Daily Bible Reading

by Andrew Young and Andrew Fountain

Common Complaints

Regular Bible reading is a struggle for more Christians than would like to admit it.

We should not be too surprised that reading and praying can be hard. The devil is intent on doing all he can to make Christians fall. If he can keep them from their Bibles and from the place of prayer he has certainly accomplished a major victory. He well knows that it is by these means that Christians grow strong in faith and are able to resist him. So he makes these things a special target for attack.

Walking With God

There are other reasons why many of us fail to be faithful in our times with the Lord. One of the most common is a wrong idea of the place of Bible reading and prayer in our lives. Many of us look upon them as a kind of spiritual hygiene--things that need to be done for the health of our souls, much in the same way that we care for our bodies by cleaning our teeth and washing. Once they are done they are finished with for the day and we can get down to the real business of living.

Now that is a completely wrong attitude. We are missing out on so much if we content ourselves with a few minutes of God each day and then forget him for the rest of it. We are supposed to walk with God as Enoch did (Gen 5:24). Most people are involved in activities during the day that require them to concentrate, and so it is impossible to be thinking of God all the time. How then can we spend the day walking with him?

It is a great help to remember that God is watching us. This means that he sees us at our work, recreation, social gatherings and in our families. If only we could remember that he never forgets about us or stops loving us, even for a moment, and that his ears are always open to our quickest prayers, it would help us to live conscious of his presence. This has been called "practising the presence of God"

Then, if we also remember that God is with us, this would help us to seek him continually. We would look to him as troubles arise; we would ask for his help when we need it; we would rejoice when we receive blessings. In short, we would act just as though he were an ever present friend. It takes a conscious effort at first to remember this, but if we regularly spend time with God’s Word every day, and start the day with prayer, we will begin to find it becomes almost second nature to be aware of his presence.

What goes wrong with Bible reading?

Source of the problems

Clearly then, the best help for our devotional reading is one that forces us to stop and think about the words of Scripture, what they mean, and what they are saying to us. But does such a help exist?

A Solution

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:

  1. Begin with prayer that God will bless his Word through the Spirit.
  2. Read through the day’s 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. What’s more, it makes you stop and think.
  5. Now look back at yesterday’s 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 can’t, then don’t feel that you have to.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 can’t 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 don’t try to solve the problem right away. It is much better to delay this to a more suitable time as mentioned below.

Know the book!

It can be a great help to your Bible reading if you know something about the book you are going through. Before you start a new book, it is a good idea to spend half an hour or so one evening, getting acquainted with it. Try to get hold of a Bible handbook (I recommend Survey of the Bible by W. Hendriksen), or a good study Bible (The NIV Study Bible is one of the best). From this you can find out three important things about the book. It will describe the background and situation in which the book was written; it will tell you about the purpose or purposes for which the author wrote the book; and it will provide an outline of the book so that you can see how the various parts fit together. You might like to copy this outline down for later reference.

Another thing that is very useful to do before studying a book is to read it through quickly to try and get the feel of it. It is easier to do this with the shorter books. Again, don’t get yourself into bondage where you set yourself so many things to do before you start a new book that you end up never starting!


Where should I read?

Good books to start on are Matthew, Mark and Luke. Some books of the Bible are not generally suitable for this kind of reading, but are better suited to a more concentrated type of Bible study (see below). In the Old Testament, all the books from Genesis to Proverbs are fairly straightforward, apart from Exodus 21-40, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Job. In the New Testament: the Gospels, Acts, and the shorter Epistles are most suitable.

If you are studying a book in your church, (maybe the pastor is preaching though it or you are studying it in Sunday School), then it is a good idea to read the book devotionally yourself. You will probably complete it much faster than they will in church, but having read it, you will better understand what the pastor is talking about, and so get much more blessing from the messages.

What should I use to write in?

I find that the ideal notebook is about 6" by 4". Avoid getting one with larger pages or you will feel obliged to fill it each day, and it could easily become a burden. The problem with a diary is that when you miss a couple of days you can be tempted to try to catch up and fill the blank pages. It then becomes a burden and a chore. Experiment to find whatever suits you best.

Which translation?

Unless you have a very strong attachment to the KJV, you will probably get more benefit from a good modern version. I personally use the ESV.

Is this the only Bible Study I need to do?

