How to Build a Bible Reading Habit That Will Actually Stick
Why Should I Have a Bible Reading Habit?
An important part of developing a Bible reading habit, or any habit, is determining your motivation for accomplishing it. The truth of the matter is there are days when all of us don’t feel like cracking open our Bibles and spending time in the Word. Whether we’re facing the temptation to roll over in bed or check one more thing off the to-do list, sometimes it’s a battle to read the Bible. When we keep our motivation at the forefront of our mind it can help us to keep trying even when we don’t feel like it.
Reading the Bible is a Privilege
Have you ever read your Bible in a coffee shop or on an airplane or any other public space? For most of us in the Western world this would have no consequences, but for many Christians elsewhere, having a Bible is dangerous or illegal (1). Ministries like Voice of the Martyr help smuggle Bibles into these restrictive countries (2). There are many languages in the world that don’t even have Bible translations yet. We are so privileged to have the Word of God at our fingertips, but we often fail to make its study a priority. Many Christians around the world risk their lives to obtain, read, and share the Bible, while ours collect dust.
I am no less guilty of neglecting my Bible, in fact my daily Bible reading habit is relatively recent. The truth is it’s a fairly common struggle. But spending time in the Word is fruitful. If you’ve struggled in this area, I want to encourage you to develop this habit, so that you might see the fruit of your study. I also want to offer you some practical solutions that helped my Bible reading go from sporadic, to intentional and daily.
So here are some reasons to develop a Bible reading habit.
To Love the Bible
The first reason why we should have a Bible reading habit is so that we can learn to love God’s Word. In Psalm 119, we read about the attitude we should have towards Scripture:
- Verse 16 “I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.”
- Verse 48 “I will lift my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.”
- Verse 97 “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.”
- Verse 103 “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
- Verse 131 “I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments.”
How do these verses align with our thoughts about Scripture? How do they align with our actions? Maybe you read them and feel discouraged that your attitudes and desires aren’t always where they should be. If that’s you, know that you’re not alone. Instead of discouraging you, let these verses encourage you to keep pressing on. As you do so, watch for the fruit of studying Scripture, fruit that is described over and over again in this psalm and throughout the entire Bible.
To Honor God
When you’re struggling to stay committed to spending time in the Word, preach the truth to your heart. There have been many times when I have not wanted to follow through on my commitment to read the Bible everyday, but after doing it anyway, I understood something in a passage that I had never gotten before. But even if that doesn’t happen right away, spending that time in the Word plants and cultivates seeds in your heart that will have a harvest in the future.
In pushing past our selfish desires and putting God first by reading the Bible, even when we don’t feel like it, we honor God. It’s a part of crucifying the flesh with its desires (Galatians 5:24), giving ourselves the opportunity to grow spiritually. We will then see the fruit of the discipline, even if not right away, and end up with a deeper love for God and His Word.
To Hide God’s Word in Your Heart
Another motivation for reading the Bible consistently is that it helps us to hide God’s Word in our hearts. The psalmist wrote that he stored up or hid God’s Word in his heart so that he would not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). As Christians going through sanctification we know all too well the struggle of avoiding sin. Reading the Bible and hiding it in our heart will help us in this battle.
Hiding God’s Word in our hearts requires being familiar enough with Scripture to remember it. By spending time studying the Bible and familiarizing ourselves with it’s passages, we increase our chances of remembering passages of comfort, conviction, and truth in the seasons we need them most.
The more you read the Bible the more you understand and remember it. Eventually you will find passages coming to mind as different circumstances arise, and you can apply them as needed. You might be surprised at how quickly this can happen.
To Build Our Relationship with God
The last thing I want to offer you as motivation for committing to a Bible reading habit is that it helps us build our relationship with God. If a close friend or your spouse had to be living far away from you for a time and you communicated via letter, you wouldn’t leave those letters unread. You’d probably open them immediately and devour every word.
Our relationship with God is supposed to come before any other relationship in our life (Matthew 10:37) and the Bible is God’s revelation to us, His Word written for us. As we spend time in Scripture we learn more about God, and therefore grow closer to Him. It is only natural that reading the Bible would be an important part of our relationship to Him.
Practical Tips for Building a Bible Reading Habit
As I mentioned before, I have definitely struggled with regularly reading the Bible. During the process of trying to develop the habit I read about different tips that can help, and I eventually discovered some for myself. Here are a few of the things I found most helpful in finally managing to actually read the Bible everyday.
