Study the Word like Billy Graham

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Pastor and Desiring God founder John Piper noted the late evangelist Billy Graham’s incredible habit of Bible study (taken from John Pollock’s biography, Billy Graham):

Beyond all else Billy Graham studies the Bible, the supreme authority for his belief and action. Every day he reads five Psalms, covering the psalter in a month, and one chapter of Proverbs, the book that “shows us how to relate our own lives to our fellow men.” He reads through a Gospel each week, using commentaries and modern translations, and constantly returns to the Acts of the Apostles. He annotates throughout the Bible. “Sometimes His word makes such an impact on me that I have to put the Bible down and walk around for a few moments to catch my breath.” (Pollock, 248)

This is pretty incredible to consider, but not surprising given Graham’s lasting influence. Of course, God is not calling us to be the next Billy Graham. But let’s take Graham’s own description of how he studied the Bible and see if we can’t find some good advice and encouragement for our own study in the Word.


1. Read five Psalms each day

Making the Psalms a consistent part of our time studying the Bible is enriching and important. The Psalms are meant to be sung and prayed, but so often we just read through them on our own for words of encouragement. Like Billy Graham, we ought to be intentional about spending time in this vital part of Scripture.


2. Read one chapter of Proverbs each day

Seeking wisdom and guidance? Billy Graham knew the wisdom contained within Proverbs, and sought to study it each day. There are 31 Proverbs, making it a perfect book to digest one chapter at a time, one day at a time.

Many people are able to make this a habit by reading the Proverb of the day at one of their meal times – usually breakfast or lunch. It helps to tie this extra reading time into a habit you’re already doing on a daily basis. Reading out loud is also a great way to help you not only read the Word, but hear the Word – taking it in two ways helps you remember and recall it more easily.


3. Read the Gospels regularly

Don’t worry — just because Billy Graham read a gospel each week doesn’t mean you need to do the same! But, Graham rightfully recognised the importance of the gospels in the Bible. According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, when asked where one should begin reading the Bible, he said this: “Instead of starting at the beginning (as we do with other books), I suggest you start at the centre—that is, with one of the Gospels that tell us about Jesus Christ (I often suggest John). He is the Bible’s centre, the Old Testament points forward to Him, and the New Testament tells us about Him. You can discover other parts of the Bible later.

Ask God to help you as you read—not only to understand what is happening in a particular passage, but what it means for your life today. May Job’s attitude become yours: “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12).


4. Study the Bible with commentaries and modern translations

Not only is it good to read (and reread) each book of the Bible, but after some time studying and grappling with the text yourself, it’s a great idea to grab a commentary to help you understand the context – both historical and literary contexts – as well as the original language (Greek or Hebrew) that the text was written in. Using commentaries can unlock your comprehension and give you a fresh excitement for God’s Word.

Modern translations are also a great way to bring some variety and new insight to your daily Bible study. After reading a book of the Bible in one version, why not try a paraphrase like the Message or the Voice, or a modern translation like the CSB?


5. Constantly return to the Acts of the Apostles

The book of Acts is all about how a small band of Christ-followers went out and began to fulfil Jesus’ command to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. It’s no wonder Graham, who preached the gospel on six continents, loved this book of the Bible.

If you feel like you don’t have a love for telling others the good news of Christ, perhaps a trip into the book of Acts will inspire you to share the best news there ever was with those God has put in your path.


6. Annotate throughout the Bible

A passive reader simply reads the words on the page. An active reader makes notes, draws conclusions, asks questions of the text, and seeks answers. This might feel like English class all over again, but don’t let that intimidate you – annotating is a simple but incredibly effective way of not merely reading Scripture but comprehending and absorbing its meaning.

When we take time to make notes as we read, we’re engaging our mind in a way that we don’t when we simply let our eyes glance over a text. The Bible can be complicated and confusing – but it’s also written clearly. We simply need to be careful observers of the text.


7. Let the Word impact you – meditate on the truths you read throughout the day

Sometimes Graham would be so overcome with what he was reading that he would “have to put the Bible down and walk around for a few moments to catch my breath.” (Pollock, 248)

Don’t just read and forget the Word. Meditate on it. Commit Scripture to memory. Actively work to think about what you read this morning in your quiet time. Let the full force of what you’re reading hit you – the Word of God, straight to you!

We might not all be called to be a preacher and teacher of the Word like Graham, but we can learn so much from his study habits and love of Scripture. Graham knew God’s Word, but he didn’t stop at head knowledge. His love of the Word drove him to love the greater thing – God himself.

We cannot love what we do not know. Grow your love of God by growing in the daily discipline of studying the Word.

* Article was shortened

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