Applying S.O.A.P. to God’s Word


For some (myself included) studying the Bible can seem like a daunting task. There is so much to think about: context, theology, relevance for the original audience, relevance for us today, etc… It can be quite intimidating to think that we can not only read God’s word, but understand it and apply it to our lives.

Of course there are thousands of great resources out there to help us along our journey. But, again the intimidation factor weighs in. …and sometimes the time factor does too. For however much we love spending time with our Lord, we humans have a knack for over scheduling our days. This may not leave us a ton of time to dig deep into theological works or studies (And just so you know, I’m talking to myself here too.)

On the other hand perhaps it is not the depth of study or time that concerns you, it is the fact that you have gotten into a rut of sorts. Perhaps you’re in a season where study of the Word is more like a task on your check list of things to do. A time where the still small voice of the Holy Spirit seems more still than speaking… I’ve been there too.

The point is: whenever we seem a little lost when it comes to God’s word there might just be a few simple adjustments we can make.

The first suggestion is an easy one: find an online Study group. There are a bunch out there. I’ve been a part of several over the years and find them to be an awesome resource and encouragement. There is also a wealth of books on the market that vary in depth as well as subject. I don’t think I need to go into more detail on these as it is pretty easy to understand how they work.

For those of you who wish to study God’s word as he leads you, independent of a study guide. Yet not really knowing where to start or how to go about it; I can suggest a few things you may find helpful.

Pray. Pray that God would lead you in some area of study. If you are really bold, pray God would reveal something that he would like you to work on or an area in your life that needs adjustment. But, be warned – He will answer.

Another option is to just start at the beginning.  I currently am doing this. I love neat packaged studies as much as the next gal. But, right now I have this hunger to feast on Gods word. All of it. I want to know what the whole of Gods word says. I’ll be honest; for though I have read a lot of it, I haven’t read all of it. Especially the Old Testament. I mean it has Leviticus, and Numbers falls right after that! Sorry, those books have just always been a bit intimidating to me. See? The struggle is real.

But, what if you are not used to consuming great amounts of God’s word? It can be daunting can’t it? It can be hard to focus. Believe me I know. We as a culture are rewarded for our ability to multi-task. It is considered a great achievement. So, it does take some reprogramming of the mind and heart to simplify in this area. But, don’t we hunger for that? For a life that is simpler? Less chaotic? less noisy? I know I do. And the one place that I find this solace is in God’s word.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking,
correcting and training in righteousness,
2 Timothy 3:16

Without daily immersion in God’s word I believe we easily open ourselves to walking with a fractured connection to him.

So tip #1 Plan to read God’s word and put on the same level of importance as you do eating or brushing your teeth. It really needs to be high on the list of important things we do daily.

But, how do we study it? What if we have a hard time understanding it? What if you don’t have commentaries or a great library of resources at your fingertips?

Let’s talk about those resources for a minute. While commentaries are wonderful and someday I dream of having a whole library of amazing resources. You really can start without them and still learn and glean so much. Most of the time I use the same Study Bible I got as a high school graduation gift. Add a notebook and pen and I’m ready to get started.

I learned a couple of helpful acronyms a few years ago that help me with Bible Study. One is S.O.A.P. and the other is T.A.N. Used together these little prompts can enrich your study time and help with the focus and navigation of God’s word.

First S.O.A.P. This acronym stands for S-Scripture, O-Observation, A-Application and P-Prayer.

S-Scripture: The way this works, is first you read whatever passage of Scripture God has led you to. In this method you can choose short passages or whole chapters or books, it’s up to you. Just read. However, when a verse or passage speaks to you that is where you’ll stop. And by “speaks to you” I mean: sparks your interest, makes you curious, inspires, brings a question to mind, etc… These are the ways I believe God begins to speak with us through his word.

Next re-read that verse or passage and copy it down. This is important. I think there is something that happens when we write Gods word. I almost always see something I didn’t before.

O-Observation: As you are writing and reading the passage that you have written, this is where you begin to observe what God is saying. This is also where that other acronym T.A.N. comes into play. T.A.N. stands for: T – Then, A-Always, N-Now.

Now, I’m just going to go out on a limb and say something. I personally think one of the worst questions you can ask when reading Gods word is: “What does this mean to me?”
Honestly, I don’t really think it matters what the Bible “means to me.” What matters is, what is God really saying? So, using the T.A.N. acronym will help us in our observation of God’s word. So, here is where we ask: Who was this scripture for THEN? Who was the intended audience? If you have a Study Bible, the notes should be able to give you some sort of clue as to who this passage of scripture was originally intended for. Next, consider the ALWAYS. What is this passage of scriptures timeless message? And then Consider the NOW: how does this passage relate to our world today?
What you glean can be as short as a phrase or God may lead you into some deep observation, but it is important to write it down.

After we have spent some time in observation of a passage or verse, we can move onto the A-Application: This is where we glean from our observation of what God is saying through his word and apply it to our lives.  It might be simple and short or deep and thoughtful. This is where we record God’s movement in our heart. Try to write it down, especially if you are feeling the call to make some changes. Writing will help you with your accountability to let God work in your life.

Finally, P-Pray: Pray God’s word back to him. Pray about what you have been learning. Pray that God will show you more. Pray as God leads you. This is the only area that I say it is up to you to write it down. I sometimes find writing my prayers helpful, but sometimes I have so much to say or confess that I could fill volumes, so I don’t write everything I pray. Also, don’t forget to listen. Speak to God certainly, but at some point during your prayer time take a moment to be still. Let Him have a word edgewise. Let His peace fill your heart. Let Him guide you along the path.

Well, I hope you find these idea’s helpful. Most importantly know that it really doesn’t matter the method you use to study God’s word. What is important is that you pursue the study of it. God wants you to grow and mature in Him, we cannot do that if we are not feeding our souls on a regular bases.

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

John 6:32-35



More on the S.O.A.P method of Bible Study:

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