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Before You Open Your Bible

Nine Heart Postures For Approaching God's Word

Matt Smethurst


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Before You Open Your Bible

Nine Heart Postures For Approaching God's Word

Matt Smethurst



We know the Bible is important, but many of us struggle with it. We’re not biblical experts—though we may have started enough reading plans to be really familiar with Genesis. If we’re honest, the Bible often intimidates us, confuses us, and reading it doesn’t always thrill us.

And yet, the Bible is where God reveals his loving character and incredible plan of redemption. In a practical and engaging manner, Matt Smethurst—managing editor of The Gospel Coalition—presents nine heart postures that will prepare you to unpack all that’s awaiting you in God’s Word.

Although there are many great resources on how to read and study Scripture, hardly any focus exclusively on how to approach it in the first place. That’s what Smethurst provides in this unique “prelude” to opening your Bible. For without the right heart postures, we’re not yet ready to start reading.

What others are saying about Before You Open Your Bible:

“Today there has been a movement toward a ‘spiritual reading’ of the Bible that puts the greatest emphasis on one’s own experience of the text rather than on a careful, close reading and study of it. Yet Bible study must never be a merely academic exercise either. Matt Smethurst’s little book is a needed re-orientation so that Christians can genuinely hear God’s voice through his written Word.” — Tim Keller, Chairman and Co-founder, Redeemer City to City and author of The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

"If you tend to grab your Bible, flip it open, and mumble a quick request for Holy Spirit-help, you are setting yourself up for something less than spectacular. But if you wish to hear the Spirit of Jesus speak life-altering words to you, it will mean laying aside your agenda, rallying your sensibilities, and remembering the majesty of the One who has words for you. Matt Smethurst has written a stellar little book on this rare but important subject. If you desire to approach your Bible as God wants you to, read this and be renewed!" — Joni Eareckson Tada, Joni and Friends International Disability Center

“In our culture of productivity and efficiency, we desperately need to slow down and think about God’s Word. This timely book by my friend Matt Smethurst teaches us how to humble ourselves and approach Scripture the right way. Before You Open Your Bible is filled with great wisdom about how you can reconnect with the power of the Christian life: God’s Word. After reading this book, get alone with God and his Word, and be amazed at the grace that you find.” Rick Warren, Founding Pastor of Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life

“As evidenced by his social media presence, my friend Matt Smethurst is one of the more thoughtful Christian commentators out there today. I’m thankful he’s written a book on how to rightly interact with God’s Word. This is something that no Christian can afford to neglect.” Shai Linne, Christian hip-hop artist and author of God Made Me and You

“Matt Smethurst is brilliant and creative. But more than that he is what every Bible teacher should be, and that is faithful. In Before You Open Your Bible, Matt reminds us of the significance of God’s Word by focusing on the way we approach it as readers. This book will help you read Scripture in a deeper, more meaningful way.” Russell Moore, President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

“No one ever comes to God’s Word empty-handed. What you bring with you will shape how you receive it, understand it and live it. As I read Matt’s book, I was reminded once again that the battle of Bible study is really a war for the reader’s heart. I love this book! I need this book and so do you. Read it and keep it near, because you’ll need to read it again and again.” — Paul David Tripp, President, Paul Tripp Ministries and author of Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

“This book is a treasure. It is precisely what the church needs. I know of nothing else quite like it. I want to get this book into the hands of Christians of all ages.” Burk Parsons, Pastor, St. Andrew’s Chapel, Sanford, Florida and chief publishing officer of Ligonier Ministries

“Give Matt Smethurst an hour and he will send you back to your Bible with renewed awe and expectancy. A little gem of a book.” — Glen Scrivener, evangelist and author of Reading Between the Lines

“Are you someone who wants to want to read the Bible? But, if you’re honest, you’ve found yourself feeling intimidated, apathetic, or simply bored? In its short and conversational chapters, Before You Open Your Bible invites you into a fresh way of approaching this divine book, so that you will be drawn into it and better positioned to build your life on it.”  Nancy Guthrie, Bible teacher and author of What Every Child Should Know About Prayer

