How to Go Deeper in Bible Study

Letter to a 13-Year Old


How to Go Deeper in Bible Study

Dear Samantha,

I got your note about going deeper with your Bible reading. Thanks for asking.

First, let me say that I am really encouraged that you take the Bible so seriously. Sometimes I hold it in my hand and feel the wonder that it is the very word of the Maker of the universe. Amazing. 

You are right to read it every day and seek to let it permeate all your thoughts and feelings. When Paul says it is all inspired by God and that it is profitable so that you will be equipped for every good work, I believe he means that even the parts that are hard to read, or even sometimes confusing, will in the long run have an effect on your mind and your soul that will shape you into the kind of woman who can stand strong all your life for Jesus, and sniff out the errors of the world, and love all that is truly good and beautiful.

Here are a couple ideas for going deeper.

I think it is good to always be reading through the Bible as a whole. It sounds like you are doing that with the four bookmarks. That’s good. I used the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan for about fifteen years and am now using McCheyne’s Bible reading plan. It takes you through the whole Bible in a year, plus the Psalms twice and the New Testament twice.

In addition, it is good to focus on some unit of Scripture for going deeper, like a book or the Sermon on the Mount, or Romans 8. To go deeper, one way is to memorize it. I did that with the book of Philippians a couple years ago and then recited it in my January sermon on the importance of the Bible. Few things take you deeper into God's word like memorizing large portions of it.

Another thing to do with that special part of Scripture you are focusing on for a while is to write it out longhand slowly in a notebook. I do this with almost every sermon I preach. I don’t fully understand it, but there are “eyes” in my pen. I see things when I slowly write the text. I see things that I see no other way. Another advantage of writing it out is that I can circle words that are repeated. I can underline phrases and draw lines between them. This helps me see connections in the passage. And connections are the key to meaning.

I think you should invest in a very good study Bible, like the ESV Study Bible, or ask your parents to get you one for your birthday. Or maybe just because you help wash the dishes! Then read the introduction to the part of Scripture that you are studying. And read the notes. Don’t assume they are always right. Only the Bible itself is always right. But let the notes stir up thoughts that you can trace out for yourself.

With regard to prayer, this is absolutely crucial, and I am glad you are doing it. God hears our prayers and helps us be humble enough and alert enough and in-tune enough to grasp what he says.

I use the acrostic I.O.U.S. as I come to the Bible.

I. Incline my heart to your testimonies. Psalm 119:36 (Since my heart is inclined to sleep and work and lots of things other than the Bible.)

O. Open my eyes to see wonders in your word. Psalm 119:18 (Since my heart is so often dull and blind to the wonders of the word.)

U. Unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86:11 (Since my heart is often divided and distracted in many directions)

S. Satisfy me with your steadfast love. Psalm  90:14 (Since my heart is so tempted to be satisfied in other things.)

Besides these prayers, practice praying the prayers of the Bible. Besides the Lord's Prayer, my favorite is Ephesians 3:14–19. These prayers weave into our desires the kinds of desires that God taught us to have.

I hope that helps.

Grace be with you! Stay in God’s word! 

Did you ever notice that every letter of Paul has near the beginning the words, “Grace be to you,” and near the end it has the words, “Grace be with you”? I think the reason is that as we start reading the letters, he knows that God’s grace is coming to us through the letter. And as we get ready to leave the letter and go to school or to work, he knows that God’s grace will go with us.

So as I close, I say with Paul, grace be with you. But that’s because grace comes to you every day as you read the Bible. Keep it up. You will never regret it.

Pastor John


Letters to Teenagers from John Piper