Resolution season is under way, and there is likely a spike in Bible reading plan commitments. And as you use this time to specifically evaluate and refresh your own “soul care” practices (i.e., regular time in the Bible, praying, and in other spiritual writings etc.) there is great benefit in pursuing healthy habits as opposed to strict regiments.
In the dieting world, there is a great amount of talk concerning healthy concepts that lead to healthy practices rather than regiment-styled dieting. For example, some would say not to give specific things up entirely but instead eat smaller portions. Others agree and simply push for better ingredients in your food. A call to a different pattern of eating. Similarly, if we have a healthier pattern in our “soul care” practices instead of simply renewing our regiment there is a greater chance lifelong habits form instead of seasonal ups and downs (though that will always be present on some level; let’s not be too hard on ourselves!).
I want to focus on one aspect of our spiritual lives: reading God’s Word. The new year allows us to reset the reading plans we gave up on last August and potentially set new goals for the next 12 months, so let’s take advantage of the season.
SIDE NOTE: there are some great reading plans out there, and if you’re going for the reading plan model, a chronological plan is my favorite for simply reading through the Bible. M’Cheyne’s reading plan is another regular go-to for a year-long reading plan that is more diverse in nature as it will give you 2 Old Testament, 1 New Testament, and 1 Gospel or Psalm reading each day. You can look them up.
But reading plans are not my focus here. And if you feel like your reading plan looks like this to-do list by the end of February each year, this post is for you.
Instead, I want to talk about reading patterns that you could adopt in any reading regiment you engage in this year. Hopefully these will encourage you at your own pace and assist you in digging deeper, not simply reading more. Quality over quantity. Here they are: Read consistently, prayerfully, and slowly.
First, read consistently. Commit to a book of the Bible and to some amount of time each day. Focus is hard enough without changing up what you’re reading each day. Nothing against devotionals that give one verse per day, but as you look to reading Scripture in bigger chunks choosing one book of the Bible to work through at a time is the easiest place to start. And habits are only formed when a cycle is created, so even 5 minutes every day makes a bigger impact than 30 minutes once every other week.
Second, read prayerfully. This is not a book for you to create motivational speeches from. Instead, Jesus says this is bread that we live by (Matthew 4:4, Deut. 8:3) and that it is actually living because of the Spirit’s work in and through it (Heb. 4:12). So let’s ask the Author to speak. Pray briefly before you read. Ask God to speak to and feed you. Ask Him to show you more of Himself and more of your own heart. And when you finish reading whatever you read that day pray that God would remind you of what you considered and to sow that seed of truth in your heart.
Third, read slowly. A benefit of the reading plan is reading all of Scripture, but the downside is the stress of “getting through” the portion each day. Instead, as you read several verses pause and think. Ask simple questions like, “What is the author saying to the reader?” “How does this impact how I think about God?” “How does this inform how I view myself?” “Does this inform how I should live? Think? Pray? Worship?” etc. David prayed, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word” (Ps. 119:15-16). How often have you read something and by lunch had forgotten the passage you read let alone any lessons from it? … I’m guilty! From Psalm 119 the path to delighting and not forgetting is through meditating. Be patient. No one has ever swallowed a steak whole, so don’t try. Meaning, take it slow and chew on it.
That’s it?! Only THREE?? Yep.
Read consistently, prayerfully, and slowly. That’s all I’ve got. As you turn to God’s Word this year, perhaps the commitment should not be increased quantity but increased quality.
These are not universal rules, but they can be useful as you invest in Scripture. I pray this year will be a year you deeply enjoy God in His Word. I pray Scripture becomes more real to you and more practical. And I pray that you have a deeper friendship with Jesus as a result.