Want to incorporate regular Bible reading & reflection into your spiritual practice? Here are some ideas of where to find lists of daily Bible readings or devotionals. And if you’re not sure how to spend this time in scripture, scroll down for the Lectio Divina section, as one suggestion.
If you’re fairly new to Bible reading, we have a couple of suggestions:
- Start with the Gospel of Mark — it’s the shortest Gospel, and it’s written in a pretty clear style, so it’s easier to understand than some other books.
- Try reading a Bible version written in a contemporary style. If you don’t have your own Bible in a readable version (say you still have grandma’s old King James Version…), we recommend finding a copy of The Message version by Eugene Peterson, or a New Revised Standard Version or Common English Bible. We love the Life with God Bible from Renovare; the footnotes are awesome! They’re about the big-picture meaning of scripture rather than all the little picky details of translation (also valuable).
- It’s Expert Level Bible reading to start at the beginning of the Bible and work your way through, so maybe don’t try that your first time out! People often do fine through Genesis and Exodus then get stalled come Leviticus and Numbers. Set yourself up for success by saving some of those Old Testament books for when you’ve had more practice reading scripture.
Sources for Bible Passages
Sunday Messages: Use the scripture passages that the pastors are preaching on during Sunday worship. You could read the same passage each day and see what new insights emerge as the week progresses. You could read the passage the week before or after the message is preached. Or break it down into smaller segments, one for each day of the week. Whatever works for you…
Common Prayer website: This resource for daily prayers and Bible readings comes from authors Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro. It is a collaborative project of School for Conversion / New Monasticism and The Simple Way.
Bible Gateway: “Bible Gateway is a searchable online Bible in more than 200 versions and 70 languages that you can freely read, research, and reference anywhere. With a library of audio Bibles, a mobile app, devotionals, email newsletters, and other free resources, Bible Gateway equips you not only to read the Bible, but to understand it” (from their site). They have a variety of online reading plans:
- Old/New Testament (each day includes an Old Testament and a New Testament reading)
- Chronological (read the Bible in the chronological order in which its stories and events occurred)
- Beginning / Start to Finish (read from Genesis to Revelation)
- Historical (read the books of the Bible as they were written historically, according to the estimated date of their writing)
- Bible in 90 Days
- Gospels in 40 Days
- …and many more…
Revised Common Lectionary: The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) is a three-year cycle of weekly Bible readings used to varying degrees by the majority of mainline Protestant churches in the United States and Canada for preaching and teaching. It is built around the seasons of the church year and includes four readings for each week: a reading from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament; except during the Easter season, when the OT reading is often replaced by a reading from the Acts of the Apostles), a Psalm, a reading from the Epistles, and a Gospel reading. There are several sources for the RCL; we’ve chosen the Vanderbilt Divinity School Library online source. (For more information about the RCL, see Vanderbilt Divinity Library, https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/faq2.php, accessed 4/24/19.)
One Way to Engage the Bible:
lectio divina (“sacred reading”)
The ancient spiritual practice of Lectio Divina (LEX-ee-oh dih-VEE-nah), a Latin phrase meaning “sacred reading,” was for centuries THE primary practice by which Christians were formed in their faith. We regularly offer a class called Engaging the Bible that teaches and uses this practice; stay tuned to this page for the next offering.
4-5 Dynamic Stages of Lectio Divina
Feel free, as the Spirit leads, to move back and forth between stages.
FIRST, RELAX & REFOCUS
- Slow down; quiet your inner self.
- Try to let go of distracting thoughts.
- Focus on being present in the moment by focusing on your breath, breathing in and out deeply.
- Relax your body.
- Read the text slowly, out loud.
- Sit with it in silence (at least one minute).
REFLECT (meditation, meditatio)
- Read it again. Sit with it in silence (at least one minute).
- This time engage with the Scripture. Use your brain, your emotion, your memory, and your resources.
- You might be attracted to a certain sentence or word or phrase. Sit with it; chew on it.
- You might enter into the scene of the story and see yourself as one of the characters.
- Imagine what it might feel like.
- Focus on and enter into dialogue with whatever is standing out for you.
- What questions do you have about it?
- You may want to consult a study Bible, Bible commentary, or other sources of information about the verses.
- What might God be saying to you?
RESPOND (prayer, oratio)
- Read it again. Sit with it in silence (at least one minute).
- Where has this passage moved you from your head to your heart?
- What prayer is it calling forth in you?
- How is God inviting you to respond to what you’ve heard?
- This can be silent, out loud, or written.
REST (contemplation, contemplatio)
- Read it again.
- Sit in silence and stillness, as long as the Spirit leads.
- Let the work of the previous three stages come into a deep part of you.
- Rest in the word of God and God’s word to you.
Lectio Divina is…
- EXPERIENTIAL – less about gaining knowledge and more about encountering God through scripture.
- SLOW ON PURPOSE – intentional periods of silence to allow you to digest the words and allow them to become a part of you. Silence is key. The work of lectio divina is the work of ingesting scripture as food for your Spirit. You will need time to allow it to digest, lest it become only a mental exercise. The desire is to connect with your heart and allow the words to become a part of you. This takes time.
- A PROCESS NOT AN EVENT – it is unlikely that the true fruits of this practice will become realized the first few times you practice. But lectio divina has a way of weaving the words of scripture into very deep parts of your soul and heart. This takes time. Let it unfold.
- A Bible in a readable translation, with good study helps. We recommend NRSV, NIV, and CEB translations, as well as The Message. We have Bibles to give away; contact Beth Palmer for details.
- A notebook or journal to record thoughts, feelings, and prayers.
- A timer for the moments of silence. We like an app called Insight Timer.