Pick a Time that Works Best for You
One of the first things to decide when committing to reading the Bible is when you will actually do it. Mornings work best for a lot of people, but they won’t work for everyone or for every season. If you need to find a time in the evenings or the middle of the day, there’s nothing wrong with that. Consider when you’re most alert and where in your day you can make the time.
For me, mornings work best. If I have to put something off until the end of the day I find it harder to focus and stay awake and alert. But if your mind is foggy in the morning, and more alert in the evening, then you should definitely consider an evening Bible reading routine. Some people use their lunch break at work, and others use their child’s nap or independent playtime.
Another thing regarding the time you read the Bible is that there will be days you have to be flexible. There will be times that your regular reading time won’t work, maybe even whole seasons that you have to squeeze it in whenever you can find the time. In these situations, allow yourself to be flexible and give yourself grace.
Choose an Achievable Goal
If you’re trying to build a Bible reading habit, it’s important for your goals to be achievable. For most people, going from occasionally reading the Bible throughout the week or month to trying to do deep Bible study for two hours a day isn’t going to be a recipe for success. Instead, start small. Take the time to build the habit first and then build from there.
I would recommend starting out with a short reading each day—one chapter, section, or paragraph at a time—to first develop the habit. After that, start to go deeper, using whatever study tools are available to you. From there you can continue to build upon your routine, such as adding in a Scripture memory program, or reading through five Psalms and a chapter of Proverbs everyday.
Create a Context for Success
When I was trying (unsuccessfully) to read my Bible everyday, there were a variety of things that held me back. If you’ve also tried to develop a Bible reading habit, think about what specifically kept you from succeeding, then try to work on those things.
For a while, I didn’t feel like I had a good space to read my physical Bible everyday, so for my daily reading I used a Bible app on my phone. If I didn’t do it right away I was worried I would forget, so I would do all my reading first thing in the morning, before I even got out of bed. During that time, my Bible reading routine was simple and not exactly Instagrammable (with my pj’s and bedhead), but it worked for me and kept me in Scripture.
After a while going straight to the Bible first thing in the morning was pretty natural, and I was able to keep the habit even after switching to a physical study Bible.
Don’t Worry About Having a “Perfect” Quiet Time
Have you ever felt the pressure to curate the perfect, Instagram-worthy quiet time? We see photos of other people with their perfect set-up and cozy chairs and believe we need them too. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking that we can’t start our Bible reading without the perfect journaling Bible, pastel highlighters, and a latte in your favorite mug. These things might be nice, but they’re certainly not necessary. The perfect hand-lettering we see on Instagram in one person’s journaling Bible isn’t more meaningful than someone else’s scribbled notes squeezed in the margins. Don’t fret about wobbly underlines or highlights. Keep your routine as simple as you want, it’s the showing up that matters.
The beauty of Bible study isn’t in the aesthetics of a photograph, but in the dedication and diligence to return day after day to learn and grow from God’s Word. If your children or grandchildren look through your Bible and notes in the future, would you rather they be impressed by your impeccable handwriting, or be inspired by your commitment to study the Bible?
And speaking of children, not everyone’s time in the Bible is quiet, and that’s okay too. It’s our faithfulness to God and His Word that honors Him, not the volume.
Don’t Let Your Failures Hold You Back
When building habits it’s a common mistake to think that if we don’t completely succeed we have totally failed. We hold ourselves to impossible standards. We think that if we aren’t perfect we shouldn’t even bother trying. A missed day quickly snowballs into a week, then a month.
Perfectionist thinking like this is misguided, especially when it comes to Bible reading. Any amount of time in the Bible can be beneficial to our lives and we shouldn’t let our failures hold us back. Instead, keep trying and make whatever changes you need that can help set you up for success. If you’re following a Bible reading plan, pick up where you left off instead of trying to play catch-up.
Finally, get some accountability. Find someone that can help hold you accountable by asking you how your habit is coming along. Use alarms and reminders on your phone to prevent you from forgetting your Bible time. Set one alarm for the time you plan on reading each day and another for the evening in case you weren’t able to get to it. Remember, you’re much more likely to regret skipping your Bible reading than doing it.
How’s Your Habit?
If building a Bible reading habit is something that you struggle with, I am confident that you will not regret putting in the effort—God’s Word is sweeter than honey (Psalm 119:103)! I hope these motivations and tips are helpful for you, let us know if you implement any of them.
If you’ve already built your Bible reading habit, did you use any of these tips? What worked best for you? Did you do anything I didn’t mention? Share your thoughts in the comments!
What translation is your preference?
I have been using the ESV as my go-to for a while now, but I also like the NKJV and NASB.