The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper anywhere I send it. Isaiah 55:10-11 NLT
Most Christians would agree the Bible is the inspired word of God and is as relevant, powerful and fruitful today, as it was when first published. And, if most Christians were honest they’d say they don’t read the Bible or pray much, as Dr. Chuck Lawless of Southeastern Seminary suggests in his post: 15 Things I Seldom Hear in Church (see #15).
Studies, such as the annual, State of the Bible report by the American Bible Society, which I wrote about here, back this up. The 2015 report found only one in seven, or 14% of all adults say they read the Bible daily, and only 52% read it a minimum of three to four times a year.
I believe Christians would like to be more spiritual and mature in their faith. I believe there’s a thirst and a hunger to connect or reconnect with God at a deeper level, and to be part of what God wants to accomplish in the world through his word in our lives.
And I also believe it all starts with daily prayer and Bible reading.
Here are 5 tips to help you begin, build and sustain a consistent habit of Bible reading:
Tip 1: Determine a Time
If you take the approach of trying to fit Bible reading into whatever time slot is open on your schedule, you’ll soon find you’re out of time.
Instead of leaving it open, or to chance, determine a specific time each day and make Bible reading a priority on your calendar. Consider making time with God’s word your first scheduled appointment of the day.
I rise early, before the sun is up; I cry out for help
and put my hope in your words. Psalm 119:147 NLT
Tip 2: Find a Trigger
Charles Duhigg, in his breakthrough book, The Power of Habit, described developing habits as a three-step process: Cue – Routine – Reward (The Habit Loop). The cue, or trigger, is something that immediately precedes an activity (routine) that leads to a benefit (reward).
A habit I got into with my dogs illustrates how the habit loop works. I save a corner of my breakfast toast for them each morning (bad habit, I know!). When finished eating, I bring my plate to the kitchen counter and set it down. It makes a clanking sound (Cue). Triggered by this sound, my dogs arrive, padding into the kitchen, look up at me and wait expectantly for their toast (routine). I hand them the corners of toast, “Here’s your toasty,” (so sick, I know!). They eagerly snatch the little corners of toast out of my hands, and with one chew, swallow them down (reward).
Got a trigger for daily Bible reading? It could be your first cup of coffee (my trigger), tea or glass of water. Maybe it’s taking a shower, listening to music or donning your favorite robe. The key is to find a meaningful and useful trigger that works for you just before engaging in your daily Bible reading routine. The reward? That’s for you to discover with the Holy Spirit!
Tip 3: Prepare a Place
The “where” of engaging in daily Bible reading is every bit as important as “when” to do it. Jesus frequently broke away from his disciples and the crowds to communicate with God the Father. He chose mountains; a place called Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives, the wilderness and deserted places for his alone time.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the
house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35 NIV
Whether you’re constantly on the move like Jesus or waking up in your own home most days, find a quiet spot and make it your place for daily Bible reading. That place can become a special place. Make it a quiet place, free from distractions. Also, make it a place where you won’t disturb others with your routine (except of course any household pets who may want to accompany you!).
Tip 4: Have a Plan
It’s helpful to be intentional about your Bible reading, but don’t over think it. Come with an open mind and heart (see Luke 8:15), and let the Holy Spirit speak to you.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged
sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow;
it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
Having a plan, that is, knowing what and how much you’re going to read each day, instead of just opening up the Bible and winging it will keep you on track and motivated. At first, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Keep it manageable. Consistency and building up a series of small wins (daily readings) goes a long way to developing the daily Bible reading habit.
I’ve developed some 40For40 Bible Reading Plans that will help you do just that. These plans guide you to read 40 verses in 40 days from select books of the Bible. The 40For40 reading plans will help you develop consistency through small wins while giving you a specific, manageable and measurable plan to follow each day.
Learn more and gain free access to the 40For40 Bible Reading Plans. Begin your journey of getting to know God better while strengthening your faith, and being equipped for service. (See 2 Timothy 3:15-17, Hebrews 10:22-25, Colossians 2:6-7)
Tip 5: Start with Prayer
Equally challenging to knowing where to begin reading the Bible is where to start with prayer. Even Jesus’ disciples weren’t sure how to go about it: “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke: 11:1)
In response, Jesus offered a model for prayer (Luke 11:2-4, see also Matthew 6:9-13), which we commonly refer to as “The Lord’s Prayer,” but is more appropriately known as “The Disciples’ Prayer” (the true Lord’s Prayer is found in John 17*).
One suggestion then is to start with The Disciples’ Prayer. In Jesus’ model for prayer, as the NIV Study Bible indicates, “There are six petitions, three relating more directly to God (Matthew: 6:9-10) and three to us (vv. 11-13). The order of these petitions is significant and intentional.”
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:9-13 NIV
Another suggestion is to let the Scriptures inspire you and pray through them as you read. This can be especially meaningful as you read-pray through the Psalms in the 40For40 reading plan. A reading from the Psalms begins each day’s schedule. Starting here will help you make that important spiritual and prayerful connection with the Lord as you begin reading each day.
Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:7-8 NIV
A third suggestion, similar to praying through the Scriptures is to read and pray through Paul’s prayers to the early churches. You will find meaning in these as you acknowledge God’s incomparable attributes, love, power, and desire to build a mature relationship with you.
- Ephesians 1:17-23
- Philippians 1:3-11
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
- 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
- Colossians 1:9-14
- Colossians 4:2-4
*A reading through the Lord’s Prayer in John 17, removes any doubt of the purpose and power of God’s word in our lives and the world.
Summary: 5 Tips to Establish a Habit of Daily Bible Reading:
- Determine a time: Treat Bible reading and prayer as a priority on your calendar
- Prepare a place: Find a quiet place free of distractions and where you won’t disturb others
- Find a trigger: Develop a cue that immediately precedes daily Bible reading time
- Have a plan: Try one of the 40for40 Bible Reading Plans
- Start with prayer: Model after the Disciples’ Prayer or other Scripture
What tips would you add to this list?