Before You Read the Bible

Chances are, if you grab the Bible and open it up without a working knowledge of how to read it, you will either open to page one like you would a novel, or play Bible roulette and stick your finger in the center of the book and begin reading randomly. I heard about a guy who was unfamiliar with the Bible and was unemployed and looking for work. He turned to the Bible’s table of contents, saw a book titled Job, and decided to read it for instruction on how to get himself hired. Little did he know that this was a story about a man named Job who loses everything he has and is left mourning, naked and covered in ashes as he contemplates the meaning of life. Poor guy thought he was going to discover sound advice from the steady wisdom of someone like Danny Tanner and ended up emotionally exhausted after surviving an ancient version of Cast Away. There are many books you could read that would help you read the Bible well. We want to offer a simple pattern of Bible reading in the hope of giving you a way (not the way) to engage with the Bible. In truth, there is no perfect way to read the Bible, but we hope this survey can help provide some introduction to this book that will prevent you from losing again at Bible roulette.


The first thing we would encourage you to do is pray. If the Bible is what it claims to be, written by God, then we will certainly need help from the Divine Author in understanding the book. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day had large portions of the Bible memorized, yet Jesus rebuked them, saying, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39–40). It is possible to know the Bible extremely well yet miss Jesus when he is speaking directly to you. If this Book is inspired by God, as the Bible-reader millennials believe, then the only way we can ever hope to understand it is with God’s help.

It is possible to know the Bible extremely well yet miss Jesus when he is speaking directly to you.

When we pray, we often use an acronym that is based on the Lord’s Prayer. P—Praise. Take a moment to give God praise or thanks for the things he has done in your life and in the world. Also, give God praise not only for the things he has done, but also for the good Father the Bible says he is. ​R—Repent. The Bible makes it clear that we are all sinners in need of a Savior. Take a moment to confess the wrongs you have done and the good you have left undone. Admit your need for Jesus to forgive you. First John 1:9 says he will! ​A—Ask. Now that you have acknowledged God as a good God and have admitted that you are in need of him, ask what you will. God cares about you and your cares. We can boldly approach God as a good Father who longs to give good gifts to his children (Matt. 7:11). Especially when we ask for things that he says, in the Bible, he wants for us. Y—Yield. After you have presented your requests, yield yourself to God. The Bible promises that when we delight ourselves in the Lord, he will give us the desires of our heart (Ps. 37:4). This doesn’t mean he gives us whatever we want, but he desires for us to want what he wants to give us. Then we will be satisfied. How have you prayed before reading the Bible?


Michael McAfee is the president and co-founder of Inspire, a worship pastor at Council Road Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, and an ethics and public policy PhD student at The Southern Theological Seminary.  Michael is happily married to his Sunday-school sweetheart, Lauren Green McAfee. Together, they co-authored Not What You Think.  They have a daughter, Zion.  You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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