Reading the Bible is a primary spiritual discipline for two reasons.
First, it makes you become familiar with and — hopefully — learn God’s word in depth. Second, the Bible is a book, and the best way to appreciate and understand a book is by reading it. You don’t watch a book like you watch a movie, and you don’t listen to a book. Sure, you can use audiobooks, but listening to audiobooks is not the same as reading the actual book. When you’re reading the Bible (or any book), you can jump from sentence to sentence, return to the one that overwhelmed you, and linger on the one that stirs your heart.
The spiritual discipline of reading can be developed by setting aside a time to read the Bible every day, however short it maybe, and then sticking to that schedule.
Now remember, the purpose of reading the Bible is not necessarily to go deep. It is more than that. Reading the Bible for an in-depth understanding requires much more than simply reading the sacred book. You have to do research. You have to get out of your Bible, get into Greek and Hebrew and theology and philosophy, and practice, practice, practice what the Christian faith teaches. But reading the Bible is the first step for an in-depth understanding of the scriptures.
Reading the Bible as a spiritual discipline can have a variety of purposes. You can read the book to familiarize yourself with it or to learn the biblical topics well, or you can read it for spiritual edification or for discernment in a specific situation. Either way, you won’t lose anything by reading the Bible. In fact, you will gain a deeper understanding of the Christian faith, how ancient people thought about God, and some still-valid practical advice.
Although Christians claim to read the Bible often, one particular way of reading the Bible is often neglected: reading the scripture out loud. Of course, Christians read the Bible out loud from the pulpit or during some ceremonial event in a church. But for private readings, we have almost lost the habit of reading the Bible out loud.
Why does reading the Bible out loud matter? After all, the spiritual discipline does not depend on how we read the book, right? Just read it and get it done. That is only partially true. In the times of Augustine of Hippo, people used to read the texts out loud. In fact, to read the text silently, the Bible included, became a prominent practice only later.
By not reading the Bible or any book out loud, we lose something. To begin with, we lose one aspect of perception in the process. When you read the book silently, you perceive it by seeing it. But when you read it out loud, you perceive the text by seeing and by hearing. Such a reading helps to understand the text better.
Also, reading the text out loud gives us some kind of feedback on our understanding of the text. Unless you don’t pay attention at all, your mind will catch mispronounced words, and your voice will adjust to the implied tone of the sentence. Sometimes, your ear will force you to slow down because you will recognize a word that is difficult to pronounce or a cadence to linger over. Slowing down is good. The other option, fast reading, is like fast food. It fills your brain, but it has very little spiritual value.
Tips on how to read the Bible effectively out loud
I would challenge you to include reading the Bible out loud in your private reading sessions. It will bring in a new dimension to your spiritual discipline of reading the Bible; you will appreciate not just the text but also the way Bible is heard and vocalized.
Below you will find tips on how to read the Bible out loud as part of your spiritual discipline and thus deepen your understanding of God’s word.
1.Read the biblical text silently in preparation for reading it out loud.
After you choose what text to read, the first step is to read it silently. This silent reading is not to move on to another text but to comprehend the text better, notice longer and unusual words, and get ready for reading it out loud.
So as you read, identify repeated words, longer words, long sentences, and their sequence. Pay attention to see if there is dialogue in the text or emotions expressed in certain verses so that when you read, you can read them according to the intended meaning of the verse. If you find dialogue, make a mental note of who is speaking because your tone will change in order to properly express the mood or the perspective of the character.
Also, take into account any exclamation marks and questions marks because they do require some voice inflection in an oral reading.
2.Read the text out loud slowly enough to pronounce every word clearly and hear yourself.
This is the first stage of reading out loud. As you read, pay attention to the text so that you don’t mispronounce anything. You can read it a second time, but this time, pay attention to your voice and how it sounds. Are you nervous? Does your voice crack up? Is there a discrepancy between the mode of the text and the inflection of your voice?
Once you notice these things, adjust your reading. If you find a word whose meaning you don’t know, make sure you check the dictionary.
3.Change your tone, and read the text out loud again.
This is the second stage of reading out loud. Here the purpose is to establish the proper dramatization of the text and emphasize what the text is actually emphasizing. Go ahead and read the text out loud several times. Change the intonation and emphasis every time until you arrive at the reading that you think best fits the text’s true meaning. Pay attention to pauses, and see if you can incorporate pauses into the reading of the biblical text in such a way that they also communicate some meaning.
4.Recite the text melodically.
This may sound a little bit weird, but in various cultures where Christianity spread, the biblical text was actually sung in the liturgy or recited melodically. At first it may sound weird or jarring, but don’t let the way it sounds deter you from exploring the scripture through your voice. As you recite, you will notice that the text needs more interpretation.
When do you raise your voice and why? What words are whispered and why? Do you repeat a word that the text does not repeat, and if you do so, then why? Which word should be repeated? Which syllable do you prolong, and how does it contribute to the emphasis or meaning of the word? This will open up a whole new world to explore the scripture or take on a new angle on the sacred text.
In short, read the text out loud, and experiment to understand it better.
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