Read the Bible.

by Paul Miles

Psalm 119:11 (ASV) Thy word have I laid up in my heart, That I might not sin against thee.

Bible reading is a discipline that we should all be participating in. Unfortunately, many Christians aren't reading the Bible as much as they could be. If you find yourself struggling to find time to read the Bible daily, or would like to enrich your current Bible reading experience, here are a few tips to help you out.

Reading Plans
Bold Grace has been working on compiling a Prison to Praise series about various Christians who have been in prison and how they are able to serve the Lord even with a dark past. Our brother in Christ, Carlos, sent in a testimony in which he recalls reading the Bible behind bars:

I was challenged by a brother, who was my chaplain, to read the new testament once every month by reading 8 chapters a day and the old testament every 3 months by reading 10 chapters a day. This resulted in an understanding of the God I ran from that transcended the understanding of the God I learned about as a child. This made a tremendous difference in the way I would live my life. In fact it changed my whole perspective on most of what I thought I knew. By the time I got out of prison I had read the bible over 50 times. At 50 I just stopped counting.

Wow! Many Christians don't even read the entire Bible once in their lives, but Carlos has read it over 50 times by reading 18 chapters a day. There are a lot of cool Bible reading plans out there. It seems that most plans are oriented toward reading the Bible in a year. I'm currently working on a cool plan to read the Bible chronologically in a year. To read the Bible in a year one only needs to read an average of 3.25 chapters a day. It's not much, but it does require discipline.

Speed Reading

Last November, some friends and I read the entire Bible in a month. It was a great experience, and I highly recommend reading the whole Bible cover to cover at a quick pace every now and then. It's important to dig into the Word, meditate on it, and analyze it word by word, but every now and then reading huge sections of the Bible is beneficial as it reveals things that are easy to miss as we go through the important process of exegetical Bible study. Two habits you can change that to increase your reading speed drastically are subvocalization and word grouping.

When we learned to read as children, our teachers had us look at a word and "sound it out" by making the sounds of the letters until we said the whole word. This is a helpful tool for learning a language and its written form. In fact, our friends at Audio Text Bible have been putting the English Bible into a format that allows ESL students to read along as a native speaker reads aloud from the Bible.1 Even after we advance beyond the elementary reading level, we tend to keep reading words aloud in our heads. This silent speech is called subvocalization. Subvocalization is the number one hindrance to reading at our potential speed. Our eyes can work much faster than our ears, and much much faster than our mouths, so there's no sense in restricting our eyes to the speed at which our mouths would talk in our heads. Instead of vocalizing the words in your head, try repeating "1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2-3" over and over as you go along in a book. In fact, re-read this paragraph right now while repeating "1-2-3" to yourself. You read it much quicker the second time, didn't you? Of course, speed reading is a skill, and it takes time and practice to develop, but stopping subvocalization is the first and most important step.

Stop looking at every single letter. You don't need them. Consider this passage:

Plsam 23
A Pslam of Divad.
1 The Lord is my srehhped;
I slahl not wnat.
2 He makes me to lie down in geren ptaeusrs;
He ldaes me besdie the siltl wartes.
3 He rsetoers my suol;
He ldeas me in the pthas of ritehousnegss
For His name's skae.
4 Yea, touhgh I wlak tgrohuh the velaly of the sohdaw of dteah,
I will fear no eivl;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Yuor sftaf, they cfromot me.
5 You prarepe a table brfoee me in the pcensere of my eeimnes;
You anniot my head wtih oil;
My cup runs oevr.
6 Srleuy gdoeonss and mrcey slhal fololw me
All the dyas of my life;
And I wlil dlewl in the house of the Lord

Did you understand it? It was Psalm 23, but with scrambled letters. Your brain is able to naturally descramble words, because it naturally wants to look at the whole word instead of individual letters. It's also helpful to see groups of words together. Instead of looking at every word individually, try to clump them together. I read John 1-2 in less than two minutes using Spreeder's free application which allows you to cut and paste a text, then have the words flash before you on a screen.

Audio Bible

Audio Bibles are also a convenient way to go through the Bible. They do take more time, though. John 1-2 takes 9 minutes to listen to when read aloud by Darth Vader, but if you're in the car for 20 minutes on the way to and from work every day, then you could designate this time as time you will spend listening to an audio Bible. 40 minutes a day in a car, and you could listen to the New Testament in a month easily. There are some fancy dramatized Bible of CD sets you can buy, and there are several translations you can listen to for free online.

1 This is a unique opportunity to serve. If you would like to help with audio tagging on this project, let us know!