All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
There used to be long periods when I would never open my Bible outside of church. When I finally made myself sit down with God’s Word, guilt drove me into it for hours on end. There is great benefit from long times in the Word, but shame does not motivate consistency.
How to Start Reading Your Bible
Think “Small and Sustainable”
I gained greater motivation with regular, short times in Scripture. Initially, the whole thing took maybe 15 minutes; no more than 10 minutes with the Bible, maybe five minutes for Scripture-focused prayer. Honestly, even that was sometimes more than my attention span could handle. There were (and still are) occasions when my Bible time is no more than 10 minutes. While not ideal, it is better to spend five minutes focused meaningfully on Scripture than an hour that’s immediately forgotten.
This takes introspection—knowing your limitations while working to expand them. If you can only concentrate for five minutes, start there. But also work to increase your stamina—start with a prayer for guidance, end with a prayer that reflects on what you’ve read. Once the five-minute sessions become easier, add a couple of minutes.
If it works better for you, don’t focus on duration but on number of verses. Start with 10 verses, eventually moving to 20, then a chapter, and so on.
The point here is to set a length that is sustainable and fulfilling, a little challenging, but not overwhelming.
Think “Consistent and Conscious”
I failed in daily Bible reading until God made a way for me to read at the same time every day. He kept me in that state for six years until it became a habit; without it, I felt malnourished.
Morning Bible time, before the responsibilities of the day begin, is wonderful. My experience is that it wakes up your mind and heart, preparing you to stay focused on Jesus that day.
I’d love to be able to do this. However, I am not a morning person, and even when God basically forced me into early morning Bible times, I often struggled to stay awake and focused.
The most important thing is that you’re in the Bible every day (or at least very nearly) and able to focus your mind on God’s Word. If that’s in the morning, awesome. If it’s better for you during lunch, excellent. If you read God’s Word right before you sleep, you end your day on the highest of notes.
Think “Purposeful and Planned”
I failed for a long time because I waited to decide what to read until right before I started. This stole time from actual Scripture reading and made me anxious, which decimated my focus.
A simple plan can alleviate this problem. One idea is to pick a book of the Bible and read through it. Any of the Gospels are a wonderful start for those who are developing regular Bible reading, Mark or John especially. Next, I recommend shorter books, like 1, 2, and 3 John. Completing them gives a sense of accomplishment that energizes Bible time.
Move on to bigger books, like Romans, Ephesians, or 1 and 2 Peter. For Old Testament suggestions, start with Genesis, then Joshua and Judges, then Ruth and Esther; these are books bursting with engaging stories and action.
All of these books are accessible and packed with deep spiritual truths. Most importantly, they familiarize you with reading every day.
While you are new to regular Bible reading, it is possible that some of the other books will unintentionally discourage you from your daily practice. For example:
- The book of Psalms is an amazing book, full of praise, lament, deep theology, and beautiful writing; it’s also long, and might be discouraging initially due to its sheer size.
- Proverbs is overflowing with wisdom in digestible truth nuggets; it may be difficult to read more than a few verses at a time without having to stop and meditate on what has been read, a potential speed bump to your habit-forming.
- Revelation is full of hope and wonderfully tells the story of Christ’s return and reign; as it deals with Spirit-inspired visions, huge divine concepts, and a confusing future, it could frustrate this habit-forming phase.
Any worthwhile habit and goal is worth breaking into attainable steps, and this goal is one of the most important to our lives. After you have established daily time with the Lord through his Word, the entirety of the Bible is not only open and available, but should become a goal, itself.
Three Bible Reading Aids
Thank God there are so many aids to get Scripture into our minds on a daily basis.
1. Audio Bibles
Audio Bibles open up many opportunities for regular Bible time. Any listener can find something appealing: plain, spoken audio, audio with dramatization, audio with commentary or musical interludes, etc. If reading is difficult or impossible, an audio Bible can become your daily source of God’s Word.
2. Paced Bibles
Many publishers print Bibles with a built-in reading plan, often taking you through the Bible in a year or two. These Bibles remove some of the guesswork about your daily reading, especially once you’ve established your habit and want to read through all of Scripture.
3. Chronological Bibles
My first real success in consistent Bible reading came through a chronological Bible. This organizational style attempts to arrange Scripture in order of events, focusing on narrative. Some chronological Bibles simply swap the order of entire books, grouping books that record events of a similar time; others divide individual passages and put them with other sections that refer to the same event and times. Some also consolidate redundancies leading to greater clarity and shortening the time it takes to get through the entire Bible.
God has chosen to make himself known in our time through the Bible. His Word reveals Jesus—the love and life of all believers—so all who love him will spend time in his Word regularly. This is for our benefit and to his glory.