Several years ago, I decided to run a marathon. I mapped out a training plan and followed it religiously. Sometimes, I really looked forward to my runs. My legs felt strong, and my mind was free from mental blocks. Other times, my legs felt like lead, and I struggled to finish the warm-up mile. Often, I wanted to quit.
I learned that I had to agree to those training runs long before I laced up my shoes. I’d made the decision to run when I signed up for the race and submitted the entry fee. That first commitment got me started. But there were daily decisions that must be made along the way to ensure that I would finish each training run. If I left all the planning to the early morning hours when I was supposed to be hitting the pavement, I would definitely choose to stay in my warm bed. Instead, each night, I dutifully laid out what I needed: shoes, socks, running clothes, earbuds, Garmin watch, water bottle, and energy gels. In the morning, all I had to do was apply the decisions I’d made the day before. Developing a routine helped remove the temptation to quit. I didn’t have to make new decisions each morning. I just had to follow the ones I’d already made.
Developing habits for spiritual disciplines can take a similar shape. While I don’t want to distill our time spent in prayer and Bible reading down to a daily habit divorced from the work of the Holy Spirit, I do think we can benefit from developing a routine that aligns with what we desire for our spiritual growth. Once the decisions have been made, we only have to apply them each day and trust the Lord to work through the means He has given us for growth. I wanted to run a marathon, so I developed a routine that would lead me down that path. Similarly, I want to grow in godliness and in my relationship with Christ. Developing a daily routine of Bible study can guide me down that path with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Regularly Nourished by the Word
In Psalm 1, the psalmist paints a vivid picture of spiritual growth. Comparing the righteous man to a tree planted by a stream, he tells us that blessing is found in delighting in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night (see Ps. 1:2). As a tree puts down roots next to a stream and receives regular nourishment, we too can flourish and grow in godliness as we are regularly nourished by the truths of Scripture. Without the Word of God, we will wither up when dry seasons come. Trials, temptation, suffering—the challenges to our faith can be met with faithfulness when our roots are fed from God’s Word.
Jen Wilkin says that “the heart cannot love what the mind does not know.” God has chosen to reveal Himself to us through His Word. We have the opportunity to know Him intimately as we feast on His words day and night. There is no other way to know God. We must take up our Bibles and read. While the regular practice of reading and studying might feel like a duty, it doesn’t have to. Over time, your heart will learn to yearn for Scripture when you give it a regular diet of Scripture. But, like anything that we want to become a regular practice in life, it’s important to build your life around the habit of Bible reading if you want to ensure that you do it each day.
Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 that God’s will for our lives is our sanctification, which is God’s plan for you as a Christian to grow daily to become like Jesus. He has chosen to cultivate growth through a regular study of His Word. And what He calls us to, He equips us for. He has given us everything we need for life and godliness (see 2 Peter 1: 3).
Now that we know what His will is for us and how He will accomplish it, we get to be involved in His plan. Making a plan may not feel inspired, but it can help you show up to your time in the Word each day where the Holy Spirit is pleased to meet you with teaching, comfort, correction, and growth. Below are a few steps you can take now that will help you make the important decisions ahead of time so that all you have to do each day is show up. The decisions of what, how, and when to study will already be in place. Tomorrow, you’ll simply have to apply the decisions you’re about to make!
Pick a Plan
The first place to begin developing a Bible study routine is to pick a plan. If you’ve never had a regular Bible reading habit, a one-year plan might be a good place to start. Not only will you expose your heart to the whole counsel of God, but you’ll also have some built-in accountability to read a little each day. This is a good place to start if you want to begin a one-year reading plan.
Another kind of plan may involve reading through one book of the Bible over the course of a month or two. I’ve found that repetitive reading while asking questions of the text helps me to dig a little deeper. Perhaps you’ll pick the gospel of John or the book of James. Read through the book a few times the first week or two. Then read a paragraph or two (or even a chapter, if you like) each day and ask yourself what you learn about God’s character from the text. Write down your answers. Over time, you’ll find that you love the Lord more deeply because you’ve studied Him more deeply.
Pick a Time
Now that you’ve got your reading plan in place, it’s time to make a decision about when you’ll read your Bible each day. Many people find that first thing in the morning is best. If you don’t read right away, the day may get away from you, making it difficult to carve out time later. But, perhaps your lunch break or your toddler’s nap time is an ideal time to read and pray. Maybe you’re a night owl who can settle down with your Bible and a notebook after the rest of your household has gone to bed. Whatever time you choose, make sure it’s the time of day to which you can most consistently show up. What part of your day can be a non-negotiable time to give to the Lord? Choose that time. Will it cost you something? Probably. But we can gladly sacrifice some screen time or a few minutes of sleep to grow in faithfulness to Jesus.
Pick a Place
This might seem silly but trust me on this. Picking a regular place to read and pray is an important piece of this puzzle. Pick a spot in your home or office where you can set all your materials (Bible, notebook, pens, a place for your coffee cup). When all your study materials are waiting for you in the same spot every day, you’ll be more likely to sit down and apply the decisions you’ve already made. After teaching on Bible study habits at a women’s conference once, a woman told me later that she went home and rearranged her living room furniture so that she would have a dedicated place to study. Once she did that, she had no problem showing up to that spot every morning to pray and study.
You’ve chosen a plan, a time, and a place. You’re almost ready to begin! But there’s one last step: tell someone. Think of a friend or mentor from church and ask them to hold you accountable. Have them put a reminder in their phone to text you thirty days from now to see how you’re doing with your Bible reading plan. If in thirty days you’re really struggling to persevere, ask them to pray with you and perhaps study along with you. The church is a gift to us as we seek to grow in godliness. He has given us a family to encourage and pray for us as we all follow Him together.
As you make your plan to study the Word, remember that the Lord is with you as you read and pray. The Bible is no empty word but our very life (Deut. 32:47). The time you give to knowing God through Scripture is precious and valuable. The more you learn His character, the more you will love Him. And the more you love Him, the more you will grow to be like Him.
 Jen Wilkin. Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible With Our Hearts and Our Minds (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), 31.
Glenna Marshall is a pastor’s wife and mother of two energetic sons. She is the author of The Promise Is His Presence and Everyday Faithfulness, and writes regularly at GlennaMarshall.com on biblical literacy, suffering, and the faithfulness of God. She is a member of Grace Bible Fellowship in Sikeston, Missouri.