You sit down with your coffee, highlighters and Bible. You picked the time and place. But five minutes after you open those Bible pages, you’re on the phone. Or hopping up to grab one more thing. Or texting a friend. Soon, 20 minutes have gone by and you’ve read only one verse!
It’s a perennial problem. Our study of God’s Word will always be a target by the Enemy because he knows how much the Word transforms us; how God uses it to teach us truth. The Enemy is smart, though, and he rarely uses bold moves to seduce us away from study. He uses distraction.
Sometimes it’s not even the Enemy but our own heart that draws us away. We want to look at one last Instagram post (or post our own) and we keep putting off Bible study because it can be difficult or boring. But if we want to grow, we need to overcome hard things, and if we want to deepen our walk with God, we have to beat distraction. Here’s how to do it.
Put away the chief offender
Your phone is the enemy of a good Bible study time. I highly recommend putting it in another room, turned OFF, while you do your devotions. I am a Bible teacher, and even I get caught up in the temptation of my phone. I have to put it away in order to focus!
If you keep your Bible reading plan on your phone, look at the plan, then put your phone away. If you use references on your phone for study, wait until after you have read in your Bible and taken notes before looking at the references (this is a good practice anyway).
Keep your phone away from your study space. Don’t assume you’re strong enough to resist distraction!
Find a quiet, secluded place
Jesus said, regarding prayer: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. Truly I tell you, they already have their reward. But when you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6)
Jesus exemplified this in his own ministry by frequently going to quiet places to pray. We need quiet to focus, and while it’s not always possible, you can find it by getting up earlier or staying up later.
This is vital! Reading the Bible alone is not study. Think about other contexts for study: high school, college and your career. You have to study to do well in these areas. The same goes for Bible study! It’s not just reading—it’s also writing down what you see, learn and hear through the Word.
Taking notes also boosts retention and will help you remember what you’ve read.
Use print books for reference
Instead of using your phone for reference, collect (or borrow from your church) commentaries, concordances and Bible dictionaries over time. I do this, and it’s much easier to focus when I’m not hopping around apps trying NOT to open Instagram.
Ask questions and dig deeper
Last, but certainly not least, ask questions as you study. When your mind is engaged, you’re much less likely to get distracted. This will help you stay concentrated on the text, which will in turn help you understand it better. Think about who wrote the passage, when it was written and to whom it was directed. Ask, “Who is God in this text?” before asking, “How does this apply today?”
What is your best tip for avoiding distractions? Share with the rest of us!