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Why Reading Vs. Studying the Bible Matters

Reading the Bible is not the same as studying the Bible, and the difference is important. I know there is a difference because I’ve lived it. In my own life, I can tell when I’ve been taking shortcuts and just reading the Bible, and when I’m actually investing in my relationship with God. The two ways of approaching the Bible have many similarities, but they look different.

What Reading Looks Like

  • Of course, it’s easier to just decode the words and move on, glossing over things I don’t understand, over things that challenge my misconceptions. Just reading the words is a lot easier.
  • Similarly, reading doesn’t take much time. A quick read-through is just something to check off a list, it’s not spending time with God.
  • Reading doesn’t invite me to talk to God about what I’m encountering in the scriptures, or about my thoughts regarding what I’d read.
  • When I’ve simply read my Bible, I tend to forget the content, and any application I’d briefly thought of. And what good does that do?
  • When I go through the motions, I drift from God. I think about Him less, depend on Him less, and gradually invest even less in our relationship.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. A few simple changes and I’m noticing God again in my quiet time.

What Studying Looks Like

  • Studying takes more time because it’s more than a once-over of the chapter or passage I’m reading. I pray. I reread. I think about other passages that say similar things. I ask God to teach me. I journal, and more.
  • Studying involves praying through what I’m reading, “talking it out” with God. This goes for things I don’t understand, maybe don’t like, or things I’m simply trying to process.
  • Studying involves recognizing something about myself or about God. Likely it’s something God wants to change my mind or actions about, or at least remind me about.

It is a stark difference, and a transformational one. When we meet with God regularly like this, studying His word and talking with Him in prayer, He will mold us into the image of Jesus that much quicker!

Now, I need some help from you! When you study the Bible, what tools do you use? How have you noticed studying and reading differing for you in your own quiet time? Let me know in the comments below. Please and thank you!


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Published inGod's WordIn My Life


  1. Myles Myles

    Highlights in my reading for the day show me that I’m thinking about what I read. There are scribbles all over pages of my Bible that either denote passages I resonate with or others that I need to come back to and figure out. The times that I’ve just read my passage for the night and moved on are the times I don’t think about what’s written and no highlights there.

    Great stuff! It’s nice to be able to check ourselves and our time with God.

  2. Marilyn Marilyn

    I sometimes use different colored highlights to show how I’m thinking….. red=God’s loves, blues =questions, green=growth, yellow=something I’ve noticed about God.

    I also use the cross references and look for other passages to help me understand what I am “studying.”

    This helps me when I go back and rethink what I learned.

    • Ooo, I like the color coding! That makes looking things up again a lot easier, I’d imagine.

  3. Jeff De Vries Jeff De Vries

    One way I study is to think how I would teach this someone else. I’m also reading a version of the Bible with all the chapter and verse numbers taken out.

    On the other hand, I find just reading quickly can be beneficial too. 1) I can gain a broader insight of the text. The context. 2) I don’t get discouraged from having to study every other phrase. Just let yourself spend time with God. 3) there’s a little bit of a mystery where you gain insight and clarity eventually through just reading. “Water eventually falls into the cracks.”

    * asterisk here— I read so slow it’s like studying.

    • Thanks for leaving a comment, Uncle Jeff!
      That’s a great point- we learn things so much more thoroughly when we teach it. I like the idea of practicing thinking through how to teach different things to someone else.

      Oh! My church read through the New Testament a while back, and the books we used had no chapter or verse numbers. It was super interesting! So I totally understand what you’re saying about getting the context when reading ‘faster’ like that, and freedom to look at the big picture. So I suppose the difference between ‘reading’ and ‘studying’ I was trying to point out has less to do with speed and more to do with thoughtfulness while reading. Thanks for bringing that up!

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