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What Does the Bible Say About Reading the Bible?

Christians have many good reasons for reading the Bible, and many books and articles extol the merits of Bible reading. But what does the Bible say about reading the Bible? Here are ten observations:

Bible reading should be communal. The majority of texts that mention Bible reading speak about reading the Scriptures together. The first mention of Bible reading (Exodus 24:7) and the second last mention (1 Thessalonians 5:27) focus on communal Bible reading.

Bible reading should be public. “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scriptures” 1 Timothy 4:13. The emphasis in the Scriptures is on getting it out in the open. Reading the Bible should never be a solely private affair. In as much as it’s possible, we should be reading the Bible to “all people.”

Bible reading should be personal. There are two direct references in the Bible to personal Bible reading. The first concerns Ezra, a priest and scribe, who read the Bible every day of his life (Nehemiah 8:18). The second concerns the Ethiopian eunuch reading the Scriptures in his chariot on his way home (Acts 8:28).

Bible reading happens in different places. Wherever God’s people gather, we should read the Bible. This includes, but is not limited to, open-air settings (Joshua 8:34-35, 2 Kings 23:2), synagogues (Luke 4:16-17), and local churches (Colossians 4:16).

Bible reading is a mandate for kings. Rulers should read God’s Word every day to learn to fear God, live in reverent obedience, and not become proud or arrogant (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).

Bible reading should be in big chunks. There are examples in the Old Testament of Bible reading that took a long time, sometimes hours on end (e.g. Nehemiah 8:3), and involved reading whole books (2 Chronicles 34:30). As we usually do with letters, the epistles in the New Testament were read in one sitting.

Bible reading should include interpretation. When the Bible is read publicly, we should clearly articulate it in a way that aids understanding and facilitates attentiveness (Nehemiah 8:8).

Bible reading is what God’s people do. Jesus often asked, “Haven’t you read?” (e.g. Mark 12:10, 26). Bible reading isn’t an optional extra in our everyday affairs. Jesus anticipated, expected, and considered it normal for God’s people.

Bible reading leads people to Christ. Bible reading was the catalyst for the Ethiopian eunuch to place his faith in Jesus and be baptized (Acts 8:26-38).

Bible reading brings blessing. God gives His favour and protection to people who read the Bible. The final mention in the Bible concerning Bible reading (Revelation 1:3) is about God blessing those who read His Word, listen to it, and obey it.

The scriptures cited above account for the majority of verses and texts that specifically reference Bible reading. Why doesn’t the Bible say a whole lot more about this vital spiritual discipline? Maybe because God expects us to do it (e.g. Deuteronomy 6:1-9), which should be reason enough!

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© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Praying the Scriptures

Do you sometimes feel like God doesn’t hear your prayers? Are you praying the same hackneyed supplications over and over again? Do you lack confidence when you pray? Are you sometimes unsure about what to pray or how to pray in certain situations? Are your prayers mainly about your family, your friends, your health, your work, or your wealth? Would you like your prayers to be more effectual? Do you want to pray in line with God’s will? Do you want to release the power of Scripture into your everyday life? If you answered yes to any of these questions then maybe it’s time to broaden the scope of your prayers – to discover how your prayers can be renewed and revived through praying the Scriptures.

Praying the Scriptures is using God’s words to form our prayers. It’s praying His Word back to Him. Specifically, praying the Scriptures is using the words, phrases or themes of a Scripture passage to guide, shalarge_four-prayers-for-bible-readingpe and give language to our conversations with God. It’s done by praying a Scripture text word for word as one’s own prayer, by personalizing a Scripture text, or by turning our thoughts and feelings about a topic/theme of a Scripture passage into prayer.

Reading the Scriptures and praying the Scriptures should happen together. When we pray the Scriptures, we know we’re in alignment with God’s will. When we’re in alignment with God’s will, His Spirit directs and informs our prayers. Here’s an example of how one might read and pray Psalm 23 in a personalized way:

Scripture – The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Prayer – Lord, thank you for being Jehovah-Raah, my Shepherd. Because you’re my Shepherd, I don’t need a thing. You intimately take care of everything. Please watch over my life and the lives of my family members today.

Scripture- He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

Prayer – Lord, thank you for giving me opportunities to rest. Sometimes I’m too busy for my own good and too preoccupied to see your beauty around me. Help me be still and know that you are God. Please rejuvenate me today.

Scripture – He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Prayer – Thank you Lord for your guidance. You steer me along the path of righteousness. True to your name, you keep me on the straight and narrow road that leads to life. And you do it all for your glory.

