. Don’t let anything hinder you too long from continuing your study.
You may find your answer later on.
For me, reading the Bible can take 10-20 minutes. Studying can take me 30-60 minutes. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always study the Bible. Sometimes I may only read. This could be for various reasons.
In my experience, not every book is going to teach you something the time you read it. But it may a different time. My first time reading the book of Numbers was a bore, but a little less so the second time around.
I continue to read out of discipline even though a particular book is not teaching me anything at that time.
How can I study the Bible by myself?
Think about how you would study in school. Everyone has their own way of retaining information. Do you like to use different colored writing utensils? Are you a visual learner? Are you a note-taker?
Here are some tools that may help you:
Different colored pens, highlighters/markers
Sticky notes, flashcards
Bible study guide (click here for a free study guide!)
Types of Bibles: Different versions have slightly different translations.
I have two versions that I may go back and forth to get a better understating of a verse.
The most popular are the NIV, ESV, or the NKJV. I use the NIV and ESV. I highly recommend you not use the Message Bible. I tend to describe it as watered down. In my personal opinion, the content is loosely translated and it can be misleading.
There are free Bible apps you can download too.
It would be a good idea to get a study Bible. It comes with background information and extra facts that help you understand more. You don’t have to but it's helpful if you do.
Outside Resources: Go beyond the Bible.
Watch related videos
Listen to related podcasts
Buy Bible study booklets
How to start your study
Here is an outline of how I begin my reading/study:
Pray again (if needed)
Have a designated spot to study. Remove any distractions and put your phone out of reach and out of sight. If you're on a busy schedule set an alarm to wrap up your study time.
When settled, I whip out my journal and a black and blue ink pen. I use blue ink to write a verse that sticks out to me. And black ink to write down my thoughts and prayers. I use flashcards to write down questions or things I want to look up and learn more about.
Some people like to write in their Bible. I don’t do that. I like to keep pages clean for when I reread each book and start fresh. There are Bibles made for writing in. If that’s something you’d prefer to do.
Where to begin reading: Where do you want to start?
Genesis- the first book in the Old Testament
Matthew- the first book in the New Testament
John- the last book out of the four Gospels and go from there
A specific book you’ve been wanting to read
One chapter in the Old Testament and one in the New
I recommend the book of John as a great start. And go from there. Wherever you start, read one to two chapters per day. That’s manageable, right?
You can wake up 10-15 minutes before your usual time. Or you can read 10-15 minutes before going to bed. Or pick a suitable time throughout the day. I recommend mornings because, not only is it a great time to start the day, you may forget later on.
Start with prayer. This way you invite the Holy Spirit to help you as you read.
I say something like this: “LORD, I pray as I read Your Word You’ll open my mind, heart, soul, and spirit to learn what I need to learn. I ask I hear your voice through Your Word. I pray for guidance as I read and wisdom to understand. Amen.”
The study process
There are quite a few study methods out there. The S.O.A.P. method is very popular. It stands for Scripture, observe, apply, and pray.
But I formed my own and it’s worked pretty well for me so far...
Read a couple of verses at a time or read until something sticks out.
Write down the verse
Break it down and analyze
Write your thoughts/Prayer
Pretty simple right? Of course, you can adjust and change as you please. And take your time reading because you don’t want to miss something important.
Another thing you could do is pick a specific topic. For example, I wanted to learn more about the Holy Spirit. I read the New Testament with that intent. I would look for anything mentioning the Holy Spirit. And even bought a book about the Holy Spirit as well.
Try to read daily
Diving into the Word daily has so many benefits. But don’t get overwhelmed trying to retain everything at once. I’ve read the Bible at least four times- cover to cover. I’m still learning from it. No matter how many times I read the same thing something new always sticks out.
If you struggle to get into the habit of reading click here to read a post about it.