It’s been a while since I posted in the Digging into the Word series – but after posting on other topics a couple times, I’m back at it for the rest of March every Tuesday. So far, we’ve covered an introduction to this series on Bible study, some basics to be aware of, free online tools, and a series of application questions.
Today, I’ll be going over a basic approach to Bible study using the SOAP method. This method can be found all over the Internet, and I’m not sure who first created it. But I have used it for short portions of Scripture and found it easy to implement. The SOAP method stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. Let’s look at each of these parts in greater detail.
Determine what passage of Scripture you want to study. It could be as simple as one psalm, or as long as an entire book, doing just a portion each day. Read the passage. In fact, read it several times in several different versions. Use the online Bible resources if you don’t own hard copies of different versions. After reading the passage several times, choose one to three verses that are particularly meaningful to you and write them out long-hand (not typing!). The act of writing wires directly into your brain, making the verses easier to remember. There is something special about writing verses out by hand, so unless a physical handicap such as severe arthritis or a broken wrist prevents you, write the verses you choose out by hand. After writing out the verse or verses you’ve chosen, write a paraphrase. Rewriting the verse in your own words is an effective way to make sure you really understand what the verse is saying.
Observe closely the verses you wrote by re-reading them and the context a few more time. Record any observation you have about the passage. Questions to ask yourself during this observation time can include the following: (1) Who wrote this passage? (2) To whom is this passage written? (3) What is the message of these verses? What do the verses actually say? (4) What words or phrases stand out to me? (5) Do these verses remind me of any other verses or passages of Scripture? Write out all your observations, just as you wrote the verses. Don’t worry, I’ll provide you with a handy tool for all this writing at the end!
After observing what the passage is saying, now you must answer the question “What is the Holy Spirit saying to me through this passage?” How should your life change because of what you read in the Bible? Is there a promise to claim, a sin to confess, an example to follow, or a command to obey? Check out the SPACEPETS acronym for more questions to think through as you listen for the Holy Spirit’s quiet voice. Again, write down your application.
Prayer should be the bookends of your study. Begin by asking the Lord for His wisdom, understanding, and a heart to learn. End by turning your application into a prayer, praying the verses you’ve studied back to the Father, and thanking the Lord for speaking to you through His Word. You may want to also spend time praying through the helps in your Faith Journal. You don’t have to write out your prayers, but many people do.
Using Psalm 19 as our text, I’ll walk you through an example of what you might write as you go through the SOAP method.
Verse 14: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Verse 14 paraphrase: O LORD, You are my Rock and my Redeemer. Help me to always say and think things that will honor and please you.
The psalmist, David, wrote this as a hymn of praise to God. In verse 14, he is praying to the LORD, asking that he would always make choices with his mind, heart, and tongue that are pleasing to the LORD.
I know that if I think about the Word and speak about Jesus, my words and thoughts will be acceptable. But I cannot do that all day. So, I will need to be more conscious of what I am thinking, and what I am saying – not engaging in talk just to hear myself! Specifically, when gossiping starts at work, I will walk away or speak up – speaking up is preferable, but not always possible. Also, I will post verses in my cubicle so that I have uplifting and God-honoring thoughts to think of while I’m working.
Lord Jesus, help me to fill my mind with Your Word so that what comes out of my mouth will be God-pleasing words. Give me the courage to speak up for those being spoken against when gossiping starts at work.
The SOAP method is short and sweet, and easy to accomplish in a limited amount of time. But it is not shallow – you must spend time thinking about what you are reading and apply the Word to your life in order to get the most out of it. I hope you find it a blessing to your study time. And to help you implement it, here is a worksheet you can print and use.