No, this is the minimum. It is a good idea to set aside a block of time from time to time for the purpose of a more in-depth Bible study. Here you can study books that are not suitable for devotional reading. Problem verses that have come up in your regular reading can be looked at in more detail. For this kind of study it will help to have a concordance, a Bible atlas, and a commentary, as well as a good Bible dictionary. Don’t be afraid to ask other Christians about problem verses, it can lead to some really beneficial discussions.

Busy schedules=the big killer

In my experience, the worst enemy of regular Bible study is being overloaded in my commitments. There are two things that can be said about this. The first is that we make our schedules according to our own priorities. If we believe that it is important to eat and sleep, then we make time for them. If we really believe in the importance of reading the Bible, then it will have a high priority. So, when we have too much to do, and something must get squeezed out, it will not be the Bible.

Secondly there is the principle that if we honour God, then he will honour us. If we give the reading of his Word its rightful place, then we can look to him to help us cope with the rest of the day. But if we don’t have time for him, we sometimes find that the Lord allows our situation to get even busier, and we have even less time.

It is helpful to set a regular time each day when we know we will not be interrupted. For some it is better in the morning, and others prefer the evening. This is something that we all have to work out for ourselves.


Here are some sample passages:

Matthew 5:13-16

(Note that a short passage is chosen here because it forms a natural section.)

Matt 5:13-16

Salt and Light


  1. The disciples are the salt of the earth which is useless if it has no flavour.
  2. They are the light of the world which cannot be hidden any more than a city on a hill can be.
  3. A lamp in a house is always put where it gives light.
  4. So must the light of your good works shine, to God’s glory.


The previous verses (the beatitudes) describe the character of a Christian, so this must be what is meant by the good works in v. 16


The disciples were to be like salt and light in their witness to the world, so that men glorify God when they see them.


I ought to make it more obvious at work that I’m a Christian, by showing the character of Christ better in my life.

Psalm 79

Note: This psalm is not an easy one because of the curses hurled at God’s enemies. It is not necessary to fully understand this in order to learn from the psalm. Also note that because it is a psalm, the context of the previous psalm is not necessarily relevant, so the historical context is given instead, if it can be determined.

Ps. 79

God’s people cry to him


  1. The nations have come into Jerusalem, defiled temple, and made God’s people a laughing stock.
  2. How long will you be angry with your own people?
  3. Be merciful to us and forgive us for our sins, for the sake of your name; so that the nations will not question your name.
  4. Hear the groaning of your people and return vengeance on your enemies.
  5. We are your people, your sheep. We will thank and praise you forever.


After the destruction of Jerusalem.


Even in a terrible situation, God’s people  can have confidence in him because he is a God who takes care of his own people.


My present difficulties should lead me to praise God, as in v. 13 because I know he looks after his people.

Ephesians 1:1-14

Sometimes the passage will not easily divide into four or five sections, and so you must be flexible. The following example illustrates this.

Note also that there may be more than one message in a passage, and a vast number of applications.

Eph. 1:1-14

Blessings in Christ


  1. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing, in the heavenly places, in Christ.
  2. Chosen in him to be holy, predestined by him to the praise of his grace, redeemed in him according to riches of his grace, told mystery of his will, in him all will be united, made heirs in him for the praise of his glory, having trusted in him, sealed in him by Holy Spirit, to praise of his glory.


This passage fits in with the message of Ephesians which is about God’s great purpose and goal for the church through Jesus Christ.


All our blessings come through being joined to Christ and have a purpose—that we should bring praise and glory to God.


I must be more conscious that I am nothing and have nothing in myself, but because I am joined to Christ I have tremendous blessing.

Genesis 20:1-18

Here a longer portion of text is taken since it is a complete account. Each point therefore covers several verses and gives a bare outline. Note that the context refers back to Genesis chapters 15-18 rather than the previous passage.

Gen 20:1-18

God Keeps Sarah Pure


  1. Abraham lies about Sarah being his wife and Abimelech marries her.
  2. God keeps Abimelech from touching her, and reveals to him that she is already married.
  3. Abimelech confronts  Abraham who says he was afraid.
  4. Sarah is restored to Abraham with many gifts.
  5. God hears Abraham’s prayer for blessing on Abimelech.


God had promised that the Saviour of mankind would come through Sarah. Satan would have thwarted this plan if Sarah had children by  Abimelech.


God’s plan of salvation will triumph over all obstacles and is not dependent on men for success.


What a wonderful comfort it is to know that my salvation does not depend on my own works but is secure in God’s purposes.