If we’re wondering how long or how often we should study the Bible, we’re forgetting how relationships work. It’s like asking how much time we should spend with a friend or a significant other in order to check a box. When hanging out with people we enjoy, we don’t watch the clock like we may have in school because the relationship isn’t drudgery for us. We don’t count how many minutes one person listens before switching to talking because the ebb and flow of conversation is natural. It’s a mutual relationship where both parties care for the other, and there's reciprocal attention and investment in one another.
A Christian is someone who’s in a relationship with God. Believers are the bride of Christ, the heavenly Groom (Eph. 5:32). God is our heavenly Father (Matt. 6:9). Jesus calls us friends (John 15:14–15). Groom, Father, friend—these are all relational terms describing the closeness and intimacy available to us with our Maker. He desires this closeness with us, choosing us to be his bride, his child, and his friend. So when we ask, “How often should I study the Bible?” we’re asking the wrong question.
Study the Bible the Way You Study a Loved One
For a relationship to be healthy, the two people in it must communicate with one another and spend time together. For the Christian, this happens through reading the Bible and prayer. God gave us the Bible so that we might know him and how he wants us to live, and when we read it, we’re listening to him. It’s the equivalent of listening to someone in a conversation, and when we pray to God, we go from listener to talker in the conversation.
If a husband and wife don’t spend quality time together and don’t listen and talk to each other, their relationship will decline. It won’t be healthy, and the effects of that will manifest in a variety of ways. But if quality time and communication are priorities for both spouses, their relationship will deepen and grow. The same is true for our relationship with God. He is committed to us, but the quality time and communication are often lacking on our end. He’s not as high on our priority list as we are on his.
What Does the Bible Say About How Long to Study?
There’s no verse that says, “Thou shalt spend thirty minutes a day reading the Bible.” We’re not given such quotas to meet in order to be a “good” Christian.
Rather, Jesus tells his followers, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4–5).
When we become Christians, we become attached to the True Vine; we enter into a relationship with God. Abiding—or remaining— and spending ongoing time with God fuels our joy. We enjoy what God enjoys. We begin to desire what God desires. His joy is in us, and our joy is complete because of our union with him.
We cannot abide in God without abiding in his Word. It’s like saying we can understand and love a person we never hear speak or never spend time with. We must nurture the relationship we have with God, and two primary ways we do this are by reading the Bible and praying.
Study to Invest in Your Relationship with God
How much time you spend doing these things will look different on various days and in various seasons of life, just as communication fluctuates in your other relationships depending on the day or season you’re in. As you’re considering how to invest more time in growing your relationship with God, here are a few ideas for how to do this even during busy days or weeks:
- Listen to Scripture. Many Bible apps have a function where the app reads the text to you. You can listen to it while you’re in the car, putting on makeup, or walking your dog. Some apps even let you choose the accent of the reader, and not only is this fun, but it also helps us pay closer attention to what’s being said.
Choose a Scripture for the week to memorize and meditate on. Whether it’s a verse, a couple of verses, or an entire chapter, select a text for the week. Throughout the week, read it, listen to it, write it out, pray through it, make hand motions for it, put it to music, or use an app such as Verses or Fighter Verses to access tools and games to help you learn it. These options all help you better understand and remember what you’re reading in God’s Word.
Ask what the passage says about God. God has given us the Bible so we can know him. As you read, one simple question you can ask is, “What does this passage express about God?”
Supplement your study. I’m studying Zechariah with my small group right now, and in addition to reading and taking notes on each week’s passage, I’m listening to short podcasts (under ten minutes) such as The Bible Recap and Pray the Word that relate to the text we’re studying. These podcasts bring me back to what I’ve read by summarizing the passage, clarifying a few things from the text, and helping me pray through the passage.
Whatever the craziness of the day or week or season, is this relationship a priority to you? Do you desire to spend time with your heavenly Groom, Father, and friend? How will you carve out time to listen and talk to him today?
Meet the Author
Ashley Chesnut serves as the Associate Young Adult Minister at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, and she’s the author of It's Not Just You: Freeing Women to Talk about Sexual Sin and Fight It Well. She has a Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School, a Certificate of Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and is currently working on a Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Denver Seminary. When she's not at the church or meeting with girls, you can probably find her at the farmer's market or trying some new local restaurant.