So what do I do and what do I advocate?
I loathe this expression, but I think in this instance it is where we must all begin:
Do what works for you.
Here’s my thinking on how to go about reading the bible throughout the year.
1) Set Your Alarm
Mornings are best, though not for everybody. Either way, you must plan to read. I think the most important thing is simply planning ahead and setting apart a time in your day to devote solely to reading the bible. I think mornings are best for most people because distractions are at a minimum, especially for younger people. So, this means setting your alarm earlier (if you even set an alarm) and often means going to bed at a reasonable time. But Jesus often prayed late at night, so I’m not saying that this is how everyone must do it – you must find what works for you.
2) Start Small
The problem with bible reading plans is they are large in the beginning for those not accustomed to digesting such large portions of scripture. Start with something reasonable. Maybe just a chapter or two at a time. This means 15-30 minutes. I don’t think 5 minutes is a reasonable amount of time to read, reflect, digest, and then pray about what you’ve read. Do what you can.
If you are going to read, I think its best to do one chapter in one specific area. The reason for this is that the bible is written as a piece of literature – it has complete thoughts. Chapters are good ways of breaking these complete thoughts up into smaller, digestible chunks. I wouldn’t recommend reading a verse or two at a time, except maybe in Proverbs, because most of them are intended to be read that way.
3) Don’t Let Yourself Remain Discouraged
If your mindset is, “I have to read my bible everyday” then you are bound to get discouraged. I think a healthier mindset is simply to set reading your bible as your goal. That’s all – “I’m gonna read my bible”. Certainly it would be best to do this every day, but there will be days when you won’t read your bible for a myriad of reasons, including your own personal neglect. But don’t buy into the thinking that because you didn’t read then it’s useless to start – that’s usually what ends up happening, but it’s actually really silly.
If you didn’t read everyday this week, don’t worry about it. Maybe before you go to bed, pray a short prayer asking God to help you wake up in the morning and read. Try and read as many days as you can and don’t give yourself cheap excuses why you can’t read that day or the next. But I do recommend that an ultimate goal of reading every day be set. Work towards that goal, but don’t let your failure at reading everyday discourage you from continuing to pursue that goal.
4) Read What You Want
If you are beginning, read what you want, but finish what you begin. If you want to read the Prophets, like Ezekiel, then begin, but read only Ezekiel until you are finished. It will help you see one complete thought that God communicated. But start where you like. In fact, if you don’t know where to begin, maybe flip through your bible and stop your finger somewhere and then read that book of the bible. I know some people would condemn such an approach, but reading the bible is much better than not reading it. The important thing is beginning to read, and why not begin reading with something you want to read?
Something I would recommend is to alternate between Old and New Testaments -this way you will read through the whole bible, but you will break it up. Eventually, after continued practice and familiarity, you will begin to develop a system that works for you on how to read the bible. But this is something that is developed over time.
So, in conclusion, I am not a huge fan of Daily Reading Plans. Some people they help, but many they simply discourage and reveal their lack of discipline and end up discouraging people from reading their bibles. Maybe try one out and if you find that it helps you, then do it.
My own personal (ideal) system is 2 chapters in the OT, 1 chapters in the NT, 1 Psalm and then a few verses in Proverbs. This keeps my attention because I tend to change topics quickly. Some days I don’t read. Some days I only read one chapter, maybe a psalm or something, other days I read a lot more than what’s outlined. The key that I’ve found is simply to read, meditate and pray.