Many Christians know they should read the Bible, but they get stuck on how. Here’s a method I’ve used for a couple of years that you might find helpful.
The HEAR method is an acronym which stands for Highlight, Explain, Apply, Respond. It was created by Robby Gallaty1, as a way to help readers slow down and make reading the Bible interactive.
How It Works
Highlight – In your journal, jot down the date, the passage(s) you’re reading, and put an “H” in the upper left margin. As you read the passage, slow down and notice what jumps out to you. Maybe it’s a phrase, a verse, or a few verses. You’re going to highlight it (underline, star, however you like to mark your Bible) and come back to it after you finish reading.
Now, in your journal, write out the verses you highlighted beside your “H.” What I like about this part is it forces you to slow down and think about what you’re reading/writing out as you see the words on the page. There’s a famous saying,”Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips.”
Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the the fingertips.Dawson Troutman 2
Explain – Next, skip a line below your “highlight” section, write an “E” in the left margin. In this section, you are trying to uncover “what did this mean for the original audience?” I like to think of it as “putting it in your own words.” Take note of the context, who is speaking, and what is being said. Try to find the main idea surrounding those verses. Then, write out a few lines explaining what your highlighted verses mean.
Some helpful questions for understanding the meaning of the text are:
- What do the paragraphs surrounding this section say?
- Why is this happening here?
- Who’s the author? Who’s the audience that it’s happening to?
- What is/are the main idea(s) or theme(s) in this book?
If you have a study Bible, check the notes to make sure you are understanding what you’re reading.
Apply – Make a next section underneath your “explain” section with an “A” in the left margin. The question we are answering here is “how does this apply to me? How will these truths change me?” In this section, we move from “what did this mean for the original audience”, to “what does this mean for me, today?”
Some questions you can ask are:
- What does this passage teach me about God?
- Is there a command to obey? Sin to avoid? Principle to practice?
- How would remembering this truth help me today?
- Does this change the way I think about something in my life?
- What would the application of this verse look like in my life?
Write out a few lines about what it could look like to apply this text to your life.
Respond – In your final section, you’ll put an “R” in the lefthand margin and write out a response to what you’ve read. Most Bible study methods will have some version of the first three steps, where you explain & apply a text. I like the HEAR method because it moves you to a response, which is either a prayer or an action. The “R” section is answering the question, “How will I respond to this truth?” I like to use this section to start my prayer time, asking for God’s help to live out what his Word says.
Why It Works
There are a few reasons why I think this method is strong, especially if you are newer to Bible study.
- It’s easy to use and remember. There are plenty of Bible study resources that take you deep into a text, but are hard to remember and consistently do. The strength of the HEAR method is it’s simplicity. Eliminating difficulty up front makes it easier to stick with a new habit.
- It forces you to slow down and think about what you are reading. We all know the feeling of reading a page or two of a book and not comprehending it. With the HEAR method, you are interacting with the text in a way that keeps your mind and heart engaged.
- It emphasizes prayer and responding to God. Prayer doesn’t come naturally for me, so, having a section built into my devotional time to reflect and respond to God is helpful. It’s only through God’s help that we can apply and live what we are reading anyway (John 15:5), so it’s appropriate to turn move from reading and applying to prayer.
- It gives you a real-time catalog of what you’re learning. My favorite part about this method is the journal, where I can look back and see what my time with God has been like over the past few weeks and months. Sometimes, I can see themes of what has stood out to me. I like to think of each day as individual bricks. If I can take one piece of God’s Word that stood out to me into my day, over time, those bricks will build up into a sturdy house.
If you are looking for a way to make Bible study more accessible and memorable, try out the HEAR method. To see an example of a HEAR journal entry, click here. You can also check out Replicate Ministries to see more resources created by Robby Gallaty.
How do you study the Bible? What methods have you used and found helpful? Let me know in comments below.
1 I have no affiliation to Robby Gallaty or Replicate Ministries. I personally use and benefit from this method, and think others could as well.
2 I’ve seen this attributed to Dawson Troutman, the founder of The Navigators, most frequently, but I can’t find the original source.