You lean back in your favorite chair and sip your morning coffee. Your Bible is open on your lap, and you've just begun a new Bible study that you've been looking forward to for a while now. You say a quick prayer and then begin reading. Blissful.
But, not three seconds later your phone dings. It's a work email, and it's urgent. You respond quickly then get back to reading when you suddenly remember you need to order groceries for dinner tonight. That should only take a moment then you can get back to God's Word. Once the groceries are ordered, you set your phone aside, determined to not look at it again until your time in the Bible is complete. Suddenly, you hear feet scuffling behind you a small voice asks "Mom, what's for breakfast?" You sigh, close your Bible, and reluctantly get up from your chair. Your quiet time wasn't nearly as quiet as you hoped, and now it's time to start the day.
Does this sound familiar? Your distractions may not be the exact ones listed above, but it's likely you've struggled to stay focused during your Bible study. The struggle of having your attention drawn away from the task at hand is not exclusive to Bible study. One Harvard study found that almost 47% of the time, people are thinking about something other than the present moment. That means that, on average, we are only focused on the task at hand about half of the time. There are many implications for this lack of concentration. Still, when it comes to studying the Bible, the biggest implication is that we will miss the wonders of God's Word because we are unable to focus long enough to discover them.
Psalm 119 tells us that the Word of God is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (verse 105). It tells us that those who know and walk in the ways of God are happy (verse 1) and that God gives life through His Word (verse 25). God's Word brings understanding, wisdom, and comfort. It reveals who God is and preaches the gospel's good news to us. Therefore, it is well worth the effort to learn to engage with the Bible in a more focused way.
Here are four practical tips to combat distraction in Bible study:
- Create a quiet time basket.
A quiet time basket is a basket with all of the books, resources, and supplies in it that you need to have a focused quiet time. The contents of the basket will differ from person to person, but you might consider including:
- A Bible or study Bible
- A journal
- Pen and/or highlighters
- A book or Bible study
- Commentaries or reference books like The Theology Handbook
A quiet time basket doesn't need to be fancy or extensive. It is simply a tool to help you grab everything you need for your Bible study time quickly and easily.
- Silence your phone.
The constant notifications on our phones feel almost impossible to resist. We often think that checking that one text will only take a moment, but the chances are that once our phone is in our hands, it will stay in our hands, consuming our attention. If you are using a quiet time basket, you could try taking your study materials out and setting them in front of you and then placing your phone in the basket and setting it aside for your quiet time.
Scientists have learned that one of the most effective ways to increase focus is to practice concentrating on one thing for 10–20 minutes. Attention span is like a muscle that must be exercised to increase strength and duration. Silencing your phone and setting it aside reduces your distractions greatly and helps you build your endurance to stay engaged with the task at hand.
- Listen to music or the audio Bible.
Sometimes our minds need a little extra help to stay focused. When we listen to music, an audio Bible, or read the Bible aloud, it helps to keep us focused on what we are reading. We can both see and hear what we are concentrating on, and this double sensory exposure helps keep our thoughts on track.
I love to listen to soothing instrumental music while I read or journal. I have also found that listening to longer sections of Scripture from an audio Bible greatly increases my understanding and retention of the passage.
- Start with a brain dump.
The biggest barrier to a focused time of Bible study is usually the tasks, worries, and frustrations that rise to the surface of our minds when we quiet ourselves. If you find that your to-do list is creeping into your study time, it may be helpful to begin by making a list on a sheet of paper of everything you want to take care of when you finish your study time.
If the cares and worries of life often pop up and overtake your thoughts, then begin by praying over your fears and frustrations. This may help you focus on other things knowing these cares are safe in the hands of God. A prayer journal such as the In Everything Journal can be a helpful tool for praying through the things on your heart and in your mind.
Distraction is a normal part of being a human, and being distracted isn't something to be ashamed about. However, if we want to get the most out of our time spent in God's Word, we can take simple steps to be more focused.
Do you have tips for staying focused while studying the Bible? Share with us in the comments!