“Just as our bodies need right posture for physical health, so our hearts need right posture for spiritual health. Matt Smethurst’s book offers a posture for Bible reading that will serve the heart of anyone set on right worship.” Jen Wilkin, Bible teacher and author of Women of the Word

“Matt Smethurst has done us, both pastors and church members, a great favor. Buy several copies of this book and give them away at church!” Juan Sanchez, Senior Pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin, Texas

“Matt has filled these pages with clearly written, fresh takes on timeless truths about how we approach the Bible. Don’t let the small size of this book fool you. I started reading thinking about those who might need it in our church. I kept reading because this book ministered to my heart." — Mack Stiles, Pastor, Erbil International Baptist Church, Iraq and author of Marks of the Messenger

“Before you open The Book, be sure to spend time in this book. It will enrich and amplify your experience with the Word of God!”  Lee Strobel, bestselling author of The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith

“Whether you are new to Bible reading or a seasoned scholar of the Scriptures, this wise guide will help you not only to read God’s Word well, but to be transformed by it.” Karen Swallow Prior, professor, Liberty University; author of On Reading Well

“It’s amazing there’s no resource like this.” — Rick James, publisher of Cru Resources and Cru Press

“This book fills a major need. I look forward to using it in my local church ministry.” Cameron Cole, author and editor at Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry and Director of Children, Youth, and Family at Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham Alabama

“Often we don’t get much out of the Bible because of how we approach it, so we need this engaging and insightful book from Matt Smethurst. Whether we’ve been a Christian for decades or minutes, or whether we’ve read the whole Bible or barely begun, this will help us approach it with the right kind of attitude and expectation.” Sam Allberry, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and author of 7 Myths About Singleness

“Of all the treasures on earth, none is quite so precious as the Bible, for it gives us unique access to the mind, heart, and will of God. Yet those who wish to benefit from God’s Word must learn to approach it with an appropriate posture of the heart. Matt Smethurst’s little book helpfully teaches how to approach the Bible not just as a book, but as the best and most important of all books.”  Tim Challies, blogger,

“If your Bible reading has become rote or stale, Before You Open Your Bible will help rejuvenate your approach to Scripture. While we’re often prone to look for brand-new approaches, I’m thankful that Matt Smethurst brings us back to the fundamentals—prayer, humility, obedience, community, and more. He shines a fresh light on what we might be ignoring simply because of overfamiliarity. If your Bible reading needs a jump-start, I highly recommend this thoughtful yet easily approachable work.”  Kelly Minter, Bible teacher and author of No Other Gods

“A bright, clear, and encouraging introduction to approaching Scripture. Full of insight, wisdom, and illustrations, Before You Open Your Bible is a great book to help you get the best out of the Great Book.”  Andrew Wilson, Teaching Pastor, King’s Church, London and author of Incomparable

“This is not one more book on how to read the Bible; it is unique! Many of us would read the table of contents and think, Of course, that is the way to read the Bible. And yet, few Bible students prepare their hearts and minds before exposing themselves to the revelation of God. Thank you, Matt, for adding not just a new book about how to study the Bible, but one that was sorely lacking. Putting these principles into practice may be of more benefit than many of the academic trainings available to us.” Miguel Núñez, Pastor, Iglesia Bautista Internacional, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

“An accessible, common-sense book.” Richard ClarkChristianity Today

“A must-read for all Christians. I highly recommend it.” Jason Romano, author of Live to Forgive and host of the Sports Spectrum Podcast

“In this highly readable guidebook for getting the most out of studying Scripture, Matt Smethurst provides us with practical and wise advice. Through clear prose and compelling personal stories, he offers memorable lessons that will help us study Scripture better while also reminding us of how the Bible shapes our lives in big moments and everyday interactions.”  D. Michael Lindsay, President, Gordon College

  • Title

    Before You Open Your Bible

  • Author(s)

