Personal Bible Study: Do You have an Effective Approach?
Personal Bible study is a reference to your individual method of carefully examining the Bible, as the Word of God. We cannot read the Bible casually and expect to walk away with great understanding of God's will for our lives and Christian growth.
The following are suggestions, based on my personal Bible study habits:
1. Pre-study. Here are three things you need before you open your Bible:
- Find a place where you can concentrate for fifteen minutes to an hour or whatever amount of time you intend to use for your personal Bible study. Trying to watch television and study at the same time is not going to work (smile).
- Have your study tools, notebook, and pen.
- Pray for the Lord to help you understand what you are about to study.
2. Actual study. Use the three study questions and at least the four study tools to help you make helpful notes for Christian living.
The three study questions are - what does the passage say, what does it mean, and what does it mean to me? Answer the first question (i.e., observation), by paraphrasing or putting into your own words what the passage says. You would do well to read the passage several times.
Answering the second question (i.e., interpretation) may call for the use of the study tools. I use the New International Version of the Ryrie Study Bible, the Living Bible, a good commentary, and a concordance.
The study Bible has foot notes, outlines, articles, and other helpful study resources in it.
The Living Bible is a paraphrase of the Bible that can be helpful in seeing the general sense of the passage. But you would not use this for deep word for word examination of the text.
A commentary is a book of comments on the Bible. A concordance is an index of the Bible. You would look up a word alphabetically in a concordance, and you will see where all of the occurrences of the word are found throughout the Bible.
The most important question is the last one (i.e., application). Here is where prayer is most important. It doesn't take much spiritual discernment or connection with God for the first two questions. However, you need God's help with the third question.
It is important to take some kind of notes, while studying the Bible. Make note of answers to the three questions and anything that seems noteworthy. Your notes will refresh your memory, when you want to revisit your understanding of the given passage in the future.
Finally, leave time to be still and meditate on what you have read and what you are thinking. Pray and ask God to help you understand and live by His will for your life.
3. Post-study. After your closing prayer and books are away, continue to reflect on how what you have studied applies to what is going on in your life. The Bible is not simply a book about "way back then." It is a powerful way for God to talk to us about the "here and now."
Summary, prepare for your personal Bible study with the questions, tools, and notes. Make time to pray. And keep reflecting on what God is saying to you about what is going on in your life.
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