When I (Robby) was a new believer, I used the OPRA technique for reading the Bible: I randomly opened the Bible, pointed to a passage, read the verse, and tried to figure out a way to apply it to my life. Thankfully, I didn’t land on the Scripture that says, “He [Judas Iscariot] went and hanged himself” (Matt 27:5). Reading random Scriptures won’t provide solid biblical growth any more than eating random foods from your pantry will provide solid physical growth. An effective reading plan is required.
My wife, Kandi, and I, along with the help of Tim LaFleur and Gus Hernandez, have developed a reading plan called the Foundations 260 Old Testament. The F-260 OT is a 260-day reading plan that covers one chapter a day. In addition, the plan suggests an additional chapter to read if you choose. After using the original Foundations reading plan, we wanted to create an alternative plan that would help provide variety and be more easily digested by new believers.
The plan expects believers to read one chapter a day for five days each week, with an allowance for weekends off. The two off days a week are built in so that you can catch up on days when you’re unable to read. With a traditional reading plan of four to five chapters a day, unread chapters can begin to pile up, forcing you to skip entire sections to get back on schedule. It reduces Bible reading to a system of box checking instead of a time to hear from God. The required reading also makes it difficult to sit and reflect on what you’ve read for that day.
The F-260 OT encourages believers to digest more of the Word by reading less and by keeping a HEAR journal.
The HEAR journaling method promotes reading the Bible with a life-transforming purpose. No longer will you focus on checking off the boxes on your daily reading schedule; instead, your purpose will be to understand and respond to God’s Word.
The acronym HEAR stands for:
Each of these four steps helps create an atmosphere to hear God speak. After establishing a place and a time to study God’s Word each day, you’ll be ready to hear from God.
For an illustration let’s assume that you begin your quiet time in the Book of 2 Timothy and that today’s reading is Chapter 1 of the book. Before reading the text, pause to sincerely ask God to speak to you. It may seem trite, but it’s absolutely imperative that we seek God’s guidance in order to understand His Word (see 1 Cor. 2:12-14). Every time we open our Bibles, we should pray the simple prayer that David prayed:
"Open my eyes so that I may contemplate wondrous things from your instruction [Word]" (Ps. 119:18).
After praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, you’ll be ready to record your notes. At the end of each day’s entry, we have provided a place for you to write your HEAR journal. This exercise will remind you to read with a purpose. In the course of your reading, one or two verses will usually stand out and speak to you. After reading the passage of Scripture, highlight each verse that speaks to you by copying it under the letter H. Record the following.
- The name of the book
- The passage of Scripture
- The chapter and verse numbers that especially speak to you
- A title to describe the passage
This practice will make it easier to find the passage when you want to revisit it in the future.
After you’ve highlighted the passage, you’ll move to the letter E. At this stage you’ll explain what the text means. By asking some simple questions, with the help of God’s Spirit, you can understand the meaning of a passage or verse. Here are a few questions to get you started.
- Why was this text written?
- To whom was it originally written?
- How does this text fit with the verses before and after it?
- Why did the Holy Spirit include this passage in the book?
- What does the Holy Spirit intend to communicate through this text?
At this point you’re beginning the process of discovering the specific, personal word God has for you from His Word. What’s important is that you’re engaging with the text and wrestling with its meaning.
After writing a short summary of what you think the text means, you’re ready to move on to the letter A which examines what it means to apply the text. This application is the heart of the process. Everything you’ve done so far culminates under this heading. As you’ve done before, answer a series of questions to uncover the significance of these verses to you personally, questions like:
- What does this text teach me about God?
- What does this passage mean today?
- What would the application of this passage look like in my life?
- Does the text identify an action or attitude to avoid or embrace?
- What is God saying to me?
These questions bridge the gap between the ancient world and your world today. They provide a way for God to speak to you from the specific passage or verse. Answer these questions under the A. Challenge yourself to write between two and five sentences about how the text applies to your life.
Finally, below the first three entries, you’ll see the letter R for respond. Your response to the passage may take on many forms. You may write a call to action. You may describe how you’ll be different because of what God has said to you through His Word. You may indicate what you’re going to do because of what you’ve learned. You may respond by writing a prayer to God. For example, you may ask God to help you be more loving or to give you a desire to give more generously. Keep in mind that this is your response to what you’ve just read.
Notice that all of the words in the HEAR formula are action words: highlight, explain, apply, and respond. God doesn’t want us to sit back and wait for Him to drop truth into our laps. Instead of waiting passively, God wants us to actively pursue Him. Jesus said:
"Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you" (Matt. 7:7).
After you master five verses, begin studying five more. Review all of the verses you’ve learned at least once a week. As your pack grows, you’ll be encouraged to keep memorizing Scripture, and you’ll experience its powerful effects in your life.
Excerpted from Foundations: Old Testament Bible study by Robby and Kandi Gallaty. © 2021 Replicate Ministries. Published by Lifeway Press®.