Scripture – Even though I walk through the darkest valley, l fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Prayer – Lord even in the bleakest circumstances you are by my side. What a relief to know that when I’m down, you are with me. So why am I anxious? There’s no need for me to be afraid because I’m safe and secure in you.

Scripture – You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Prayer – Thank you Lord. I’m never forsaken. You faithfully provide for me, even in difficult times. It’s remarkable. You serve and honour me when I should be serving and honouring you! And more, you do it in front of my enemies.

Scripture – You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Prayer – Who am I that you are so mindful of me? I’m blessed from the tip of my head to the soles of my feet! Thank you, your blessings aren’t limited, day in and day out, they keep on coming.

Scripture – Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Prayer – Your love is amazing! Wherever I am and wherever I go, you keep on chasing after me. You are good and your love endures forever. Today, tomorrow, and throughout my life, your grace and mercy is with me. And when I leave this life you’ll still be there, loving me forever. Thank you, you truly are my Shepherd. Because of your great love, I have everything I really need. Amen.

Reading the Scriptures and praying the Scriptures should be a continuous cycle in our daily devotions. Why not do it now? The psalms are a great place to begin, or go to a portion of Scripture you’re presently reading, and pray it back to God.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Shaped By The Word

In Shaped by the Word, Robert Mulholland presents a new way to read Scripture that helps us better listen for the voice of God, move from informational to formational reading, and give up our control over the text so that God directs our reading and reflection. Shaped by the Word is one of my top ten must read Bible Engagement books. Here are some taster quotes:

The Word of God is the action of the presence, the purpose, and the power of God in the midst of human life.

Not only is there the dynamic of God’s inspiration in the writing of the scripture; there is also the dynamic of God’s inspiration in our reading of the scripture.

Scripture is not only a place where we find ourselves encountered by God, but a place where God probes the nature of our relationships with one another.

We must open ourselves before Scripture receptively. We must listen. We must be ready to respond. When we approach the scripture in this manner, we find ourselves drawn into that life where our “word” begins to resonate with the Word.

Not only does Scripture liberate us from the bondage of our perceptual frameworks, but at the same time it develops and nurtures within us a transformed and ever-expanding perceptual dynamic of wholeness wherein we find fullness of life in the three primal relationships with God, with self, with others.

If the scripture functions iconographically in our lives, if it can become a window through which we find ourselves drawn into God’s new order of being in Christ, then this insight may call for the deepest perceptual shift of all.

In a profound sense, the Word of God is a living and productive scalpel in the loving hands of One who penetrates to the core of our being in order to cleanse and heal our garbled, distorted, debased word and transform it into the word God speaks us forth to be in the world.

When we come to the scripture, part of our perplexity comes from the fact that we encounter something that takes us beyond ourselves, beyond the prevailing values and perspectives of our culture, even beyond the religious structures and practices of our faith.

Transformation occurs when scripture is viewed as a place of encounter with God that is approached by yielding the false self and its agenda, by opening one’s self unconditionally to God, and by a hunger to respond in love to whatever God desires.

The informational, functional, doing modes of approaching scripture inherently insulate us and protect us from the kind of awareness and disclosure the Word brings to us.

We must offer our discipline of spiritual reading to God with no strings attached, no demands, no limits, no expectations. We must offer it to God for God’s purposes, allowing it to become a means of God’s grace to transform our being.

Our encounter with the Word, our address by God, must be carried into the details of our daily lives.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Why Read the Bible?

Why should we read the Bible? Google “Bible Reading” and there are dozens of Bible agencies, ministries, churches and individuals inviting people to read or listen to the Bible. To help us read the Bible they offer a huge range of plans, charts, guides, schedules, approaches, programs, challenges and resources. The information on the sites offering Bible reading plans say we should regularly read or listen to the Bible to develop our faith as Christians, for inspiration, to see what wonders God works, for the sake of learning, for guidance, to study, to know truth, for adventure, for a steady diet of God’s Word, for a rewarding experience, and so on.

While there is value in reading the Bible for the reasons mentioned above, the main reason why we read the Bible should be to connect with the Person of whom the Bible speaks – the triune God. This is paramount; if we read the Bible to know the Word of God, yet don’t read it to know the God of the Word, we miss the mark!

Love the God of the Word and we’ll love the Word of God! When we read the Bible for any reason other than because we love God, it may be a difficult, confusing or boring read. But when we read the Bible relationally, as God’s love letter to us, our reading becomes a living, experiential, intimate, interactive, functional, communal, and transformational journey with Him . . .

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2012

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