One of the most important steps in Bible study is observation (remember the three questions? – if not, click here). As I’ve mentioned before, many scholars suggest 80% of your Bible study should be spent in this step. It is critical! But how do I go about observing the text, how do I discover rich nuggets that give great spiritual insight?

The answer may be easier than you think. It all starts with …

Part 1: Prayer

The key to Bible study is to keep it from becoming an academic study.

The Pharisees in Jesus’ time knew the Bible well. They would begin to memorize the Scriptures as a young child and could often quote chapter and verse from nearly anywhere throughout the Old Testament. They were studious, they debated meaning, and they prided themselves on their knowledge of the Law.

Jesus enters the scene and rebukes them saying: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5.39). They diligently studied looking for eternal life, but it was an academic study, lacking the very thing they were searching for. Jesus declared “I am the focus of all of Scripture!” And in Him is the very life they were looking for.

These are the same characters that Jesus called “white-washed tombs” – they look nice on the outside but dead as bones on the inside. But don’t they read, memorize, and study Scripture? Yep, but yet they were still living in deadness. 

When you study Scripture but all it is is an academic study, it will become lifeless and eventually you do it only out of duty, obligation, guilt. What you need is not academic study but for Bible study to give spiritual life, greater intimacy with Jesus, and transformation to how you think, feel, and live.

You Can’t Do It!

The reality is, the best effort you can give to Bible study will leave you flat. You need Jesus, through the infilling of His Spirit in your life, to take Scripture and reveal truth to you (see John 16.13). Which is why we must start with prayer.

Prayer in Bible study is essential. Even before we begin, we throw ourselves before God declaring that we don’t want to enter the study without Him guiding us (and why would we want to waste our time doing so?). It is a declaration of our dependence upon His wisdom, His guidance, His insight as the Author Himself. We are not looking for trite answers, we are looking for Truth (Jesus) – and we must have the Spirit of Truth guiding us.

Today, even before you begin your study, spend some time asking the Author of the Book you hold, to open your eyes and reveal Himself to you. We want greater intimacy and oneness with Him, He desires it even more, don’t you think He wants to reveal His Word to you?

Dive in.

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