“Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)
How To Effectively Read the Holy Bible
We often add reading the Bible to our to-do lists and have a ritualistic mindset toward it. We read as fast as we can in order to check the box off and have the rest of the day “to ourselves.” The first question you must ask yourself is “Why am I reading the Holy Bible?”
Am I reading it to check off a box?
Am I reading it to relieve some personal guilt I’ll feel if I don’t?
Am I reading it to prepare a lesson for Sunday School or to teach my children at home?
Am I reading it to impress others with how much great knowledge I have of the Word of God?
While these reasons may all motivate us to read the Holy Bible, they shouldn’t be our main reasons for reading. We read the Holy Bible because we love God and we want to get to know Him on a personal level. We read it because without His Word, we have no lamp to guide our way. We read it because it gives us strength, courage, truth and a shield against the wiles of the devil. We read it because our day is not complete without His Word. We read it because we simply cannot live without it. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’’’ (Matthew 4:4)
There is a huge difference between knowing about God and knowing God. We can know about God by hearing about Him from our friends or servants, but we will never truly know Him unless we read the Holy Bible and take time to interact with Him and His Word. How can we expect to know someone we don’t spend time talking and listening to?
St. Isaac the Syrian said, "Without reading the intellect has no means of drawing near to God: Scripture draws the mind up and sets it at every moment in the direction of God; it baptizes it from this corporeal world with its insights and causes it to be above the body continually. There is no other toil by which someone can make better progress. Provided that person is reading Scripture for the sake of truth, these sorts of things he will discover from it" (The Spiritual World of St. Isaac the Syrian by Hilarion Alfeyev pg. 175 found on suscopts.org).
The Word of God also completes us and prepares us to go out into the world and serve others. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Pray and listen to a spiritual song before you begin reading. We must clear our minds from our many worldly thoughts before we can truly focus on understanding the Word of God.
Choose a good time to read. Don’t start reading after you have just finished watching your favorite comedy or after an outing with your friends. Take some time to slow down and recenter your mind.
Pray that God helps you understand what you are reading. Ask God to reveal to you the answers to your prayers and His personal message for you. “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24). Ask for the wisdom to discern what you are reading and ask for an open mind and an understanding spirit.
2. Have a personal Bible reflection notebook with you every time you read.
When we write things down, we are far more likely to remember them. Taking notes as you read and watch lectures will also help you keep your focus.
If you really liked something you read or understood, writing it down will help you reflect back onto it easily in the future.
3. Read with the intention of understanding.
Do not rush. Take your time and really consider every word that you read. “Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge, And he sins who hastens with his feet.” (Proverbs 19:2)
Be an active reader. According to dlc.dcccd.edu, “When we read actively, we try to understand the text thoroughly by reading slowly and carefully, pausing to question a main idea or to reexamine a passage that confuses us, and interpreting the larger meanings and implications of the text we’re reading. We try to keep our minds actively thinking about what the text means.”
4. Watch lectures or read interpretations. This will help you better comprehend what you are reading and will show you the spiritual meanings behind each verse. “A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.” (Proverbs 1:5) Here are some good sources you can use to help you understand the Holy Bible:
Fr. Tadros Malaty’s Commentary Books http://www.stminahamilton.ca/groups/servants/bible-commentary-books
“Fr. Daoud Lamei” app (Arabic Lectures)
St. Takla Bible Commentaries and Studies: https://st-takla.org/bible/commentary/en/index.html
Youtube Bible Studies by H.G. Bishop Youssef: https://www.youtube.com/user/BishopYoussef
Orthodox Study Bible (Found on Amazon.com)
Suscopts Resources: https://suscopts.org/resources/literature/orthodox-faith/
Want to quiz yourself? https://suscopts.org/resources/bible-study/
5. Listen by meditating. “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)
Choose a verse or a few verses that resonated with you.
Contemplate them and think about how you can apply them to your day to day life. If you read before you start your day, keep the verses in your mind throughout the day and make it a daily goal to apply them.
Listen to what God is trying to tell you through these verses. Ask yourself and God, “What does this mean for me?”
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:2-3)
We will never be done learning from the Word of God. His Word is so rich that if we happened to read a single verse a hundred times, we would learn something new each time. Reread even those books and chapters that you have read many times before. God has a new message for you every time and you will never walk away from the Bible empty-handed.
Sometimes we don’t understand simply because we are reading too fast. Slowing down and rereading will give us new insight.
7. Ask Questions.
Our human minds can never fully comprehend God and His Word because He is far beyond our comprehension. We will always be left with very important questions to ask.
Our mother, the Coptic church, never leaves us without an answer. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)
You can always bring your questions to a servant or a priest who will happily help you get answers and explanations.
When you don’t understand a passage you are reading, do not simply forget about it and move on to the next part. Each part of the Holy Bible is equally as significant and you should be striving to understand it.
8. Live the Word of God. “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27)