S.O.A.P. is a simple method of studying the bible. It’s an acronym that stands for Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer. The goal is to learn what the bible says and how it applies to your life. It ends with the understanding that applying the Word of God to our life is an act of God – we are dependent on Him to obey.
The Word of God is critical for spiritual growth, connection to God, wisdom and understanding. Read the word daily. Pick a book of the bible, and read it all the way through. Start 1 chapter at a time. Pause often, and reflect – make sure you’re understanding what you’re reading. Ask lots of questions, and enjoy the journey.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” 2 Timothy 3:16
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11
“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17
The bible is spiritual, in that the Spirit of God wrote it through men (2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21). However, God chose to communicate to us through literature. We can’t forget that the bible is a book (well, it’s actually a collection of 66 books). Each book of the bible, just like every other book in the world, has a particular audience in mind, fits a distinct genre and has a specific message to convey. We mustn’t “over-spiritualize” the bible as if it’s some mystical ancient book that can’t be understood without a special interpretation.
When reading the bible, observation is key. Observe by asking questions like:
- Who is writing this?
- When was this written?
- Who is he writing to?
- What would the audience understand about this verse?
- What other scriptures deal with this issue?
- How does this verse relate to the verses before it, and after it?
- How does this passage relate to the theme of this book?
- How does this book relate to the rest of the bible?
There are many tools available to help you observe what a passage is saying, such as commentaries, study bibles, and exegetical sermons.
Reading the word without applying it to your life is meaningless, and actually damaging to your soul. When we hear truth and ignore it, our hearts become hardened and we are held more accountable – we are actually storing up wrath (see Romans 2:5).
When reading the Word of God, make it personal – ask how it applies to you.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” James 1:22-25
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm 139:23
Apart from Christ, we can do nothing (read John 15:5). We need God’s help to obey His word – He doesn’t expect us to obey on our own. Reading the bible helps us learn about God and draw closer to Him. It also reveals our need for His grace, mercy, and help. Prayer should act as book ends to scripture reading – it should be done in the beginning and the end.
Before reading the bible I typically pray that God would illuminate my understanding, and I would sense His presence. I pray that He would show me things I haven’t seen before, and give me clarity as to what He’s saying specifically to me.
After reading the bible I typically pray that God would grant me the grace to obey what I read, and help me teach others about Him.
“for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:13
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
This is a place where I am sharing some of my own personal S.O.A.P. moments, trusting they’ll be a blessing to some of you.