If I could encourage you to have a resolution this year, it would simply be to get more of God’s word in your life. To pray it, read it, memorize it, and study it.
To Pray It
Don Whitney has an amazing little (112 pages in small book format) book on how to pray the bible, and it revolutionized my prayer life when I discovered it. I highly recommend it! He outlines how to use the Book of Psalms as a guide to prayer, and when we remember that to read God’s word is literally to read his “word” then we realize that responding to the words on the page in prayer is talking to God. When he says in Psalm 5 that he does not delight in wickedness, and then says that yet “through the abundance of his steadfast love” we will enter his house, then to respond to him in prayers of praise is easy! You’ve just heard his voice telling you that he loves you. Prayer is talking to God, and when you read a verse, and then talk to God about that verse, then not only are you talking TO God, you’re talking WITH him also.
To Read It
There are many great bible reading plans, and the new year is always a great time to start a new plan, but I want to simply say that it’s better to read and be behind than to not read at all. I highly recommend beginning your reading plan with the gospels, instead of the “law” (the first 5 books of the bible), because when you read the accounts of Jesus first, then to go back and read the beginning of the story is to have more clearly in your mind the fulfillment of the story. In fact, I’ve found that reading the NT first, and then going back and reading the OT, is extremely helpful.
The only other thing I’d say, is that the pressure to finish reading the bible in a year sometimes creates a weird condemning effect on our bible reading, and I’m not a fan of that. I’d rather you commit to read 5 minutes a day (finishing in about three years) than to try to read 15-30 minutes a day and fail. The point is to be soaking in God’s word, and especially if you are also going to try to memorize and pray and study it, then to not feel condemned if you only read a couple chapters is great!
To Memorize It
Last year, I memorized the first chapter of Philippians, and I intended to memorize the whole book. This year I hope to finish the book and move onto another large passage of scripture. That’s how I recommend memorizing scripture – in large portions. You may not have as easy a time remembering specific verse numbers, but being able to say “I know it says in the latter part of Romans 8” and then quote it verbatim, is just as good as reciting verse numbers. And memorizing whole passages or chapters or books has the added benefit of giving you the context of what you’re memorizing, and allowing you to “study” passages at any moment, because you’ve got them, in context, locked away in your mind.
The “app” that I use for scripture memorization is “Fighter Verses” and it’s amazing! It has a really good system for memorization along with good quizzes and review functions. And currently the “longer passages” it offers are Romans 5-8, Philippians, James, the Sermon on the Mount, and then a few other longer passages as well. I intend to memorize Romans 5-8 when I finish Philippians!
To Study It
This is something that’s often neglected by many, but it’s so good and wonderful to be able to dig deeper into a book than what reading through it at a few chapters a time allows. Pick a book, go buy a commentary, and take your time going through it, understanding it, and then applying it to your life. I recommend the “Christ-Centered Exposition” commentaries, as they are set up as study guides to take normal people through a book of the bible. They are well done, full of application, and aim to always keep Jesus at the center of their exposition, which is what’s most important. You could even take the book or passage you’re memorizing, and find an associated commentary for it, like this one for Philippians.
Another thing that I do when I’m studying a book, is to print out long passages of the book at a time, and then take a pencil and dissect the book one section at a time. It’s commonly called “exegesis”, and for a great example of how fun, challenging, and rewarding it can be, check out “Look at the Book“. It’s a video series where John Piper puts up verses on a screen and then circles, connects, and otherwise marks up the passage as he tries to show the meaning of it. It’s a fantastic resource! Watch the video and then you’ll see!
Lastly, along those lines, there is a fantastic book you could get to help you study the bible better -it’s called “Grasping God’s Word”. It teaches you how to do exegesis as well, and is extremely helpful. I especially recommend the “How to Read the Book” section. The price of the book is worth it for that section alone!
Well, there are just a few recommendations on how to get more of God’s word in your life this year. I hope you will be benefitted by one or all of them, and I know that as I commit again to be even more saturated by scripture this year, that I would love to hear encouragement and strategies from others as well!