5 tips for reading the Bible daily (and sticking with it!)
As we ring in the new year, many of us will make resolutions or think about how we want to live in 2020. Why not resolve to read the Bible for a few minutes every day? The Bible can help you understand God, yourself, and others better. It can comfort you, challenge you, and lead you into prayer. Maybe you’ve tried this before, but your resolve fizzled out after a month or two. Below are some tips to help you embrace daily Bible reading — and stick with it!
1. Choose the right time and place. Imagine adopting a new exercise plan. The secret to success is often finding a plan that works with your schedule and is not overly demanding. Otherwise it is just too tempting to give up. The same is true when adopting a new spiritual practice such as prayer or Bible reading.
What time of day really works best for your schedule? If you’re always rushing in the morning, choose evening. If you’re sleepy in the evening, choose morning. Also select a consistent and quiet place for your daily reading (even if that place is in your car before you go into work!). Be realistic and reasonable about the amount of time you will spend reading — a five- or 10-minute commitment is a great start!
2. Choose a reading plan. Very few people find success and satisfaction in reading the Bible from cover to cover. Things start out well, but often go off the rails just a few chapters into the rather dry book of Leviticus. Instead, start with the New Testament. You will enjoy encountering Jesus anew in the Gospel of Mark, a short and fast-paced Gospel. Then peruse the remaining Gospels (where you will notice both similarities and differences compared to Mark). Next enjoy the fascinating Book of the Acts of the Apostles and the various letters to early Christians that remain quite relevant to us today.
Once you’ve completed the New Testament with the highly symbolic Book of Revelation, do a little research or ask a friend with some Bible knowledge what they recommend you read next. (Other options include following a set “Bible reading plan” that you might find in the back of your Bible or online, or following the daily Mass readings, which are easily found at USCCB.org or in a Catholic periodical such as Living with Christ.)
3. Choose the right Bible — or app. There are so many Bibles available today — small and large print, study and devotional, print and electronic — not to mention all kinds of sizes, widths, and color choices. Of course you may simply use the Bible you already have on your shelf, but if you have the time and budget, consider investing in a Bible that is “just right” for you. You are more likely to stick with your Bible reading plan if you love your Bible! If you strain to read small print, purchase a large-print Bible. If you always want to learn more about what you are reading, choose a Catholic study Bible. If you’re on-the-go and prefer an e-Bible, download the Holy Bible app on your phone or tablet. Whether you choose a print or electronic Bible, I recommend the NRSV-CE or the NABRE translation.
4. Read, then listen. Remember that reading Scripture is never a solo enterprise. The Bible is God’s word for us — God’s word in human language. Vatican II explains it this way: “In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets his children with great love and speaks with them” (Dei Verbum, 21). Reading the Bible is always an opportunity to have a conversation with God. Read first, then listen. Ask God what his word is telling you today. Sit quietly, and let God’s living word settle in your heart.
5. If all else fails, keep your Bible on your pillow. Years ago, I read a lovely little tip about reading the Bible every day. It suggested keeping your Bible on or under your pillow so that every night before you turn in, you have to pick it up just to go to sleep. Keep a bookmark in it. Resolve to read at least one verse each day. Some nights you may read more. But at least you will be in the habit of opening your Bible. And you won’t go a single day without God’s word being part of your life.