If you’re a Christian, then the Bible should be to you the most important book in the world. It’s the means by which we know the will of our heavenly Father, grow closer to Jesus, and are strengthened by the Spirit in our war against sin. Nevertheless, many Christians find reading the Bible difficult. There are many reasons for this I think, ranging from the sociological reasons–poor general reading habits, increasing visual media, perceived lack of time–to theological reasons–disbelief in its inherent worth, an over-reliance on experience, lack of a basic framework of knowledge to understand it. Whatever the reason, we should be a people of the Book once again. That means consistently reading, if nothing else.
So, if you’re in a Bible-reading slump, how do you get back in the game? How do you get back into the Word and make it fresh so that you’re less likely to leave on the nightstand, gathering dust during the week? Here are a couple of practical suggestions:
1. Read only after you’ve begun with prayer
Think about having your favorite author on speed dial. You’re reading a great novel, or you’ve already finished, but some parts were confusing. You could call up the author and ask for an explanation of what they meant. Though, the experience won’t be that direct, why not ask the Author of the Bible for some help in understanding before you open his book? Pray for illumination right before you begin reading. You may even pray what some of the people in the Bible prayed: Psalm 86:11, Psalm 119:18, or Exodus 33:18. This will set a tone for your time in the word that brings a sense of importance and makes it harder to zone out.
2. Read the Bible in a different translation
If you have a favorite translation, as soon as you open the Bible, it’s familiar. Normally, that’s good. But if you’re struggling to keep your reading fresh, try reading the Bible in a different translation. The text will be different enough that you’ll be a little surprised at the wording and your interest will be more easily sustained during you’re reading. On a related note, if you don’t already have an NIV published before 2011 (copyright 1984), then get one as they are no longer printing them and the new one isn’t as good in many ways.
3. Read several passages on a specific theme or topic
Most people read through the Bible, book-by-book. Overall, that’s good and probably the best way to read God’s Word over the long haul. However, if you find yourself struggling to keep with it, try reading around a central theme. For example, you could read all of the texts that deal with thankfulness, or read through the texts that attributes a title to Christ. You may even want to read about money and wealth just from Proverbs. The standard topical work is Nave’s Topical Bible. Although the MacArthur Topical Bible is also a helpful, maybe even better, choice.
4. Read the Bible chronologically
There are a couple ways to do this. Some chronological reading plans will divide up the books and rearrange individual passages to present a chronological reading of the Bible. So, for example, each of the gospels would be broken up and re-assembled as one, long story. Other reading plans keep the books intact, but have you read them in a chronological order. This is helpful for seeing that that Bible is God’s Word in the context of a story; a history of redemption. (Here’s some helpful chronological guides: plan 1; plan 2)
5. Read out loud
Sometimes reading silently lends itself to mental drift. Try reading the Bible out loud. Depending on where you’re at this might be full-on conversation volume or it might mean muttering. Reading the Bible and hearing it at the same time often allows you to catch things you might otherwsie miss in the text like repetition of important words.
6. Read with someone else
This is exactly what it sounds like: find someone else–a friend, a spouse, your whole family–and read the Bible out loud together. Discussion afterward is optional, though recommended! A word to the wise here: if you’re single, don’t pick a friend of the opposite sex to read with (even if you’re dating). Reading the Bible with someone can be an intimate thing, and intimacy in one area and lead to intimacy in other areas. ‘Nuff said.
7. Read with the intent to pray after
Don’t just read to make time. Try reading a passage, then praying over the text as soon as you’re done. This will have a two-fold effect of making you think more clearly as you’re reading in order to formulate concerns for prayer. It will also cause the basic truths of the text to be more deeply imprinted on your mind and heart.