When I was still new to faith, I loved to read the Bible. I thought of it as my own personal library that I could hold in my two hands, and I would sit and read whole books: the story of Ruth widowed as a young woman, who moved to a foreign country with her mother-in-law and made a new life for herself; the story of Job, who lost everything only to regain it all and more in the end. Their stories engaged me as much as any other stories or poetry that I read as a dreamy teenager.
Unfortunately, my initial enthusiasm for reading the Bible didn’t last long. It didn’t seem right to admit it, but soon I grew bored. After all, I rarely reread any book, or saw any movie more than once. How could the Bible be any different? I read it once, then felt as if I were done.
At the same time, I was convinced that there must be more to the Bible than that–more to hear from God, more wisdom for my life, more to learn, more to understand, more questions to wrestle with. How could I keep reading and rereading the Bible even when I didn’t feel like it? How could I keep reading and rereading the Bible, and love it?
Here are 10 variations that have helped me stay engaged with Scripture. If you tend to get restless or bored with reading the Bible, why not try one or more of these before you decide to give it up altogether? If you have a recommendation of your own, please leave a comment.
1. Try a different translation. If you normally read the New Revised Standard Version, try The Message by Eugene Peterson, The New Living Translation, or some other version. For a list of options you can read online, check out Bible Gateway. I’m currently rereading The Message, and for a change of pace, I’ve also started a children’s Bible called Shine On: A Story Bible.
2. Use a devotional guide. Many books for daily devotions include a Scripture reading for each day along with several paragraphs of illustration or explanation. On my bedside table, I have Rejoice! and Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. I don’t use both of these every day, but they do encourage me to read the Bible regularly.
3. Set a goal. In My Year of Reading Biblically, I read through both the Common English Bible (New Testament) and The Message (Old Testament).
4. Do a topical study. Instead of reading the Bible verse by verse and book by book, use a concordance to look up all of the references to a certain word or topic. For example, try reading everything the Bible says about hope or everything the Bible says about prayer. Yesterday in our worship, we showed this video of 350 verses related to God’s love for creation, which is a fun topical study.
5. Read Scripture aloud. Follow the practice of the ancient world, where reading was almost always out loud. For me, reading aloud helps minimize distractions and maximize focus. Or listen to an audio version like the New International Version online or Inspired by The Bible Experience.
6. Pray as you read. Ask God to speak to you in the words of Scripture. If you normally read the Bible at the same pace you’re skimming this article, slow down for a change. Try lectio divina. Pause for reflection after each phrase or verse. Allow the words to sink in and offer them back to God in prayer.
7. Express yourself. Make your Bible reading active. Underline or highlight key words. Keep a journal to record your own thoughts, feelings, questions, and prayers. If you’re reading a psalm, write your own poem in the form of a psalm. If you’re reading a Gospel story, draw a picture. If you’re musical, write a song based on your Scripture reading.
8. Commit Scripture to memory. Instead of memorizing a single verse, read and memorize several verses, a whole chapter, or even an entire book so you get the context. Savour the words and hide them in your heart (Psalm 119:11). Turn them into a dramatic reading for your own use, or to share with others in worship.
9. Read the Bible with others. Build accountability by agreeing to read the Bible with one or more other partners. Read with your spouse, your children, or a prayer partner. Join a Sunday school class or group Bible study. Volunteer to teach or to lead the discussion, and you’ll do even more Bible reading and learn even more.
10. Put it into practice. James 1:22-25 says that hearing God’s word without doing what it says is like looking in a mirror and then forgetting what you look like. But when we practice what we hear, we receive a blessing. I also find that practice drives me back to Scripture with fresh perspective and real-life questions.
Your Turn: What makes reading Scripture come alive for you?