This is not a question about personal hygiene, rather it is about how you read the Bible. You may be wondering what soap could possibly have to do with bible reading and I will come to that in a minute.
I know very few Christians who don’t believe that reading the bible is a good thing and wish they read it more often. Many however, struggle to read their bible with any regularity and those who do often feel that doing so can be a matter of duty rather than delight. Living as we do in the 21st century there are more resources to help us read our bibles than any other period in history. There are many reasons for this but I believe that one factor may be passivity. We live in a world of information overload, and most of the information is broadcast at us and requires little engagement. As a result we are used to passively hearing and reading information, then moving on to the next thing and quickly forgetting what we have heard. If we always read the bible like this then it is no wonder it seems uninspiring. However if we can find ways to really engage with it, to wrestle with its meaning and understand how it applies to us we can discover a fresh vitality in our reading.
Recently I was reminded of a simple little acronym (SOAP) that can be applied alongside any bible reading method and help us read more proactively.
- Scripture – Write down a verse from your reading that stood out for you. Copy it word for word, including the reference.
- Observation – Answer this question, ‘What do I observe about this verse?’ Things like: who is speaking, to whom, where, why, when. Engage as much as you are able with the original meaning.
- Application – Now work out how you can apply what you have read to your life or how it impacts your current circumstances. Is there a command to obey? An example to follow (or avoid!)? An encouragement to lay hold of? An attitude to be realigned?
- Prayer – Finish your reading with prayer. What can you praise God for? What requests can you make? Ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to live differently in the light of what you have learned.
Using these 4 simple steps requires effort but it will be worth it. As the saying goes: the more you put in the more you get out.
This blog post featured in the May 2015 edition of Lifelines