Once a month, you’re going to hear from some of our authors or from our team on how we study the Bible, what resources we use, and what questions we ask.
Last month, we asked you what questions you had about studying the Bible. (The form will stay open, so be sure to submit your questions anytime!) This month, Mary Margaret and Elizabeth have chosen a few of those questions to answer. We hope these are helpful to everyone!
“There are so many studies out there and so many pastors, ministries, evangelists who have videos, daily devotionals, studies that I want to listen to and study. It’s hard to choose which one or ones to work on first. On studying the Bible should you work on it book by book, subject, theme, or just pick a single book to study?”
Linda, Justin, TX
Linda, it really depends on you! What has been most helpful in the past? What have others that you know and trust recommended? What’s your learning style? In different seasons, it may look different. If you’re in a hard season of marriage, maybe pick something topical that relates to what you’re going through. If you’re interested in Paul’s writings, pick one of his letters in the New Testament and spend some time really understanding the context and who, what, where, and why of the letter. Maybe you want to do a special study for a season in the liturgical calendar like Lent or Advent. Or perhaps your friends are all talking about a biblically based book or a Bible study and you are curious to know what they’re talking about! It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by the volume of resources that are available, but I would really encourage you to pick one or two trusted resources at a time so that you don’t get lost in so many good things all at once. We really believe that it’s important to hear from a variety of biblically based teachers, so that you’re not finding yourself in an echo chamber.
What is the most accurate version of the Bible to the original?
Tammy, Flintville, TN
Which translation of the Bible is closest to the original text?
Erica, Yorba Linda, CA
I would like to learn how to choose a good translation, and then I have an interest in understanding how to read my Bible. I would like to lead a small group, but I feel like I don’t understand my Bible well enough to do that. Any suggestions?
Marci, Vicksburg, MS
Tammy, Erica, and Marci, we are so glad you asked! We recently wrote a bit about the new Christian Standard Bible and included a chart that tells you which versions are the easiest to read and which versions are the closest to the original text. You can check it out here. We love the CSB because it’s the perfect marriage of both accuracy and readability.
Marci, we would add that you are qualified to lead a small group! None of us have the Bible completely figured out—and we’re pretty sure we never will. We recommend Open Your Bible to learn how and why we read the Bible and to help you gain confidence that you can lead. Also, all of our Bible studies have leader helps in them. We write those with women like you in mind—we want to empower you to share the Bible study experience with others, and we don’t want it to be intimidating.
I would love to get a good study Bible to go deeper in Bible study. Can you explain what are some of the variations or pros and cons of the major translations and what to look for in a study Bible? For the last five years I read a regular NLT and also read my smaller sized ESV. I know many churches use NIV, but the 1984 version (typically preferred in the publishing world) is hard to come by. I want an easy to read (but not so “easy” that it misses depth of Scripture) Bible that will lead me to cross references, show me historical and cultural context, and deepen my understanding of God’s awesome Word! Thank you.
Courtney, Ventura, CA
Courtney, we love that you are taking such care in choosing a translation! As we said above, we talked a little about the various translations of the Bible in this post. Our authors use a lot of different translations in their studies. Some prefer one over the others, and some use a variety. It’s always good when studying to check out other translations to see how they’ve interpreted certain words and verses—often that can give us a better idea of what a verse means and how it can apply to our context. The 1984 version of the NIV is out of print. The reason you can’t find it is because the only copies are on people’s bookshelves!
For a study Bible, we would love for you to take a look at the new She Reads Truth Bible (out officially April 15). It features a lot of the things you’re looking for. There will also be a Christian Standard Bible Study Bible coming in May. We have loved using the HCSB Study Bible (it’s often our first stop for understanding more about a passage as we edit) and can’t wait to get our hands on this new version. Many of our authors use the ESV Study Bible, which is also a great choice.
What is the best way to incorporate prayer into Bible study?
Trish, Fayetteville, TN
One way to incorporate prayer into personal Bible study is by praying Scripture back to God. The psalms are perfect for this, since many of them are already prayers. Read whatever passage you are studying and ask God for understanding in applying it to your life. Ask Him for help and guidance in acting upon what you learned. Praise Him for the promises He’s kept. Praise Him for who He is as revealed in that Scripture passage. We’d also recommend writing down prayers so that you can see how God has answered them in the future. Writing them down also helps us to focus on what we are praying.
As far as prayer in corporate (or group) Bible study, I (Mary Margaret) lead a Community Group of young adult women, and prayer is a big part of what we do. We try to change up how we pray most weeks so that it doesn’t become routine, but so that we are engaging in prayer for one another and others in our lives. Sometimes we have everyone write their requests down and pair up with a partner to pray over the things that they’ve written. Other times, we ask them to specifically share requests for themselves and not other people. It’s easy to focus on praying for others in a group, and not share things that are going on in your own life. Prayer is a vital part of our spiritual lives, and is something that is crucial to Bible study groups as well. You can always change up when you spend time in prayer during Bible study—it keeps everyone on their toes! Don’t be afraid to stop and pray in the moment if a group member shares an immediate need. You have the opportunity in the moment to model what it’s like to immediately lay something at Jesus’s feet. As as leader, it also gives you the chance to move forward and focus back on your study if it’s time to move on.
Sometimes it helps to write down when you plan to pray in your group session. Or appoint someone in your Bible study to be the person to remind you to pray. She can also be the one to write down prayer requests and distribute them to the group later via an email or text message as a reminder to pray throughout the week.
We hope these questions and answers were helpful to so many of you! If you have an answer or a tip that we didn’t mention, please share in the comments. We’re all learning together and we’d love to know how you incorporate prayer in your Bible study or what version of the Bible you love using! If you have a question for a future Reference Desk, you can submit it here.