If a Christian does not refer to the Holy Scripture then his prayer, which is not united with the word of God, then it is just a monologue, which will not rise above the ceiling. Prayer must be combined with the Holy Scripture readings so that it can become a real dialogue between a person and the Lord. Then we will get the answers we need through the God’s words that we read in the Scripture.
It is said in the Scripture: “Man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord does man live” (Deuteronomy 8:3). We should remember that a person needs not only physical or material food, but spiritual food as well. The word of God is the very food that our inner spiritual self needs. If we do not feed our physical self for several days, if we do not care for ourselves, then it will lead to exhaustion and dystrophy. However, spiritual self also can be in the state of dystrophy, if one does not read the Holy Scripture for a long time. And then people wonder why their faith falters. The source of faith is known: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). This is why every person should drink from this source.
The first psalm begins with the following words: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalms 1:1-2). Here we read about three conditions of a person’s body: it does not walk, does not stand and does not sit. Then it is said that a faithful person lives by the law of God day and night. It means that the Law of God tells us, with whom we should not walk together, with whom we should not stand together and with whom we should not sit together. The commandments are in the word of God. While reading the Holy Scripture, we put our conscience into the commandments of God. King David said: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalms 119:105). If we do not put our conscience into the word of God, then we begin to walk in darkness.
Apostle Paul wrote in his admonition to young bishop Timothy: “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (Timothy 4:12-13). Moses, who had seen God, said when he instructed Joshua: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8).
So how should one study the Holy Scripture properly? I think we should begin with Gospel and Epistle daily readings, which are stated in every church calendar. Today everyone has such a calendar at home. There was a tradition earlier that after a person has read the morning prayers, he opened the calendar and looked there which excerpts from Gospel and Epistle were to be read on that day. A person read those texts, and they served him as an edification for the day. If you want to study the Holy Scripture more thoroughly, then fast is the best time for this.
It is necessary to have a Bible at home. You should choose a book for you that will be suitable for your eyes and that will be comfortable for you to hold in hands. You should also have a bookmark for this Book.
Of course, it is advisable to begin with the New Testament. If a person attends church regularly, then he needs to read the whole Bible at least once. What is more, if a person uses the time of fast for studying the Holy Scripture, this will bring him God’s blessing.
It has long been noted that no matter how many times a person reads the same biblical text, he understands it differently in different periods of his life. It is just like a precious stone: when you turn it, it shines with different colors. The word of God, no matter how many times we refer to it, will open new horizons of knowledge of God.
St. Ambrose of Optina said that it is better for the newcomers to begin to examine the New Testament with the help of the interpretations by St. Theophilactus the Bulgarian and refer to them if something is unclear. It is difficult to read the commentary itself without the biblical text, because it can serve as a reference book. A person should read commentaries when he comes across a biblical episode, which is unclear or just difficult to understand.
How can we teach our children to read the Holy Scripture? I think, parents should read the scripture together with their children. In Bible it is stated several times that it is the father who has to teach his children the Law of God. However, it is not said that children must learn. It means that although they do not want to learn, parents should teach them and read Bible together with them.