Want to Walk with God? Learn to C.R.A.W.L.
C.R.A.W.L.– A Daily Bible Reading Plan
The ministry I work for focuses on evangelism and discipleship. Most of the students in our ministry either came to Christ through our ministry or were very young in their faith when they became involved. One of the first things we emphasize with a new Christian is the importance of personal Bible reading — every Christian should meditate on God’s word daily (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:1–2).
But I’ve found many of these new and young believers face several challenges in their Bible reading. First, they don’t know exactly where to start or what to do. Second, they feel tension between going super deep and reading broadly to cover lots of territory.
CRAWL is a plan for daily Bible reading which helps balance breadth and depth.
It’s best to know the context, or genre, of what you’re reading before you dive in. You don’t need a seminary education to understand and apply God’s word. But we approach paradoxes in Proverbs differently than the speeches of Job. We read Jesus’s parables differently than the book of Revelation.
Your daily Bible reading shouldn’t become so focused on in-depth academic study that you don’t have time to warm your heart with the heat of God’s goodness radiating from Scripture. But a general idea of the text will serve you as you approach it. A good study Bible can be a great help here.
For instance, in Psalm 1, the psalmist extends an offer to all who come that is foundational for to this book of Hebrew poems: walk in the way of the blessed man who loves God’s law and finds life, or walk in the way of the wicked man who scoffs at God and perishes. I begin to feel my heart perk with desire as I think, “I want God’s blessing! I want to find true and lasting life!” Before I’ve even begun to read, my appetite for God is already growing.
After a brief bit of context, dive into the word for yourself. Nothing is better than this. I find it best to focus on two or three chapters, depending on which book you are reading and how much time you have. Sometimes one verse or phrase is more than enough to consume your heart and mind. Don’t be afraid of reading slowly.
Psalm 1 is a short psalm, but I could easily spend thirty minutes just focused on the first few verses. I would probably slow down and read them three or four times. I prayerfully want to squeeze the meaning from the words and consider the implications for my life.
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)
If I drill down into the depth of verse 2 with my mind as I read, I’m not just reading about meditation; I’m actually meditating. Simply taking the time to read the Bible slowly and think about all its clauses and connections can truly change your life.
As you read, ask questions of the text. Don’t breeze past challenging sentences. Slow down. Pause. Wonder. Ask what it meant to the original audience. Why did the human author choose that word? Why did the Holy Spirit ordain that phrase to be repeated?
Ask the Holy Spirit to draw near to you as you draw near to Him through the word (James 4:8). Ask Him to convict you and enlighten you.
From Psalm 1:1, I would ask, “How am I being influenced by sinners? Holy Spirit, please convict me of any and all ways I’m influenced by sin.”
As I read Psalm 1:2, I might ask, “Is there any specific discipline I need to employ to find my joy more in the Bible and less in TV?”
If I made it to Psalm 1:3, I might ask questions like: “How is my life supposed to be like a tree planted by streams of water?” “What does it mean that I’ll prosper in all I do?”
The best way for me to slow down and interact with the text is to write. Jumbled thoughts often become clear through the end of a pen. I may begin to write as I ask the questions above, but now I move even further into meditation. I take each verse and prayerfully meditate on the meaning. When I read something beautiful, I stop and savor it. When I read something convicting, I stop and repent. I write the verse in my own words, turning it into a personal prayer.
If I were reading Psalm 1:1, I might write, “Lord, I want you to bless me. I need your blessings! I am so weak. Left to myself, I will be overcome by the influence of sinful people.”
Somewhere in the writing, I usually begin to sense that I am meditating. David Mathis says we should chew on biblical truth “until we begin to feel some of its magnitude in our hearts” (Habits of Grace, 56). That’s a great goal and measuring stick of our daily time alone with God.
Learn and Listen
As we read slowly, we should be gleaning new knowledge — not mere academic knowledge, but true knowledge of God that may start with academic study. Truth enters our minds as a doorway to our hearts to stir our affections and capture our will for God’s glory.
I say, “Listen,” because Martin Luther taught sometimes in prayer and Bible study the Holy Spirit will “preach” to a believer. This does not mean the Holy Spirit will give any new revelation. Tim Keller comments, “Luther is talking about the eyes of our hearts being enlightened (Ephesians 1:18) so things we know with the mind become more fully rooted in our being’s core.” As we linger over a text through reading, meditating, asking questions, and writing, we will find the Holy Spirit works the words down deep into our hearts.
Often, life-giving insights come on fairly normal days of prayer and Bible study, where the Holy Spirit shows up in a unique way and preaches to me. The Spirit doesn’t give these insights every day, but we should be alert when He does. All the more reason to take our time CRAWLing through the Bible in the hope of meeting God in a fresh way. Pray earnestly that He will draw near daily!