A key part of understanding what we read is to read the Bible reflectively. The questions below are not exhaustive, but they provide a framework of Look, Understand, Apply, and Pray to guide your reading. Find ways that help you study and apply God’s Word. Take notes; write down thoughts and prayers; ask questions; chew on or meditate on what you see; and ask a friend or use a good Study Bible or commentary if something doesn’t make sense.
As you get started, protect yourself from distractions as much as you can. Put away your phone, email, social media, or TV. If possible, get alone in a quiet place. Grab your Bible, a pencil, and a notepad. Pray for God’s Spirit to give you understanding of what you read, to help you know and love God more, and to change you through it.
LOOK (What do I see?)
- What stood out to me right away, or what did I notice? Is there anything new I’ve not noticed before?
- Are there keywords, themes, repeated words, transitional statements, or parallel sentences?
- What is the structure of this passage? What is the main point?
- What metaphors, word-pictures, or allusions does the author use?
- Ask: who, what, where, when, and why to see the key parts of the passage.
UNDERSTAND (What does it mean?)
- What is the Context of this passage (historical, cultural, literary)? What happened before that connects?
- What other verses or cross-references might help you better understand this passage or shed light on it?
- Does this section contain commands, promises, warnings, theological truths, ethical imperatives, indicative statements about who we are? How are they used, and what role do they play in the passage?
- What does this tell us about God (His attributes, actions, promises, purposes)? How is He at work? How might this text create in us greater trust, worship, and love for God? How is God the hero of this story?
- How would I summarize the author’s meaning to his original audience in one to two sentences?
APPLY (What do I need to do, believe, delight in, or change?)
- Was there anything God impressed on my heart through this text that I need to respond to?
- How does it apply to my own circumstances? Is there:
- A command to obey or live out?
- A truth to understand and believe?
- A promise to cling to and act on?
- A sin or idol to confess, turn from, and replace?
- An attribute or action of God to give thanks for or worship Him because of it?
- How might life look different because of these verses? Where do I need to depend on the Spirit for help?
- Are there ways I can better serve, love, and encourage those around me as I apply this? How so?
- How does this passage point us to the gospel of grace and Jesus as our hope and help?
PRAY (What should I pray in light of this?)
Seal these truths in your heart through prayer that is a direct response to what you’ve just read and seen. Pray for the things on your mind but also pray God’s Word back to Him, and pray over the things you discovered. Ask God for help to obey Him and walk in the Spirit. Thank God for who He is and all He’s done. Pray for opportunities to show Christ and share Christ to those around you today.