How can a young man [woman] keep his [her] way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin again you. Psalm 119:9-11
I learned about having a daily quiet time when I was in youth group. I remember the leaders regularly encouraged us to read the Bible and pray first thing in the morning. Even as a teenager I took this encouragement to heart and tried to read my Bible, pray, memorize Scripture, and journal. However, since I was much more of a night owl, I would do my quiet times at night. My devotional habits, basic as they were, provided an important foundation for my spiritual growth along the way.
In general, I was serious about my faith and wanted to know and obey God. In college, I joined an evangelical campus ministry and had lots of opportunities to grow in my prayer life, deepen my faith, and develop spiritual leadership skills. As my faith matured, I continued the habit of daily quiet times.
The One Year Bible
During my college years, I started reading the One Year Bible. Basically, it’s the entire Bible arranged in 365 readings. Each day has an Old Testament, New Testament, Psalm, and Proverbs reading. If you follow the plan, by the end of the year, you will have read the entire Bible and the Psalms twice.
Overall, this was a helpful method for me to actually finish reading the entire Bible. I had started (and stopped and started and stopped) reading it through multiple times as a teenager, but the One Year Bible was the plan that helped me make it through the sections of the Old Testament where I would get bogged down. It was motivating to have a goal of reading a specific amount each day, and I enjoyed reading from different portions of Scripture each day.
A Heart Transformed by Bible Reading
But even if I were to read the Bible one hundred times, if my heart and life aren’t impacted, what good is it? Sure, I could check the box for completing another year, but how do I prevent this good discipline from becoming another thoughtless, mechanical task.
One way that I have learned over the years is to read with a prayerful heart, trusting that God will use his word to change me. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
God’s word has the power to see through me. When I need to be corrected, Scripture can convict me. When I need encouragement, his word is a balm. And sometimes I just need to be reminded of the remarkable work God has done in the past and the promises he has given us for the future.
Another way I ward off growing stale in my devotional life is by talking about what I’m reading with others. Sometimes this looks like talking with my husband, sometimes an older friend, and sometimes someone from church. God’s word is astonishing in its breadth and depth, and it is encouraging to talk about it with others. That’s one of the reasons I love sharing with you what I’m learning and hearing from you about what you’re learning.
Since I first started using the One Year Bible in my early 20s, I have read through the Bible probably 15 times. The practice of regular Bible reading exposes my heart to the transforming power of Scripture, and I am challenged and refined. I find the words of eternal life there.
Addressing Quiet Time Guilt
I realize that not everyone has had a good experience with quiet times. It’s one of those spiritual disciplines that we hear we should be doing, but we wonder if we’re doing it right. Sometimes leaders make people feel guilty for not having long, dramatic quiet times at 4:30 am. Other times we heap the guilt on ourselves, especially when we enter a new season of life when we have increased responsibilities and less flexibility.
Starting a new job, going back to school, getting married, having children, caring for aging relatives…all of these experiences can make traditional quiet times less manageable. You have more to handle and less time to yourself, but the irony is you need the encouragement from God’s word more than ever.
When these types of life changes happen, making changes to our Bible reading routine will usually serve us better than giving up altogether. Think you can’t keep up with something like the One Year Bible? You could try reading a chapter from the Psalms each day and talking with God throughout the day. With spiritual growth, consistency is key. Keep going even when it is hard and you feel behind.
I started a gospels reading group for women this summer where the goal was to read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We usually read a chapter or two each day. It’s a great way to establish the habit of regular Bible reading and fill our hearts and minds with God’s word without feeling like we have to squeeze in 30-60 minutes of quiet time. There isn’t only one way to do quiet times, but we receive eternal benefits and spiritual blessings when we spend time reading Scripture and talking with God.
What has been your experience with Scripture reading? Do you see it as life-giving or an item on your to-do list?