How to Study the Bible: 9 Tips from Top Bible Teachers

As Bible Study Magazine has interviewed some of the best Bible teachers and writers over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to ask for tips and advice from people with a deep love for Scripture and a long history of faithful study. Here’s what they had to say.

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1. Don’t wait to feel inspired. 

I pray that Scripture will give up its jewels. . . . This is a process that has evolved over 20 years of ministry, education, and life in Christ. I did start out very frustrated. But I had a dependence on the Holy Spirit, a willingness to learn, and a commitment to a robust biblical diet. . . . It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that every Bible study or devotional time should have a “come to Jesus moment”—angels playing harps, a sense of peace around you, and you’re in tears. But the steady diet is what’s important. —Eric Mason

2. Pray for fervent curiosity.

I ask God to grant me a supernatural love for him and his Word. I mean something that cannot be explained. I ask him continually, “Stir up in me such a fervor for Scripture. Make me curious, Lord. Keep me learning, cause me to love it, cause it to be life and breath to me.” And when I feel dull, I get down on my face and plead for him to return that fire to my bones, and he’s so faithful to do it. —Beth Moore

3. Make it a habit.

Routine is something we look down on a little bit, but I think routine is brilliant. . . . For people like me who like that sense of “I know what I’m reading today,” it’s wonderful to use a plan. But don’t get stuck in a rut: Some people find that they just give up because they get behind. Be willing to start a plan or ditch a plan depending on the context and your needs. Change from reading on a tablet to reading a paper Bible. Change from reading your Bible with verses; use the app to remove all the verse and chapter markings and just read it like a book. Listen to it instead of reading it. One way or another, let God’s word soak into your life, soak into your soul. —Tim Challies

4. Study reverently and humbly.

Personal Bible reading ought to have oomph to it. If you don’t understand something, there’s nothing wrong with taking a commentary off your shelf so that you can understand the passage better. Likewise, if you’re preparing a message, there’s something wrong with a study so detailed and structured that it doesn’t include an element of reverence and fear. According to the prophet Isaiah, in Isaiah 66:2, God looks to those who are contrite and humble of spirit and who tremble at his word. Whether you’re writing a commentary or having your morning devotions, you ought to have the sort of reverence toward God [that’s always] due. —D. A. Carson

5. Immerse yourself in the text.

Henri Nouwen wrote . . . The Return of the Prodigal Son, where he advised readers to put themselves as the father. Put yourself as the younger brother. Put yourself as the older brother. Some people are nervous about that, but I think it’s great, because the deadening part of Bible study is when you think, “I’ve heard this before. What can I possibly learn from this?” Anything we can do to cut through that scum that has grown on it and rediscover the freshness, because it was certainly radical in Jesus’ day. People could never predict what he was going to say or do. And the more we can resurrect that unpredictability, the closer we are to what happened in Jesus’ day. —Philip Yancey

6. ‘Hear’ Scripture. 

The Bible is meant to be heard, not just read, and sometimes you catch things differently when you hear it. You feel like you’re in the scene sometimes when it’s dramatized in the Gospels. But I also like hearing the letters, too, because you feel like it’s an address. . . . It just hits you differently when it’s being read out loud. —Trevin Wax

7. Learn alongside others. 

There may be some people who have the gift of the eye who can actually see what is going on, but the eye is useless all by itself. The eye needs to hear from the ear and from what the hand is feeling, and how the heart is beating, and so on. And it’s only when you get together in a group that people with particular [types of] insight have [them] honed, sharpened, and shaped. One has to relish the corporate nature of that—and that isn’t to squelch the individual contribution. It actually enhances it. The individual is more because they are part of this group. —N. T. Wright

8. Study as a family.

Most families are dealing with a range of ages of kids, and so you need something that everyone can gather around that is applicable for different age ranges. We go through a book of the Bible together and give our kids a chapter or portion to read for the week. We tell them to come to family devotional time with two questions and two observations. And we use that as a jumping-off point for a discussion. So it isn’t just, “What do you think this means?” independent of any structure. It’s, “OK, well, here’s what you came up with as an interpretation. Now, let’s look at the text and see whether that’s a good interpretation.” —Jen Wilkin

9. Don’t be in a hurry.

You’re not going to grow in your faith without the Word of God. You’re not going to engage the work of God if you neglect the Word of God. Start with a Gospel, like the Gospel of Mark, or one of Paul’s Epistles, and read one to two chapters a day—but those same one to two chapters every day for a week. By the end of that time, you’re going to see things that you didn’t see in your first reading. Things start to make sense and come alive, and when you move on to the third and fourth chapters, you’re not going to forget the first two, because you just spent a week there. —J. R. Vassar

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This post is excerpted from original articles in the September/October 2019 edition of Bible Study Magazine