I was with a married couple in my counseling office. Near the end of the session, we discussed the spiritual aspect of their relationship.
“We don’t feel close to God,” the husband said. “We can’t figure out His will for our lives and relationship. We’re just not experiencing His power in our marriage.”
“How often do you read the Bible?” I asked them.
The man said, “To be honest, I read the Bible about twice a week.”
“And I usually read it five times a week,” the wife said.
“No, I mean, how often do you read the Bible together?” I asked.
They looked at each other and back at me. Finally, the wife replied, “Well, actually, we don’t read the Bible together.”
Why read the Bible together?
Without giving them a hard time, I tried to persuade them that reading the Word of God as a couple would invigorate the spiritual part of their relationship. I admitted that my wife, Sandy, and I didn’t read the Bible together for years after we were married. At the time, we didn’t realize that we were choosing to leave a huge power source untapped. I told this couple about the Bible reading program that Sandy and I had developed, and they decided to try it. Over the course of two months, this couple who had never read God’s Word together started to do so. They discussed the passages they read, and they helped each other apply the biblical principles for living found in the Scriptures. Simply put, they allowed the Bible’s power to transform their marriage.
Bible reading draws you together
After just two months, they were much closer to God and to each other. They had found the power to communicate, to resolve conflict and to love each other more deeply.
Reading the Bible with your spouse will bring you closer than you’ve ever been as a couple. Most people don’t think of the Bible as a direct avenue to intimacy, but it can be … if the two of you regularly read and study it together.
Bible reading builds intimacy
Consider Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” When you read and study the Bible on your own, what happens? God speaks to you. He reveals deep, meaningful things about you. God tells you what He wants you to do in your life and in your relationships.
When you read the Bible together, your spouse learns all these intimate and personal things about you, too. When two hearts and minds are revealed, the result is intimacy.
How to read the Bible together
Here are a few tips to help you and your spouse get started reading Scripture as a couple:
You need a good study Bible.
Select one with helpful notes that give the historical context, explain the meaning of key verses and list other verses on the same topic. You both need to use the same version. Don’t confuse yourselves with different translations.
Reading one passage at a time works best.
Concentrate on the passage, linger and try to discern what God is teaching. Embrace the moment as you would time with a good friend or trusted mentor. Let the meaning of the passage thoroughly sink in. Let it get to your brain and then continue to your heart and your will.
Many sources will provide inspiration.
There are a variety of ways to choose Bible passages to read, study and meditate on. Your individual Bible study times can call your attention to verses that you might want to look at further with your spouse. Your pastor’s sermons are a gold mine of verses to consider. Small-group Bible studies are another rich source of discussion material. Radio and television teachers can also provide verses for your joint study.
Spend a large part of your study time reading a book of the Bible from beginning to end.
Read the book in small chunks, a few verses at a time, and don’t skip to your favorite sections. This approach provides continuity, and you’ll get a good, solid picture of the book’s overall message and purpose. Plus, you won’t have to worry about which passage to read next because you’ll just pick up where you left off.
If you’re new to Bible reading and studying as a couple, there are certain books of the Bible I suggest you start with. Proverbs is a great book for couples. Other intensely practical books that are concise and easy to read include Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. I also urge you to read the Gospels together.
An easy, four-step plan
The simple, straightforward system that Sandy and I have developed for reading and studying the Bible requires minimal time, and it takes into account our male-female differences. It works for us, and I think it will work for you if you follow four simple steps over a two-week period.
Step No. 1: Read the Bible together.
Early in the week — on a Sunday or Monday evening — one spouse reads aloud the passage of Scripture that the two of you have selected. You then take a minute or two to silently meditate on the passage. Ask God to speak to you through His Word.
Then each of you briefly shares your response to the passage. First, what does the passage mean? Second, what is God saying to you? Third, what thoughts and emotions does the passage trigger? It’s common for the wife to have an immediate reaction and for the husband to not have much to say. He hasn’t processed yet, which is OK. (He has until Friday.) Wives, don’t press him for a response right away. Let him mull it over and explore what the verses mean to him. The truth is, you both need time to get the deeper meaning of the passage.
At the end of this meeting, you do three things: Schedule the next meeting for Friday or Saturday evening; hold hands and pray that God will speak to each of you through the passage over the next five or six days; and record the passage on an index card or in your phone.
Step No. 2: Meditate on the Bible reading.
During the next five or six days, both of you should carry the passage with you wherever you go. Read the verses and meditate on them at least once a day. This could be part of your daily personal devotional time. Ask God to show you what the passage means and how He wants you to apply it. Record — on your card or in your phone — what you believe God is saying to you through the verses.
Step No. 3: Discuss the Bible reading.
At the end of the week, meet again to share the results of your meditation and reflection. Read from your card or your phone what you recorded during the week. Talk about what the verses mean for your life, your marriage and your family. Tell each other what you’ll do to apply the passage in the coming week. Agree to record how you specifically apply what you learned and what happens when you do. Pray briefly that God will help you both follow through in your application of His Word.
Step No. 4: Apply what you learned.
The final step is to meet approximately one week later to share how God used the passage in your daily experiences. Each of you should read your comments about how you applied the passage. Describe what you learned. You may have to admit that you didn’t apply what you learned and talk about what hindered you from doing so. If either spouse wasn’t able to apply the verse, extend the process another week.
Even when you have practiced this four-step process for reading the Bible together and gained some proficiency at it, you may not implement it in every two-week period of the year. That may be too much to expect. But reading and applying a passage even once a month will be a tremendous accomplishment and will greatly bless your relationship.