Does Your Mind Wander When You Read the Bible?
Whenever I ask this question at a Falling In Love with God’s Word Workshop, it is always followed by heavy sighs and rolling eyes. I have met very few people who don’t struggle with this. Personally, I have struggled with this for as long as I can remember!
Have you ever sat down to read the Bible, gotten only a few paragraphs in, and your mind is off somewhere else? Occasionally, I’ll even turn the page and have no idea why. (Uh, my eyes were at the bottom of the page. Where was I going to go? The margin?!) It’s so frustrating!
However, almost 15 years ago, I made one little change that has helped me immensely:
I started reading out loud.
In the beginning, I must admit it felt a little weird. Sort of like I should be reading Curious George© and there should be a 5-year-old on my lap. Reading the Bible, out loud all alone didn’t feel natural at first. But it kept my mind focused, so the benefits of reading out loud were immediate and lasting.
You will hear the different “tones” of Scripture.
Before I started reading out loud, almost all parts of the Bible sounded the same in my head. Sadly, the “voice” that silently read my Bible could most accurately be named Mr. Monotone. Even though I knew that there were battles, singing, crowds, silence, sorrow, and triumph written into the pages of God’s Word, it wasn’t until I started reading out loud that I actually heard it all.
You will see the people as real people…not characters in a story.
Even though we believe that the stories in the Bible are true, isn’t it easy to see the people as characters in a novel?
When you read out loud – even giving the people different voices – you will see them as real people. As you hear their voices, you will naturally start to see them. You will envision the scene. You will be more present in the story yourself, and you will stay engaged.
You will remember more. Way more.
This one simply aligns with how our brains naturally function. We will remember a little bit of what we only read. We will retain a bit more of what we only hear. However, study after study has shown that when we combine seeing and hearing, our retention goes up at least 100% and even as much as 650%* compared to when we only see (read).
This is true even if what we hear is our own voice. When we read out loud, we remember. When we remember, we have more conversations with God about His Word throughout the day. And when the reading of God’s Word becomes increasingly relational, focusing becomes easier and easier each time we sit down to read.
Of course, reading out loud doesn’t guarantee that you will focus. You can read out loud and still do so with a monotone voice. That said, it has become so invaluable for helping me focus, that the only time I don’t read out loud is if I am in a situation where I would be bothering someone. (On a plane, sitting in a coffee shop, etc.)
Here is my challenge: For one week, try reading the Bible out loud, every day, as if you were reading a children’s book to a 5-year-old. Read with passion. Read with emotion. Give the people different voices.
Then let me know (by writing a comment here or emailing me at keith(at)keithferrin(dot)com) what your experience was like.
Did you focus more easily? Did you enjoy it more? Did you understand it better? I can’t wait to hear about your experience!
*One such study was called the Weiss-McGrath Report from the mid-90’s.
Read an earlier post by Keith here
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