SOAP Bible Study Method
The final acronym we have to discuss (for now!) is SOAP. SOAP stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer and is slightly different from the other two acronyms we have discussed already. If you have yet to read the posts on PRAY and ACTS, check those out as well! As you know, PRAY and ACTS are two methods used to guide us in our prayer life. They can make our prayers more efficient, better flowing, and just offer a spark for us to use. SOAP, however, is different because it is used primarily during Bible studies. While it still creates efficiency, it serves a different purpose in our Christian journey than the two previous.
Before we get into the SOAP acronym, I want to share my opinion on what it means to do a Bible study. In the simplest terms a bible study is slowing down and focusing on one part of the written word of the Lord. This allows a bible study to be anything. It could be reading a passage over and over, reading the Bible and trying to implement its teachings, using the SOAP method, or anything else you can imagine. As long as there is connection between you and the words, I consider the experience a Bible Study.
The first letter of the SOAP acronym stands for scripture. While scripture may seem very obvious as to what it entails in this context, there is more to it. Most would just assume we want to read the scripture to start our bible study. While that is absolutely true, we also want to take the time to slowly and neatly use a notebook page and write out the exact words of the Bible scripture we are studying. The Lord speaks to many of us in different ways and this will allow us to see his word from a different angle. Instead of just reading through it and moving on to observation, we have to slow ourselves and write out the Word of the Lord letter by letter. Both meaning and understanding can slip through the cracks of the sentences, and who knows, maybe this action will open your eyes to a new way of understanding that scripture. If you don’t believe me, that is totally okay, but do me the favor and try it out a few times. I have a feeling you will be pleasantly surprised at the difference just writing the scripture can make.
After we take our time to write out our scripture, we move on to observation. In this section, we will be taking our deep dive. This is when we take the words we just wrote to the next level through thought. Here we want to stop and think about what exactly is going on. You can try to write down who is involved in this scripture. Who is talking and who are they talking to/about. Where is all of this taking place? In what context does this scripture happen? What is the meaning the author of this section is trying to convey? How do I know that? Are there words that are capitalized or other words/phrases that stick out?
This is the part of your bible study where you will be asking and writing down your thought-provoking questions and making notes of your observations. You will come to find there can be countless things lying behind just a few words of scripture. This is the section that I struggle with the most because I try to be too quick with things. Really try to slow down and spend almost too much time on this section. If it is even possible. You will get the hang of it after a few tries. Start slow, maybe with a piece of scripture you have a lot of knowledge about. Once you nail down your observations, you can do something with those observations.
Once we take our time and thoroughly go through ‘who, what, when, where, why,’ we can take those observations and use them for the third part of SOAP - application. The application can be both the simplest part of this whole bible study guide, but it can also be the most difficult by a longshot. Part of this section is understanding what the Lord wants us to get out of His words today. It's also, ‘what can I do to implement these changes in my daily life.’ Basically, it is, ‘what is God saying here and what can I do to follow his word.’ Do you see where this can get difficult. If you really love being insulting to people, but God is telling you to treat your neighbor with absolute respect, then you have a change coming up in your life that is going to take some real life-altering commitment and effort. If the Lord is telling you something through a passage that seems impossible to change in your life, you may feel overwhelmed. Always remember that you can further that conversation with our Savior through spoken words - Prayer.
Our fourth and final piece to this in-depth bible study guide is Prayer. As we just said above, prayer is that conversation we have with God. And we also know from our PRAY and ACTS acronym that we can have very effective prayers in many different ways. Prayer in this aspect brings together the pieces of conversation, asking, praising, yielding, all of it. We want to refer back to the scripture and see what observations we wrote down. After that, see what you thought of during the application piece. We will use those to praise the Lord for his teachings and ask him to open up both our hearts and minds so we can understand what he wants us to learn from this piece of scripture. Thank Him for His Word and for bringing His Word to you on that day. After all of that is complete, finish your prayer and bible study by yielding. Really try to take in what He wants you to get from both His writing and your conversation with Him. Follow these pieces, along with PRAY and you will see your relationship with the bible blossom with just a few sentences at a time.
Now that you know a new and different way of bible study, you have an opportunity. You can take to the pages of the Bible and try out the new tools in your toolbox, or you can try any of the methods of Bible Study mentioned in the introduction. Whatever you decide, I challenge you to do it everyday for a month. If you want to try the SOAP acronym, pick out 30 pieces of scripture, dust off an old notebook and pen, and put Scriptures, Observations, Applications, and Prayers on paper. After the month passes, you can look back at the first day's page and see the growth you made over the month. Whether you are a seasoned bible studier, or are brand new to the game, this technique and challenge will allow you to grow and see that growth firsthand. After you complete your 30 days, send us a message in the Contact page at the top of this page and let us know how you grew. I would love to read about it and ask you some thought-provoking questions.
For more articles related to this topic then we suggest checking out “What is Bible Journaling?” “Incommunicable Attributes of God” and “Communicable Attributes of God.”