Ya’ll, the focus struggle is real. One second I’m pondering a deep thought, and the next I’m watching bunnies frolic in the back yard while thinking about the report I have to accomplish at work later. How is a scatter-brained gal like me supposed to study the bible?
With a plan.
A plan is SO vital for me to be productive in my “quiet time”, as they call it. Over the last couple years, I have changed the way I approach God’s life giving Word and it has in turn changed me. I wanted to share it with you, not because my way is the right way, but because it is my desire that women recognize the treasure we have at our fingertips. I want us to recognize this like David did:
Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
Blessed are You, O Lord;
Teach me Your statutes.
With my lips I have told of
All the ordinances of Your mouth.
I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
I will meditate on Your precepts
And regard Your ways.
I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word.
(Psalm 119:11-16 NASB)
If we want to grow in Christlikeness, it’s essential that we not forget God’s word. In order to not forget, we have to be taking it in every day and allowing it to take root in our hearts and cause us to bear fruit.
This may seem intensive at first. I promise it gets easier once you put it into practice, and the rewards you reap will make it worth every minute.
I love this quote by Jen Wilkin from her book, “Women of the Word.”
“But we do much better to view our interaction with the Bible as a savings account: I stretch my understanding daily, I deposit what I glean, and I patiently wait for it to accumulate value, knowing that one day I will need to draw on it. Bible study is an investment with a long term payoff.” –Jen Wilkin
We may not leave our study with feelings of excitement every day, but over time we will grow in our love and knowledge of the Lord immensely. So, let’s dive in. Here is how this scatter-brained gal studies the bible.
Prayer is so important. If I’m being honest though, it’s also the step I tend to forget about way too easily. When approaching God’s word, we can pray about the following things:
- What book of the bible should I read?
- Pray for understanding and wisdom at the beginning, and during your study as questions come up.
- Praise for who God is and any attributes you see in the passage you’re reading.
- Pray that God would reveal to you how to apply what you’ve learned to your life.
2. Pick a book to study.
Once you’ve prayed and pondered possible books in the bible to study, it’s time to pick one. I always like to know what book I’m going to be studying next. When I am coming close to the end of my study, I start praying about what to read when I’m finished.
Currently, I am working through the small prophets and epistles. I started with Hosea and then chose an epistle to read (Hebrews). Then, I studied Joel and then Ephesians…and so on.
Having a plan helps you refrain from being unproductive. We’ve all been there, where you aren’t sure what to read so you just flip to a random book in the New Testament or a Psalm and quickly try to apply it to your life. While there is a time for a quick devotional, there remains much more depth in the Word of God to discover than this allows.
Here’s where we get into the nitty gritty…
3. Read the entire book and write down everything it says about the Author and recipients.
Note: This technique applies mostly to epistles and small prophets. I study historical narratives, major prophets, Proverbs and Psalms a bit differently. I will briefly cover those at the end of this article.
First of all, if you don’t already have one, get yourself a pretty little journal. It’s important that it’s pretty…Okay, it’s not that important but it makes me happy.
In said pretty journal, reserve two separate sheets of paper and write down everything you learn about the Author on one, and the recipients on the other.
This is the foundation that equips you to learn the purpose of the book or letter.
For small prophets, they are not always the “author” so just write down what you learn about the prophet.
4. Read the whole book again in search of any themes.
Write down any themes you find. You want to look for 2-3 main themes of the book.
If you’re like me, this is where I start to get antsy. Remain steadfast, friend. You will be diving deeper soon. This part is vital in order for correct application to our lives.
5. Find the occasion.
Based on the information you discovered about the Author, recipients and themes of the book, what do you think the occasion or reason for the book is? To say it a different way, what do you think the Author is addressing by writing the letter? It could be sexual immorality in the church or maybe legalism. What do the facts lead you to believe?
6. Read each chapter and summarize.
We’ve looked at the book as a whole. Now, we’re going to zoom in a little closer, and take it chapter by chapter.
First, read the chapter and write down everything you see about God. Does he prove his faithfulness in a passage? Write down, “God is faithful.” There could be a part about his judgment. Write down, “God is righteous.” or “God is just.”
After you’ve read the entire chapter, write a brief 2-3 sentence summary. Don’t over think this! It doesn’t have to be perfect. You’re not being graded, I promise.
Typically, I will take this a chapter a day until I have gone through all of them. There’s no need to rush through this step.
7. Study it chunk by chunk.
By now, you will have laid a foundation and should have the context burned into your brain. This is a good thing, ladies! You’re ready to study it one passage at a time and apply it to your life.
To refresh your memory a bit more, read the chapter. Then break it down into 5-10 verses at a time.
Your goal should be to try to discern what the author’s intent is in the particular passage you’re diving into. Look up the definition of any words you don’t know. Write down anything you’re confused about and read the passage in other versions of the bible. (I use ESV, YLT and NASB.) Just make sure you are using a translation and not a paraphrase. There is a difference, but I’ll save that rant for another day. This should help you to understand what the verse may mean. Also, make sure you are still praying for guidance and wisdom.
Now, it’s time for application. Write down everything you learn about God in the passage. Then, write down how it applies to your life. What does this passage call me to do about my sin and my relationship with God and others?
If you own a journaling bible, this is where I write my bible notes. Also, this is the time I check what I’ve learned with a commentary. (Love Matthew Henry’s!).
What about other books?
It would be pretty difficult to use this method on a book like Genesis or Isaiah.
Because they can be so big, I usually look at my study bible for the history of the book. I write down who wrote it, when it was written and any other information I assume may be important. Then, I read the first chapter and summarize. After that, I take it chunk by chunk just like with an epistle.
Remember to always search out what the passage says about God and how it points to Christ. Then, live in light of what you’ve learned.
Studying God’s amazing word should change you.
For those of you who are still with me, I hope this was helpful for you. It has forever changed the way I view God’s Word and I have grown in my knowledge of the Lord. I hope it will do the same for you!
Happy bible study friends!
**ESV Study Bible
**John MacArthur Study Bible
**”Women of the Word” by Jen Wilkin