Many years ago I saw an article explaining how Billy Graham read through both the book of Psalms and the book of Proverbs each month.
He read one chapter in Proverbs per day—Proverbs 1 on the 1st day of the month and so on through the 31st. I guess he’d read several on the 28th of February to make it to the end (certainly wouldn’t want to neglect the Proverbs 31 woman).
Then he read five psalms daily to be able to finish the entire book and cycle around to begin again with Psalm 1 the next month.
He said that the book of Psalms taught him how to get along with God, and the book of Proverbs taught him how to get along with his “fellow man.”
This made a great impression on me.
So I tried it.
A Proverb a day worked pretty well, but I got a little overwhelmed by Psalms.
Take, for example, a long psalm like 119. Reading all of that and four other psalms in one day felt like too much compared to Day 1, when on Billy’s plan, I would read Psalms 1-5. They’re shorter.
I guess for devotional reading, I needed a more predictable length.
Then I started using the psalter in a copy of The Book of Common Prayer that I picked up at a bookstore.
In the back, the entire book of Psalms was divided up into more or less equal portions—one portion for the morning, and another for the evening. This made each day’s reading so much more manageable and predictable in length. Plus, by having a morning and evening reading, I could bracket my day with psalms.
I used that psalter for the first year or so (I wasn’t entirely consistent, but I followed the plan pretty well—I’d catch up after missing a day or two). The translation used in the Book of Common Prayer offered a slightly different emphasis at times, as the wording was slightly different from the translation I used more often (NIV).
Eventually, however, I found that I wanted to go through it using the NIV.
One afternoon when I had some time on my hands, I opened up my NIV study Bible and right on the pages, I marked up the book of Psalms in pencil to follow the same pattern of morning and evening readings. Now I had my own psalter to follow, right there in my own Bible. Handy.
I haven’t always used it, but when I hit a point in my spiritual life when I crave that consistent routine, I start up in the Psalms, on whatever day it happens to be, and begin the cycle.
Today is the 26th.
This morning’s reading began with Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”
I looked up from my Bible and asked one of my daughters, who was finishing up her cereal, if she recognized it. She shook her head.
“But it’s famous!” I exclaimed. “Amy Grant sang it using the King James version.” I proceeded to sing, “Thy word…”
“Oh! Yes, I remember it now.”
And the same morning reading today included a passage that I love:
“The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
I open my mouth and pant,
longing for your commands.
Turn to me and have mercy on me,
as you always do to those who love your name.
Direct my footsteps according to your word;
let no sin rule over me.”
The unfolding of your words gives light.
Perhaps it’s the writer in me that responds to that so intensely, but it brings me hope as I work with words and offer them to the world. I seek understanding and I seek to offer words that give light.
This link takes you to an online psalter from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.
If you’re on the computer a lot, you could log on and start your day with something meaningful on the screen—and in your heart—before launching your work, blog, or play.
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Kathy in WA says
Hi! Great tip. I’ve been meaning to divide up the Psalms like this as well. The kids and I read a Proverb each day and 3 Psalms aloud. After several months, it’s amazing how well we are starting to know Proverbs. 🙂
I love that kind of stuff, daily readings, prayers. Thanks for the link.
A few years ago, my family got sent a chart that divided the Bible up into a year’s worth of reading. There are about 3 chapters in the OT, and 1 chapter in the NT every day, and readings in Psalms on Sundays. The first year I tried to follow it, it spilled over into the next year, but as I kept doing it year by year, it’s become easier to keep up. This is my 9th or 10th year, and it’s become habit for me to pick up my Bible in the morning and again at night. It’s split up mostly evenly, so the readings aren’t really long one day, then short the next. (I think Ps. 119 is split in half.) I highly recommend this to anyone.
Kathy: Great idea to share it with the kids–especially those Proverbs. How do you handle those adulteress chapters?
Monica: You’re welcome, of course. I like ideas, too, which is why I kind of “took” to Billy Graham’s explanation of what he did.
Regan: That sounds like how the One-Year Bible is split up–some publisher must have taken that chart and just divided the Bible up accordingly so that it’s all laid out to make it totally, totally easy. The chart is nice because you could read through any translation, picking a different translation each year. Thanks for the great recommendation!
Jennifer, Snapshot says
I love that pattern of scripture reading as well. You can’t go wrong with the wisdom of Proverbs and the Psalms teach me who God truly is as revealed in His word. However–I’ve never read five each day and can’t imagine that. I would read one (two if they were really short), but I usually fizzle out, so I know I’ve read the first half of the book way more than the second. I need to start from the back and read that way.
After hearing this (don’t remember it being attached to Billy Graham), I tried this, too, several years back; understandably, I hit the same snags as you as well. Rather than trying to come up with a different solution for the varying length of the Psalms, I just gave up :/.
You’ve offered some encouraging advice…maybe I need to revisit it (still love the “Proverb a day” read, though…I should have ’em memorized…).
The Psalter is my favorite prayer book. There is so much wisdom and comfort in it. And in my denomination (I am Greek Orthodox) Psalms also become great hymns, and sometimes during the day I find myself humming to myself.
Enjoy the weekend.