I recently came across this question in a Facebook group -
"Does anyone have problems retaining what you read in the Bible? I can read a chapter and then go back, and it’s like I am reading it for the first time. I am really struggling to retain it. Any ideas that would help?" ~Kathleen
This is such a great question, and Kathleen, you are not alone!
Here are a few suggestions for improving your Bible comprehension.
Before you start your start:
- Find a quiet place where you can be alone and have few distractions. I prefer a table to work on because I have lots of stuff, but I know TONS of people like to do their quiet time on their couch or in a favorite chair, and that is totally OK! You do you.
- Once you’ve decided where you’re going to study, gather your study materials. For me, this includes my Bible, colored pencils, pens, and a notebook/journal.
- I also like to have a cup of coffee, tea, or a bottle of water (depending on what time of day it is).
- It’s also a good idea to either turn your phone over or leave it in another room...it can pull you off-track in a hurry!
- The key here is to build a consistent routine that works for YOU. Consistency will really help with focusing on your study.
Strategies for better comprehension:
I ALWAYS recommend beginning with a PRAYER. (I know—you’re excited to dive in, and it can be tempting to skip this step, but I assure you, it’s vital.) Ask God to show you a specific word or message for that day. Ask that He would multiply your time, give you a fruitful study and that He will help keep you from getting distracted. If you struggle with comprehension or focus, ask Him to specifically help you with those things. I like to ask God to quiet my mind and remove any distracting thoughts.
Read the passage either in your Bible or (even better) print out a text version rather than reading in an app. This may sound old-fashioned, but, there are too many distractions when you read on a screen.
Plan to read the passage multiple times. It is very rare for someone to read a passage once and have a good grasp on the meaning, much less retain what it says.
Listening to an audio reading of a Bible passage (check out YouVersion) as you read can also be very helpful. Listen and read 1 section, pause the audio, and then highlight anything that stands out to you.
Engaging with the text is crucial. Which parts don’t you understand? Any words you need to look up? As you are reading/listening, jot down questions and comments you have about the passage. You can look the answers up later, but sometimes, just forming the question helps you find the answer in the text.
After reading/listening to a passage 2-3 times, break it down into 3-4 sections. When you journal and summarize the sections, it will help with comprehension. Your summaries can be very brief and don’t need a lot of details. Look for the main ideas and focus on those.
Often, in the Bible Study Collective Membership, we read a full chapter and then journal. When you are just starting out, this may be overwhelming. Feel free to break the passage down and just study one section a day. You have the freedom to do what works best for you.
If you need more clarity on the passage’s meaning, read it in other Bible translations. You can do a parallel search at www.biblegateway.com and compare different translations. Check out my Bible translation recommendations here.
And remember - don't fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others - especially those who have years of experience in studying God’s word. We all start at the same place, and your ability to study and understand the Bible will improve with time and practice. Give yourself the gift of grace and rest in the knowledge that God is thrilled by your efforts. 🥰
Blessings to you as you study!