Here are five basic steps to help you get the most out of reading and understanding your Bible:

1. PRAY.
Prayer is a simple step that’s so easy to forget. As you begin to read, ask God to help you understand and apply what you read.

Reading a couple verses here and few over there in your Bible makes about as much sense as reading a couple words here and a sentence or two there in a letter. Reading things out of context results in confusion and misinterpretation.

It is generally best to read through an entire book before moving on to another one. You will better understand what the Bible says by completing one book rather than reading from several random passages. Following a reading plan -- either your own, or one you found -- gives you direction, motivation, and order in your reading.

Once you understand a bit of who’s who and what’s where in the Bible, it makes sense that people wouldn’t necessarily read it straight through.

Because the New Testament focuses on Jesus and Christian teachings, most people choose to focus their reading there. For those who have never read a Bible, it may be helpful to begin in John, and then go back and read one or more of the gospels. Then work through the other books of the New Testament. When you’ve made it through the New Testament, go to the Old Testament. Once you understand who Jesus is, it is exciting to see how everything in the Old Testament anticipates Jesus’ arrival and our final deliverance from sin.

3. READ.
Like you would anything, read each style of writing for what it is. Read stories as historial accounts and poetic descriptions not as literal fact, but creative expressions that hold timeless truths. As you read a specific passage, consider who is who is speaking and who they are addressing, and try to understand what they are saying.

After gaining a “surface” understanding of what is taking place in a particular passage, look for ways to apply God’s truth to your life. God will speak to you in the things you read. As you read a passage, you might ask yourself:
What does this passage teach?
How does God want me to change? in actions, attitudes, or beliefs?
Is there a sin to confess, command to obey, promise to apply to
life circumstances, or a prayer to pray?

Israel’s culture in 500 BC is a little different than ours today. Study materials -- commentaries, dictionaries, and online resources -- can provide insight into otherwise odd-seeming passages.

See Additional Resources for online study tools.

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M. Schmidt © 2005