A Daily Staple
Right now I have one breakfast food: oatmeal and almond butter. This is pretty much what I eat every morning—or at least, every morning where I have time between waking up and making the two-minute trek to work from my room.
To be sure, it can get a little boring. Of course, I would rather have pastries with my morning coffee. But I know that not only will the oatmeal give me the energy I need for the next few hours of work, both my body and my bank account will be healthier in the long run.
Why Daily Bible Reading Is Important
Like the oatmeal, daily Bible reading can get boring—and hard to make time for. You might even wonder, Is it really necessary to read the Bible every single day? It’s not like you’re going to remember every one of those devotional times. Some days are more striking than others, but mostly they go by one after another, blending together into a kind of blur. Sometimes it’s tempting to skip the daily practice of Bible reading in favor of something that seems like it will create a more vivid or powerful experience.
However, sanctification doesn’t generally happen in leaps and bounds. It’s a constant, daily and hourly process of God working in us, and one of the biggest ways he works is through his word. We can’t always tell that it’s happening—sometimes our Bible reading seems boring or pointless or even fruitless. But God’s word does not fail in its purpose (Isa. 55:11). He is working in and through that daily, faithful, consistent discipline. Like eating oatmeal instead of pastries for breakfast, it will have powerful effect in the long term—even if it’s hard to see in the moment.
The Obedience of Meditation
The daily practice of reading and studying God’s word is also a means of obedience to God. Scripture is replete with commands and exhortations to meditate on God’s word at all times (Deut. 6:6-9; Ps. 119:15-16). Daily Bible reading is one simple, obvious means to this end. Where Scripture memory engrains a few verses into your mind and heart, and in-depth Bible study dives deep into a text, Bible reading allows you to move through entire books more quickly and see the bigger picture of God’s character and his plan of redemption.
There’s a caveat here: it’s all too easy to get tied up in the forms of a discipline and forget its purpose. Reading the Bible for thirty minutes (or even an hour) every day does not save us. In itself, it’s not even what sanctifies us—that takes the Spirit applying the truths we read to our hearts. A form, such as daily Bible reading, is helpful and important. However, our focus is not to be on the act of Bible reading, but on the God we’re reading about.
There will be seasons in our lives where we are unable to read the Bible every day. Maybe it’s due to sickness or emergency, or it might be merely a (God-ordained and necessary) busy season where there is literally no time to read the Bible. When these times come, we have to recognize them as God’s providence—that he hasn’t allowed us to partake in this practice right now. It’s not an occasion for guilt, but for clinging more closely to him. Meditating on his word is going to look different during this season—maybe it looks like stealing five minutes between classes to memorize a verse of a psalm or listening to an audio Bible in the car.
May these times only strengthen our dependence on God and out desire for his word, and when we are again able to read it every day, may that discipline be all the sweeter.
Our motivation for reading the Bible should be a desire for God and his word. However, the beauty (and difficulty) of daily Bible reading is that we do it even when the desire isn’t there, trusting that God will provide it. What’s more, even when the desire is there, the world and the devil and our own sin nature will conspire to keep us from it, whether through lack of sleep, smartphones, or sudden crises.
Thus the necessity for some common sense in forming and keeping this habit—some spiritual strategy, if you will.
Sanctification doesn’t generally happen in leaps and bounds. It’s a constant, daily and hourly process of God working in us.
I’m well aware of the irony in my writing this article at this moment (I suppose God has a sense of humor, or maybe it’s just conviction). The last few months have seen me at perhaps my least consistent when it comes to the discipline of Bible reading. Most of these strategies, then, are those I’ve learned the hard way—and find myself needing to re-implement again now.
Find a time. If I don’t make Bible reading a part of my daily routine, it just doesn’t happen. I have to tie it to some concrete part of my schedule, something that is (God-willing) always going to happen, like waking up in the morning or eating dinner.
The important thing is to find a time you know will work—and that time may change from one season to the next. During some semesters I’ve been able to get up early and do it before breakfast. But eventually, I get to the point where sleep is the all-important thing and I never get up more than fifteen minutes before I need to be somewhere. At that point, after dinner is the best option.
Phones off (or on Do Not Disturb). My phone is usually the biggest culprit for time-wasting. I usually can’t turn it all the way off (or leave it in my room, if I’m using the school prayer chapel) due to practical reasons. However, I can leave it in my backpack and put it on the Do Not Disturb setting.
If you’re worried about missing important calls, you can set some of your contacts as “favorites,” so their calls can still come through (the internet says this works on both Android and iOS, although I’ve only tried it on the latter).
Find or create accountability. This could look like the traditional accountability partner approach, but it doesn’t have to. If I’ve told my roommate or a close (Christian) friend, “I try to do my devotions after dinner,” then if I go somewhere with them right after dinner, they’ll know I’m going back on my word. Often that’s enough positive peer pressure to keep me accountable.
Similarly, if a friend asks about my plans for the evening, it might be appropriate to say, “Well, first I’m doing my devotions.” It feels odd at first, especially if you’re worried about being thought pharisaical; but if it isn’t done with self-righteous intent, the openness can be helpful in setting boundaries to protect that time of prayer and Bible reading.
The discipline of daily Bible reading is a combination of desire and what my theology professor calls “sanctified common sense.” Desire drives us to read the word—and common sense drives us to strategize and form habits that will keep us reading it even when the desire isn’t there. But in all our strategizing and habit-forming, let’s not forget the ultimate reason we read the Bible. It’s not to gain extra favor with God or others, but rather to immerse ourselves in the life-giving words of God. This is where the Spirit works to convict, comfort, and transform us more into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
Katherine Forster is the author of Transformed By Truth: Why and How to Study the Bible for Yourself as a Teen.