Because Scripture is the very word of God—“breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16)—as followers of Jesus Christ we ought to consider seriously the gift of daily Bible reading. Often people ask for God to speak to them, to give them signs, or to make himself known to them while ignoring regular Bible reading. This is unfortunate. If we want to hear from God, to know him more and more and to see his works in the world, we can do no better than regularly listening to him in Scripture for our entire lives.
Here are four approaches people generally take when reading the Bible for themselves on a daily basis. Any of them will work, but as we go down the list the approaches tend to become more effective over the long haul for the lifelong reader.
Description: Just read the Bible, following your interests. Read as much or as little as you can in any one sitting—anything from one verse for meditation to multiple books for hours.
Benefits: You’re reading the Bible! This is much better than not reading the Bible. This approach can be a good way to begin, especially if you’ve never read the Bible before or if there are certain parts of the Bible that are unfamiliar to you and you’d like to spend some time studying these territories.
Problems: The main problem with this approach is that it tends to be less helpful as time goes on because there is no consistent system. Many people who take such an approach admit that they end up reading in fits and starts, and the habit ends up waning. The risk then is that the reader eventually stops reading the Bible for long seasons or altogether. For this reason, the approaches below tend to be more effective overall.
Description: Read three or four chapters of the Bible per day from Genesis to Revelation. Doing so will get you through the Bible in about one year.
Benefits: This can be a very helpful experience. Reading this way will allow you to get a sense of the overall scope of the Bible without getting bogged down in the details. For this reason, just keep reading, even if you don’t understand.
Problems: Because the Old Testament makes up about three-quarters of the Bible, you will end up spending most of the year on it and only a few months in the New Testament. Also some chapters are very long, so reading three or four chapters can take up to an hour, depending on how quickly (or slowly) you read. It can therefore be best to take this cover-to-cover approach just once or twice in your lifetime and then use one of the approaches below since they will keep you constantly in both Testaments.
Description: You can easily find prescribed reading plans online or in a study Bible (typically at the back). Most of these will have you reading chapters from both Testaments, typically three to five chapters per day, depending on a variety of factors and the methods of arrangement. Most of these are ‘Bible in a year’ plans, but you can also find ones that require less daily reading and take longer to complete.
Benefits: The primary benefit of plans is that they typically keep you in both the Old and New Testaments. We read the New Testament better when we not only understand the Old but also have it constantly in mind. The opposite is true as well: Christians must read the Old Testament through the lens of the New. Another benefit of this approach is you don’t have to figure out a plan for yourself; you simply follow a plan someone else created for you.
Problems: The main problem with a prescribed plan is that most of them go by specific dates of the year. If you do not read for more than a couple of days, you will fall very far behind. You could of course simply skip these passages, but such an approach might leave some unfortunate holes. For this reason, the approach below can be better for the daily lifelong reader of the Bible.
Description: Each day read four chapters from three categories: two chapters of the Old Testament (excluding the Psalms and Proverbs); one chapter of the Psalms or Proverbs; and one chapter of the New Testament. For each category, read consecutively (for example, for the New Testament read from Matthew to Revelation).
Benefits: Like the approach above, a benefit of this is that you are reading both Old and New Testaments on an ongoing basis. However, the major benefit this approach has over a prescribed reading plan is that you are not locked into particular dates, so you can begin and end whenever you like. If you miss a day, you can just pick up where you left off. Also, this approach will get you through the Old Testament once a year, the Psalms and Proverbs twice a year, and the New Testament one and a half times a year. This tends to offer a very nice cross-section on an ongoing basis.
Problems: This approach is probably best for someone who has already made a habit of reading the Bible daily for a while. It takes commitment and discipline, and it often involves more daily reading than any of the others here. For an average reader, when chapters are long, taking this approach can occasionally require 45 to 60 minutes of reading. This is a significant time commitment if you are also praying each day when you read—which you should be doing.