I debated whether or not to include this post in my Common Sense Bible Study series, but I decided it’s better to include it than not. I can’t know who is going to be reading this nor where they’re coming from, and even the most veteran students need a refresher now and then. Preparation for study can be almost as important as the study itself. What’s the point of putting time and effort into something that you don’t get anything out of?
Create an Environment for Study
You will think and learn better in an environment free of clutter and distractions. An office, library, or other place you can go that will be free of distractions is ideal, but if you can’t escape, then rearrange your current environment with a goal of clean surfaces and no distractions.
If your cell phone is likely to tempt you, turn it off or put it in another room.
Some things will be different for everyone. I study better with music playing; silence invites my mind to wander. My wife studies better in complete silence; if she hears music, she’ll want to sing along or get up and dance.
Just as with background noise, Whether you use a stand-up desk, a lounger, or a chair and desk depends on what works best for you and what tools and books you will want to have at hand. I don’t recommend lying down, though. I can’t imagine that works for anyone.
Have your Bible, your computer, and any study materials collected before you start so you don’t have to get up and find them later. I use the Bibles & other tools built into e-Sword (must-have software!), the commentaries of a couple of teachers, and a few hardcopy books when I study. I don’t use all of those every time, but I do like to have them close at hand so I don’t have to hunt them down.
If you’re going to need some snacks or something to drink, try to have them ready before hand. If you know that you’ll need a break, know what’s available so you don’t have to spend a lot of time rummaging through the refrigerator.
I recommend having a regular time scheduled and set aside so that it’s easier to tell yourself that it’s study time, not television or play time. Make sure everyone knows that this is study time. Although I might do some Bible study on almost any day of the week, Saturday morning’s are especially set aside for that purpose. I almost never plan anything else for that time.
Know what you are going to be studying before you start. Go through the Bible chapter-by-chapter, create your own plan, or find a plan on the Internet. I have some thoughts on what kinds of reading/study plans are preferable, but I’ll tell you more about the plan I follow and what I recommend on that score later.
You’ll need to have some means to take notes. Even if you have a photographic memory, taking notes will be very useful.
When you read something, the information is processed one way. When you hear it read aloud and if you speak it, you process it in another way. And when you write down thoughts about what you have read or heard, you push those thoughts through yet another process involving arranging them into coherent sentences and logical structures that will engage other parts of your brain and possibly lead to greater insights.
Taking notes will help you to think through what you’re learning and to retain it better. I keep all of my notes in a computer file, but many people find that pen and paper works better for them.
The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom
When you are finally ready to begin, take some time to pray. Many very intelligent people have spent years studying the scriptures only to dismiss them as fairy tales or hate-filled bigotry. Intelligence, knowledge, and good study habits are all great, but real understanding of the Bible only comes through the Holy Spirit.
God knows what he told Moses to write on the stone tablets. He knows what he told the Prophets and what the Apostles meant when they wrote letters to the first Christians scattered across the Roman Empire. If anyone can open the Scriptures for you, God can.
There are no hard rules for how you need to pray. Jesus gave us a good pattern to follow in The Lord’s Prayer, and the Bible is filled with more examples, especially in the Psalms.
You can pray aloud or silently. You can sing your prayers or write them down. Whatever you find works best for you.
Some people find it helpful to start with written prayers, whether traditional and formal or something from a book of daily devotions. As you become more comfortable with regular prayer, it will become easier to express yourself in your own words. If you don’t know what to say, start with this:
- Be grateful. Thank God for all the wonderful things he has created.
- Praise God. Try to imagine our unimaginably awesome God and tell him how wonderful he is. Trust me. He likes it, and the fear of the Lord truly is the beginning of wisdom.
- Ask for wisdom. Ask God to open your eyes, heart, and mind and to give you insight as you work.
Make prayer a habit in your daily life. The things you learn in your studies will come to mind throughout the week and daily prayer will help you stay on track and open to whatever revelations God has in store for you.
When you get your environment and your resources ready, you have a good plan, and you’re prayed up, then you’re really ready to get to work.