10 Ways to Study and Pray With The Bible

10 Ways to Study and Pray With The Bible

AUG. 27, 2010 ( - I am commonly asked how a Catholic might start reading or praying with Sacred Scripture. Therefore, I decided to introduce you to a range of different ways to read, study, and pray with the Bible. I hope you find it helpful.

These ten methods are not the only ways to study and pray with Scripture, but merely some of the most popular ways.


1 - Read and pray with the Lectionary.
Many Catholics, including my family, like to read the Scriptures they will hear in the Liturgy of The Word before and/or after they attend Mass. Some subscribe to periodicals that make it easier for them to have the readings and may also include mediations on the readings. These include, The Magnificat, The Word Among Us, and Living Faith.

2 - Big Picture Study
There are some very nice resources that will help you get the "big picture" of the story of salvation. One of the best resources, though it is very expensive, is The Great Adventure series by Jeff Cavins. We do have this series here at St. Mary's, but do not keep it in the library, due to the expense of having to replace it if it isn't returned. Other resources include some nice courses from St. Paul's Center for Biblical Theology.

3 - In-Depth Study With Commentaries
There are many good commentaries that can help you study one book of The Bible at a time. Maybe you have an interest in the Psalms, Revelation, or Romans. While this can be a more expensive way to study the Bible, but you can find most of my recommendations below in St. Mary's Library. With this kind of study you can get in-depth study into language, cross-references, culture, etc. Some of my favorite series of in-depth studies include the Navarre Bible, The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (only New Testament has been released so far), and the Sacra Pagina series.

4 - Thematic Study
Thematic studies will focus on a certain theme (e.g. Men's Bible study, social justice Bible study, Bible study on patience, Marian Bible study) and bring together the different passages that focus on that issue. Many Catholic publishers have various kinds of thematic studies. We have a wide-variety in our library.

5 - Cover-to-Cover Study
I don't necessarily recommend this method of reading The Bible, especially for those that aren't very familiar with Sacred Scriptures. This is because many people get bogged down in some of the Old Testament books that have difficult passages or less interesting parts. There are a number of resources that can give you a 1, 2, or 3 year plan to read the entire Bible. One good one is from the Coming Home Network which give Catechism passages as well.

6 - Use The Four Senses and Three Criteria for Interpretation Given By The Church

These can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The four senses are:
1. Literal sense - is to understand what the human author intended to teach and what his audience understood. Does NOT mean “word-for-word” interpretation. We consider - language / culture / type of literature / human authors understanding of world, relationships, etc.

Three layers to the Spiritual sense:
2. Allegorical sense -Some call this Typology. The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, which looks toward the New and should be read in light of it.
3. Moral sense - Personal - we have to apply the text to our lives. Thus, what does this passage mean for my life? How should I live in light of this truth?
4. Anagogical sense - Also personal, but a more spiritual sense, not active – but contemplative. Points us to heaven.

The Three Criteria for Interpretation are (CCC 111-114):

1. Be especially attentive "to the content and unity of the whole Scripture."
2. Read the Scripture within "the living Tradition of the whole Church."
3. Be attentive to the analogy of faith. – See with eyes of faith


1 - Lectio Divina
Lectio Divina means "Divine (or holy) reading". There are several different methodologies to Lectio Divina, but the basics include reading the Scripture passage slowly several times, quiet meditation, response in prayer, and quiet reflection and rest in God's presence. More can be found here.

2 - Imagination / Understanding / Love
First, use your imagination to place yourself in the scene described in the passage you are reading. Then try to understand how this passage applies to you. Then move your heart to love God more.

3 - Pray / Read / Reflect / Resolve
Following this simple formula we start to try and conform our lives to Sacred Scripture. We start with a prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to inspire us. Next, there should be slow reading of the passage. We then spend a good time reflecting on the passage and finally we make a resolution to draw closer to God in whatever way we are drawn to.

4 - Praying / Singing The Psalms
The Psalms were once memorized by the Israelites as a devotion to Yahweh. We also can pray the Psalms by singing them or praying with them through recitation and meditation on them.