I love reading and studying the Bible, but if I’m honest, many times, I find it hard to get into or really concentrate on it. There may be various reasons for my wandering thoughts, but over the years I have found certain Bible Study hacks, that have made it easier to really focus. And maybe they can help you too. Without further ado, let me share my top 7 Bible Study hacks:
One of my favourite sayings is: “Bible Reading is like drinking Coke”. I don’t know about you, but for me, if I stop drinking coke for a few weeks, my craving for it also disappears and I can easily go months without it. But as soon as I drink it once or twice, it’s like my palate suddenly discovers it again and my craving for it comes back. I feel it’s the same with Bible Reading. The more often you read, the more you will want to, and start to actually crave it.
You will be surprised how much this small trick helps you concentrate more. Even more if you imagine reading it “to” someone and putting some feeling into the words you read. The bonus of this tip is that your ears are hearing what you speak. Just by reading out loud you are building your faith (Rom 10) and you are much more likely to remember the Scripture afterwards!
Most of the time when I sit down to read, my thoughts are just everywhere. What really helps me focus is reading a psalm first. I just read it right through. Not worrying too much about understanding it, or getting a lot out of it. I think of it as an exercise in focusing my thoughts on something other than myself. Then I read it for a second time, with an attitude of praise and thanksgiving before moving on to my Scripture passage of the day.
When I read my Bible, I keep both my diary (day planner) as well as my journal right next to me. Then when all my wandering thoughts come up, as they normally do, I can write them down. I try to separate between task thoughts and teaching moment thoughts. Let me explain. When I think of the washing I need to do, a phone call I need to make or someone’s birthday I need to remember, I quickly jot them down in my diary effectively getting rid of the nagging thought until I have time to give it attention. Other times, as I read, other random thoughts come up that doesn’t quite fit in the “to-do-list” category. Maybe a memory of something I said to my husband, which could have been kinder. Or a face of a friend pops up whom I haven’t given thought to for a while. These might “teaching moments” ; something that God wants to show me or speak to me about. Maybe there is a need for repentance, or intercession, or a friend who needs an encouraging word. These I write down in my journal.
The important thing is to remember the reason why you are writing everything down. It is to get the thought out of the way until you have time to give it the attention it deserves. So don’t stop reading! Grab the thought. Write it down, and keep reading. It’s also worth noting, that I do this when a verse I read stands out for me. I make a note, and keep reading so as to get the full context of the Scripture. Then afterwards I come back to that specific verse and spend more time on it.
Before I got this hack down, I honestly got up in my quiet time, to “quickly” put in a load of washing (so I would not forget) or quickly send a whatsapp to a friend, who then returns the message, and then I feel obliged to continue the conversation….You get the idea. Bottomline: this one helped me a lot to actually just focus on what I needed to do right at that moment: READ my Bible. Nothing else.
These days there are so many fancy Bible apps, Scipture memory apps etc, that a lot of people don’t even own a physical Bible anymore. If you struggle with concentrating or going deeper with Bible Study, I strongly encourage you to do it old school. Take your physical Bible (buy one if you need to!), journal, or a pen and paper. Switch off your phone, or leave it in another room where it won’t distract you. Get out into nature, or a place that is comfortable and inspiring and let God speak to you through those open pages.
This one may seem strange…but I was always told that the reason that you close your eyes when you pray, is to focus only on God. Makes sense, right? Closing your eyes shuts you off from your surroundings that you can see, for a moment, and you are able to focus on God who is unseen. Well, this can go both ways. You see, sometimes (especially early mornings after a night of waking for my kiddos) when I close my eyes, I just want to fall asleep. Or other times when I close my eyes, a rush of to-do-list thoughts start flooding my mind. This makes it really hard to focus on Jesus. Come on, I’m just being honest. Don’t tell me you’re so spiritual that this doesn’t happen to you. 🙂 My point is, eyes open, eyes closed, it really makes no difference as long as you focus on Jesus. So whatever helps you at that moment to focus and keep distractions at bay, do that, guilt-free.
I am passionate about teaching people about Bible context, and I could write a whole looooong blog post just about context. And maybe I should…mmm… But for now, let me sum up. Every book in the Bible is different, and best understood in context. Every book was written by a specific someone, to specific people, for a specific reason and with a specific message in mind. To truly get into it, it is great to understand the historical and cultural context first. (I love David Pawson’s Unlocking the Bible and the Bible Project for this!) And that’s great to do, but you can already (without a whole lot of research) start understanding the Bible so much better, if you just focus on one book at a time.
Just pick one. The first one you think of. And start reading it from the beginning and go right through. When you have your Bible reading time, do a chapter (or 2 or 3 if you have time) not just a few verses. This will help you start to see the all the individual verses in the context they were written and will open up so much in terms of understanding the heart of what was written. Just to illustrate my point. While the principle that Jesus gives us strength to do all things is most certainly true, did you know when Paul wrote the very famous Phillipians 4:13, he was speaking about money? Check it out. Read the whole of Phil 4 to understand where he is coming from.
Well, that’s my top 7 Bible Reading tips in a nutshell. But let me just remind you again of tip #1. Bible reading is like drinking Coke. You won’t “feel” like it, until you start doing it. And the more you read. The more you will want to! That’s saying a lot about coke too, I guess, but thankfully this is not a health post…lol!