These 10 ways to study the words of God, his scriptures, have personally changed my life. As you apply them you will more fully come to understand and love the word of God.
1. Dedicate Time to the Word of God
"Time is always precious to busy people, and we are robbed of its worth when hours are wasted in reading or viewing that which is frivolous and of little value.... Those who delve into the scriptural library, however, find that to understand requires more than casual reading or perusal—there must be concentrated study.... Not only should we study each day, but there should be a regular time set aside when we can concentrate without interference" ("Reading the Scriptures," Ensign, Nov 1979, 64).Time devoted to the word of God is time devoted to God.
2. Pray to Understand the Word of GodThe Lord wants to help us as we study His words, all we have to do is turn to him and ask in prayer.
"O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him" (Mormon 9:27).Prayer and the word of God go hand in hand, they are both necessary to come unto Christ. Prayer is how we communicate with our Father, and reading His written words is often how He communicates with us. What a magnificent blessing that we can communicate with God, our beloved Father!
3. Put Forth Real EffortComing to understand the word of God takes effort. President Hunter also said:
"Developing spirituality and attuning ourselves to the highest influences of godliness is not an easy matter. It takes time and frequently involves a struggle. It will not happen by chance, but is accomplished only through deliberate effort and by calling upon God and keeping his commandments" ("Developing Spirituality," Ensign, May 1979, 24).An easy way to know if you are giving sincere effort to your study of God's word is to ask yourself, "Am I putting forth real effort to study the word of God?" If not, following these tips and learning other scripture study techniques can help you in achieving your goals to come unto Christ.
4. Have a PurposeWhen you begin to study the word of God select a purpose or topic to study. What do you want/need to learn? What are you struggling with? What gospel principle could you improve upon? Pray for help in selecting a purpose and the Lord will guide you. You can use the scripture's study helps, like the topical guide, to aid you in your search for direction.
While studying the word of God if you come across a word, phrase, or concept that you'd like to understand more fully, but aren't ready to pursue at that time, write it down. Use the back of your spiritual journal (see next tip) to note future topics you wish to study. On a day that you're not sure what your purpose of study should be you can browse through your list of possible topics.
5. Use a Spiritual JournalKeeping a spiritual journal is a priceless tool to help you focus as you search the word of God. All you need is a little notebook and a pencil or pen to get you started. I like to write the date and that day's purpose (see previous tip) and then jot down any scriptures, thoughts, impressions, or questions I have as I study. Writing down all or part of a verse of scripture can help you to more fully ponder its meaning and how you can apply it in your life (see tip 9). Keeping a spiritual journal truly helps one feast upon the word of God:
"Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do" (2 Nephi 32:3)Your ability to understand the word of God will steadily increase as you do so.
6. Invite the Spirit with Good MusicListening to hymns or other beautiful music (that is not distracting) will more easily bring the spirit into your efforts to learn the word of God. You can even start your study by singing a hymn or two. As you do, focus on the words that you sing: what are they saying; how do you feel about them; do you believe the words? The preface of the Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says:
"Hymns can lift our spirits, give us courage, and move us to righteous action. They can fill our souls with heavenly thoughts and bring us a spirit of peace."Inviting the spirit to be with us as we read the word of God is vitally important because "by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things" (Moroni 10:5).
7. Humble Yourself Before the LordOne of the biggest obstacles to diligently learning the word of God is our pride:
"And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened" (Mosiah 26:3).Our natural man (fallen self) doesn't want to work and put forth effort- we want life to be easy. But to be able to understand the word of God we must humble ourselves before the Lord. God's will for us is to obey His commandments and to seek his word and one of the many ways we can become humble is by fasting. We can also fast for help with our efforts to search the word of God and for guidance in understanding his doctrines.
8. Line Upon Line, Precept Upon PreceptHow we learn the word of God is by one step at a time. In the Bible Isaiah says:
"But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept... line upon line... here a little, and there a little..." (Isaiah 28:13).The word precept means, "a commandment or direction given as a rule of action or conduct" (dictionary.com). Not only do we learn a step at a time, but we must faithfully live each precept, or commandment, of God. If we haven't kept his basic commandments we won't be ready or able to keep His more advanced ones. This means having patience with oneself but also knowing that we must do our part if we expect to understand the word of God.
9. Personally Apply the Word of GodWhile studying the word of God ponder how it applies to your life. Elder D. Todd Christofferson said:
"You should care more about the amount of time you spend in the scriptures than about the amount you read in that time. I see you sometimes reading a few verses, stopping to ponder them, carefully reading the verses again, and as you think about what they mean, praying for understanding, asking questions in your mind, waiting for spiritual impressions, and writing down the impressions and insights that come so you can remember and learn more" ("When Thou Art Converted," Ensign, May 2004, 11)Your ability to understand the word of God will greatly increase as you personally apply the word of God to your life.
10. Be Diligent and Don't Give UpFinally, as you daily study the word of God don't give up- be diligent! We must persistently seek the Lord. To come unto Him we must study His words:
"Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (D&C 88:63).Jesus Christ will save us from the bondage of sin as we keep His commandments:
"But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage" (D&C 7:33).The word of God is a priceless gift that we either accept or reject.
Poll: How often do you study the word of God?