How to Study Scripture (Without Any Help)

Brenton Jayatilaka

13 October 2020

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:16

Federer on a cloud

Well done. You've just will-powered yourself to get out of bed at 6am to read the bible. "This is going to be really good," you tell yourself.

You get your coffee. You're ready to go. You start to read. After a while you start to feel this doesn't relate to you at all. You pick something else. Nope. That wasn't helpful. You're starting to feel lost. Maybe you should have got a devotional. You don't want to waste this morning you've worked so hard to wake up early for.

You decide to go to something familiar that's really spoken to you before. All of a're floating upwards. There's a racquet in your hand. Roger Federer challenges you to a match. You serve and ace one past him. You're beating Federer on a court in the clouds!...

Next thing you know, your eyes jolt open, and it looks like the dog has drooled all over Psalms. It wasn't the dog. Why is this so hard?! You start to feel guilty and discouraged.

'Maybe I'm just not cut out for this', you think.

We've all been there

Has this happened to you before? And no, I'm not talking about being victorious over Roger in a dream.

If you're reading this, I am positive that at some point you've woken up frustrated, with your bible as a pillow. But reading the bible doesn't have to be as daunting or difficult as we sometimes make it out to be.

In fact, reading the bible shouldn't be what we make it out to be. It is a way for God to make us who he has created us to be.

Would you like to know a way to read the bible that helps keep you from falling asleep? Some way that helps you dig deep to find the treasures of Scripture without the use of a commentary or devotional?

Maybe you've got into a great rhythm of waking up and reading the word, but it's been a while since it has been 'really good'. Maybe you're an avid journal-er and looking for a fresh way to study the Word.

I've been using a method called PSOAP to read the bible for over a decade now, and I've found it to be not only a helpful personal bible study tool, but also a great way to read the bible with a friend.

Reading with PSOAP's pronounced "soap". Yes there's a silent 'P'. Don't blame me. Blame the Psalms. Here it is:

  • Prayer
  • Scripture
  • Observation/Interpretation
  • Application
  • Prayer

Here's how I use these 5 steps (in order) during my bible reading time:

1. Prayer

Before you read, take 15 seconds to say a short prayer, saying hello to God and asking Him for help.

Example: "Heavenly Father, help me to be attentive to your Spirit speaking to me through your word. Help me hear what you have to say, and help me to see the beauty, truth and relevance of Jesus. Amen."

2. Scripture

Whatever you decide to read, read over it fast. At least twice, and one of those times out loud. Fast reading is a gift! It helps you to see the overall picture without zapping your energy or attention span trying to mine for details the first time around.

3. Observation / Interpretation

Observation | DO THIS FIRST
Only scan for the details of the text itself. Don't let yourself try to figure out what it means yet. Doing observation helps you look at the context and content of the passage before you let your mind start thinking about all the implications. Ask questions like: Who are the people in this passage? Where are they? What are the objects being used? What is the physical setting? What words are repeated? Who is the intended audience? (if there is one).

Interpretation | DO THIS SECOND
This is where you start to ask questions about what the passage means. What is trying to be communicated to the original audience? What context in the bible does the passage sit in (helps to read before and after your passage)? Why is this being said/written? What are the implications of the Gospel (how does this point us to Jesus)?

4. Application

What is God trying to say to me through this passage? This is the question that I'm always prone ask first. Don't do it. Fight the temptation!

This is an opportunity to reflect upon what you've just read and allow the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind of how God might be speaking to you or calling you to act. Test those thoughts with Scripture. Share those thoughts with others. God wants to talk to us through his Word!

5. Prayer

Pray back through the things God has shown you in the passage. Thank Him for opening up his Word to you.

This is life changing

2 Corinthians 3:18 says: "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."

The time we spend in God's word reflecting on His glory transforms us. It opens our eyes to realities we were previously unaware of. A commentary can help, but God's word is enough for him to speak directly to us.

Listen to Him as you read his Word.

You can do this!

Brenton Jayatilaka

Brenton is one of the discipleship ministers and pastors at City on a Hill Melbourne. His hope for the church is to see our people feel uneasy when we aren’t growing in our love for Jesus, our community and our city. He is married to Lauren, and is dad to Lucy and Teddy. Brenton was born and raised in Perth to Malaysian and Australian parents, spent 16 years in the USA and lives in the Box Hill area.