5 Steps to a Restful Reading of the Bible

A fresh look at your devotional time in the Scriptures and how to foster a restful habit of engaging them.

Open Bible in lap of woman. Highlighters and pens available.
Post photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

Today's post is a special edition, written with 🧡 for the Scripture Sauce family.

The Noise Within

True rest relies on a restful reading of the Scriptures.

(Say that five times fast.) 🤣

The first edition of Scripture Sauce talked about delighting in God’s Word, where we explored some awesome passages from Psalm 119.

I know many long to read their Bible each day. To connect with it and to delight in it.

But, I’d like to suggest there is something grabbing your attention away from the Word…


This can be literal or metaphorical noise.

  • The noise of your worries.
  • The noise of hundreds of study notes surrounding the passages in your Bible.
  • The noise of other demands swirling in your head.

The world’s always going to be around you. Your mind is at work. What can you do about it?

Let’s talk about 5 steps you can take to develop a habit of restful reading of the Scriptures.

1. Pray

Pray before diving in. No heavy meditation, special music, or angel dust necessary.

Trust God to open the eyes of your heart to His truth. Prayer is a posture of trust, so it’s a good first step.

Paul would agree…

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.

Ephesians 1:18

I always challenge myself to rest in Him and to ask Him to teach me through His Word.

We’ve seen many false preachers and “religious” people abuse the Bible, so it’s so important we humble ourselves when we approach it. I’ve never wanted to be someone who reads for my own emotions or purposes, contorting the text to feed my desires.

I want to know what God wants to communicate through the Bible, allowing the text to speak for itself. (Scholars call this exegesis, the act of pulling meaning out of the text rather than inserting one’s own).

Aside from that, prayer is communion and connection. It’s the first step in delighting in His Word before reading it. It tills the soil of your soil, raking in soft grooves to receive His truth.

2. Study before Reading

Learn about the book of the Bible you are reading ahead of time. Learn about its history, context, audience, author, intended purpose, etc. This will help clear your brain for landing and allow you to read instead of being in “study mode” the whole time.

Some great resources…

I used to fall into the “study mode” trap during reading time. I’d cross-reference til my fingers bled, read commentaries until my head exploded, and got lost in the theological weeds. It would hamper my restful reading of the Scriptures.

So, clear the way for a quality reading habit.

Uninterrupted reading is a pleasure. It’s also a necessity to let the Scriptures speak for themselves. Resist the temptation to let someone else’s commentary replace the role of God’s Spirit to lead you while reading.

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.

John 16:13

As an aside: I love study Bibles and reference materials. But, over the years I’ve learned they are there to augment what you’ve already read or to help you get started, not sustain you.

As well, there’s a myth that reading broadly is not reading deeply. I guarantee you: If you read the book of Romans in one sitting, you will see Paul’s connections clearly on your own without over-relying on study notes.

3. Pick a Restful Format

Try out a “reader’s Bible.” These remove all distractions, notes, verse numbers, etc. that weren’t there in the original copies of the Scriptures—don’t worry, there’s always a place for a great study Bible.

My favorite reader’s Bible is the NIV Books of the Bible. They have different versions, but I love its layout and readability in the NIV set (note: I'm not affiliated – just a fan). You an of course find a reader’s Bible in just about any translation.

Reader’s Bibles offer a lot of benefit:

They allow the text to breathe through quality typography and a single-column format. This makes reading it for long periods infinitely better.

(Don’t believe me? Try reading a double-column study Bible for 30 minutes straight, and then repeat the process with a reader’s Bible for the same time—your eyes and brain will thank you.)

Also, they allow you to focus on reading broadly for understanding. They encourage a restful habit of reading larger blocks of text at a time.

A reader's Bible open to the "Beatitudes" in Matthew's Gospel: "Blessed are the poor in spirit..."
NIV Books of the Bible - Photo by Jordan Hopkins on Unsplash

Chapter numbers and verse numbers are artificial additions to the Bible. They often break up narratives and thoughts awkwardly.

You will find yourself naturally reading larger chunks of text without those artificial breaks normally present in the Biblical text. For me, I find myself wanting to read more like I would with a good novel.

4. Make it a Routine You Look Forward to

If reading the Bible means three hours every day of dedicated study time with commentaries, highlighters, and Greek lexicons in your lap—man, you’re gonna get exhausted. I love deep study of the Bible. I enjoy reading portions of the New Testament in Greek to see new things, to read others commentaries, and to study history.

In the end, though, the Bible is a beautiful collection of writings written by humans—via the inspired power of God—for humans. It’s meant to be heard, understood, and applied. It’s not hieroglyphics or mystical ruins (though some would love to treat the Bible this way).

This means you can understand the Bible through a restful reading habit, where you engage with and soak in the words like any great piece of literature.

In the end, though, the Bible is a beautiful collection of writings written by humans—via the inspired power of God—for humans. It’s meant to be heard, understood, and applied.

Instead of making everyday a study slugfest, make it a once-a-week thing. Spend every other day reading the Bible restfully.

There’s another key to making it a routine you look forward…


Mix up how you engage with the Bible.

5. Listen to it 🎧

Busy or easily distracted? Listen to an audio Bible.

This is one of my favorite ways to make reading the Bible restful instead of stressful.

Audio Bibles HAVE COMPLETELY CHANGED the way I encounter the Scriptures lately.

Real quick, here are two to get you started…

  1. The Daily Audio Bible: FREE app and web player. Offers different paths. Also comes with a community of listeners who share prayer requests—life changing!
  2. Dwell Audio Bible: Some of it’s free, though most features are subscription-based (but worth it). Super high quality narration, music, and playlist art. Very customizable.

So, last week I had spent over five hours in my bathroom installing molding and caulk. At first, I worked in the silence, allowing my brain to sizzle over all the horrible news in the world.

Then, I wanted to listen to something encouraging and meaningful (unlike my inner-dialogue that day). So, I opened the Dwell Audio Bible app, and headed over to the last portion of Isaiah, “the Book of Consolation.”

I listened as Gregory, my favorite narrator, spoke about…

  • God’s faithfulness
  • Israel’s idolatry
  • God’s heart for their return
  • The Servant who’d suffer for all humanity
  • The restoration of all things

Instead of reading one verse out of context, my ears caught the thread of the entire narrative. I was invested. I noticed how the pieces fit together.

It invites you to follow the narrative and to let it arrest your attention.

And when it got to the portion about God’s kingdom and the restoration of the Creation, I had to put my tools down and weep.

In one sense, I felt what an ancient listener would have: awe over the spoken Word.

Listening to the Bible for large swaths of time has a similar effect as reading it for large swaths at a time. It invites you to follow the narrative and to let it arrest your attention.

Final Thoughts

As humans, we love our own narratives. We love being heard.

But the restful reading (or listening) of the Scriptures takes a humble posture—like prayer—and readies us to tune into God’s words like Samuel did…

Then the LORD called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.”

1 Samuel 3:4

💬 How do You Grow a Restful Reading of the Bible?

What are some things that help you engage with the Bible? To savor it? To be in awe of who God is in its pages?

More to Savor 😋

The work week is hard enough. Devotional time in the Word is strained. And, the Bible can be a hard book to read.

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