There is no such thing as Bible reading without effort, but there are good and bad ways of doing things, and methods for getting the best return for our effort, rather than wasting it. Some years ago, a retired missionary told of a simple little aid that he had found to be most helpful. Like most other Christians, he had struggled for many years, even after he had entered the ministry, to maintain a regular devotional life. After trying many different ways, he at last lighted upon a very simple aid that totally transformed this whole area of his life. Later, he passed it on to Bible students in the New Hebrides while teaching there, and they found it extremely helpful.
Since that time it has been modified and improved, and has been a blessing to a large number of people. It is particularly useful because it is so simple and short. It does not require you to do too much, nor too little. So here is the method:
- Begin with prayer that God will bless his Word through the Spirit.
- Read through the days passage prayerfully, asking God to help you understand as you read.
- You should always follow a plan of reading that takes you right through a book, starting each day where you left off the previous day.
- Never plan to read too much, or there will not be time for the meditation. Ten to fifteen verses is usually ideal, depending on the kind of book. In the Epistles it may be less because there is so much content; but in narratives such as in the Old Testament it may be more.
- Try to find the natural breaks in the book, and stick to these.
- Having read the passage at least once, take out a notebook or journal kept specially for this purpose. Note down at the top of the page the passage reference, the date, and in as few words as possible a title that you can think of for the passage.
- Then comes one of the most important parts. List four or five events or facts, in order, from the passage. The very act of having to recognize and note these down is a great help in understanding what has been read. Whats more, it makes you stop and think.
- Now look back at yesterdays passage. Can you see any connection? The Bible is not a random collection of precious truths, but is organized so that the ideas in one passage relate to those before and after it, and to the flow of the whole book. Much richness can often be gained by relating these ideas together. If you can see a connection with the previous passage or with the theme of the book then jot it down. If you cant, then dont feel that you have to.
- Ask yourself what the writer was trying to accomplish with this passage? What was the message of the passage for those who originally read it? As you can see, these questions are designed to get you meditating on the Word. The message may have been some specific teaching in an Epistle; something to learn about Christ in a Gospel; something in the Old Testament about how God relates to men and women, etc.
- Finally we come to the most important question: How does this message relate to my life? Write down how the message should make a difference to my thoughts or actions. You may find that the Spirit continues to speak to you from the passage throughout the rest of the day.
It is very important not to get bogged down in answering these questions. There is a temptation to try to write an essay, when what is needed is one or two lines at most. If you write too much then you run the risk of setting standards for yourself that you cant keep up. Usually it takes no more that 15-20 minutes to follow though (not counting a time of prayer that can follow the reading). Even if we are tired, this simple system is of immeasurable help in guiding our thinking, and leading us to a blessing.
If you cannot understand a passage, or you come up with a problem you would like to answer, then dont try to solve the problem right away. It is much better to delay this to a more suitable time as mentioned below.