The Value of SOAP: Studying the Word

Written by Jordan Stafford

When was the last time you sat still, without any distractions, studying Scripture? If we’re being honest, besides occasionally doing a morning devotional, most of us don’t sit silently and truly meditate on God’s Word. I am guilty of this all the time, more than I’d like to admit. Life is crazy busy and all too often I push God to the back burner of my schedule. Perhaps you’re like me. Perhaps you get caught up in your “To Do” list rather than prioritizing time with God. Perhaps you snooze your alarm and fail to make time for morning devotionals. Perhaps your kids distract you from truly diving into God’s Word as they demand your attention. Perhaps work or drama with the in-laws are consuming your thoughts as you quickly skim over Scripture. Whatever that distraction may be in your life, I want to assure you that spending genuine time with the Lord is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

Avoiding these distractions, such as the habit of sleeping in, watching Netflix late into the evening, or spending your free time on social media, can be a difficult task. In fact, breaking a habit can take up to 28 days, whereas developing a new habit takes only two weeks. This timeframe shows how difficult changing one’s habits can be. Now, please don’t read that sleep, Netflix, and social media are necessarily “bad,” but prioritizing certain distractions over your relationship with the Lord is not a good idea.

I recently read a church sign, and it has stuck with me ever since. It said, “It’s hard to get in shape spiritually if you only work out on Sunday.” So, let me ask you this: how often do you spiritually “work out?”

Spending time with God can take time and isn’t always an easy commitment, but I promise it’s worth it. Since it only takes 14 days to form a habit, starting this week, I am going to commit to reading and annotating the book of Ruth, and if you’re willing, I want to invite you to do the same. Ruth is four short chapters which means we can read 15-20 verses each day and avoid becoming overwhelmed in the text while setting aside time to meditate on the passage.
When I study Scripture, I use the SOAP method. Perhaps you’ve heard of it but if not, don’t fret! The SOAP method consists of four main parts: Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer.

Scripture
The first step, Scripture, is where you will underline, highlight, or mark the verses as you deem read. For instance, when I studied the Great Commission in Matthew 28, I noted that the use of the word “the” to describe the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit indicates that there are three distinct persons and not merely three manifests. By making this note, I am more likely to remember it and can easily refer back to it.

Observation
During the second step, you may want to grab a notebook as you write down any observations that you discovered about the passage. This activity could take many different forms. Perhaps it is a deeper understanding of a characteristic of God or noting a comparison from this text to previous Scripture. Maybe it is a feeling or an emotional response. This is a chance for you to express your immediate thoughts about the passage.

Application
This third step is an action plan in order to live out the message of the passage you read. Where step two was a chance to express your immediate thoughts about the passage, Application is a space to process those thoughts or feelings and develop your own “how to.”

Prayer
Last, but most definitely not least, is Prayer. This aspect is vital to cultivating and growing one’s relationship with the Lord. There are no guidelines to this, as it is an opportunity to write or say a personal prayer to the One who created life itself. Our God is a personal God who cares for each of us and hears each of our needs. Without this relationship, the first three steps lack significance.

SOAP has proven to be valuable in my own life as I suspect it will be for you if you implement it into your future routines.

Again, I want to encourage you not to read a devotional or a passage of Scripture to simply “check” it off your “To Do” list, but rather meditate on it throughout the day, prioritizing your relationship with God and clinging to the truths He will reveal to you.

You are loved, and I pray that you have open ears to hear God’s voice this week.

About the Author:
In addition to drinking inordinate amounts of coffee, Jordan is currently serving as an intern with Kid City at GCR. She is a senior at Liberty University and will graduate in the fall. Along with receiving a diploma in Youth Ministry, Jordan is looking forward to marrying her best friend that same week. God is calling her to a lifetime of ministry, and she plans to someday have a blog of her own and write curriculum for a girl’s ministry.

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