    Matt Smethurst

  • Series

    Before You

  • ISBN


  • Format


  • Publisher


  • Topic

    Bible Reading

  • Audience


  • Pages


  • Published


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Overall rating

4.8 based on 9 reviews

Before You Open Your Bible

This is a very helpful little book (around 80 pages) which you could easily read in one sitting – but don’t! There are 9 small chapters in it – touching on different ways to approach your Bible reading e.g. prayerfully, joyfully, etc. – and I would encourage someone to read just one chapter a day, each time before they do their regular Bible reading/devotion. It will help you to approach it in the right way and make your studying more fruitful. A good book to buy in bulk for giveaways. A book which you should revisit regularly.

Martyn Blackman

Before You Open Your Bible

This is a quick read which should have a deep impact as Matt Smethurst takes us through nine ways to approach reading our Bibles. I read it in one go, but now think I will reread each of the nine approaches one by one, to benefit from each one, at a deeper level.


Before You Open Your Bible

Bible study can be difficult. This short book helps the reader to think through how times of bible reading and study should be approached. The book was very easy to read and so helpful. There are many study resources for bible study but this book helps us to assess our attitude in studying God’s Word. It was so good I bought a batch for giving away at a camp for young people. Highly recommended.

Christopher D

Before You Open Your Bible

This is a great little book that challenges our attitudes to the Bible and shows us the right ones to have. It’s simple and easy to read, and really helps the reader to have an eagerness to read and study the Bible.


Before You Open Your Bible

This wonderful little book unpacks some meaty theology is an accessible way. I loved the approach it takes in looking at our heart postures before we come to approach the Bible – thinking about how we should prepare to receive divine wisdom as we read God’s word. There are many books on how to study the Bible, but few on our attitude as we study/read it. In a world obsessed with results and technique, this book resets our hearts to humbly listen to God’s word.

Ed Tulloch

Before You Open Your Bible

‘Before You Open Your Bible’ is unique, biblical and short. That’s at least three reasons to read it. As the author points out, there are many volumes about how to interpret Scripture but books about preparing yourself to read the Bible are hard to find. The reader is given nine ways to approach Bible reading with plenty of biblical references to back them up. The succinct, highly readable style leaves you with the impetus and time to finish the book and dive back into the infinite depths of the world’s greatest book that leads us to our loving creator, saviour and king

Andy Creighton

Before You Open Your Bible

This is a great wee book of just 89 pages which can be read in no time at all. It’s a bit like Psalm 117, which though very small, contains in two verses foundational and fundamental Gospel truths that are built upon and expanded on throughout the rest of the Bible. So also, Smethurst has packed into a few pages really helpful, insightful and useful guidance on how to approach reading the Bible that will undoubtedly make a difference to what is a critically important Christian discipline. In 9 brief chapters, Smethurst lays out the importance of coming to the Bible prayerfully, humbly, desperately, studiously, obediently, joyfully, expectantly, communally, and Christocentrically. By so doing, we honour the matter, the message and the Messiah of the Bible. Each chapter is grounded in Scripture and with witty and winsome examples and illustrations makes this a book I think every believer could easily and should definitely read, whatever point on the road of redemption we happen to be. The more we know the Scriptures and approach them in this way, the more we know our Saviour and the more we know our salvation.

Colin L. Macleod

Before You Open Your Bible

What do you do before you open the Bible? What do you think to yourself? In this short book, Matt Smethurst challenges us to ask those questions of ourselves. And in doing so, he gives 9 reminders and correctives to help us approach God’s word. Each one packs a weighty punch, and does not take long to read. I found the author’s chapter on prayer particularly useful. As Smethurst mentions, even he did not think to add this chapter till the end. Prayer is so important to rightly handling God’s word, and something we regularly forget to do. I used this book for 9 days consecutively and found it a helpful challenge and MOT to my Bible reading. Highly recommended, and one I will be going back to regularly.

David Couch

Before You Open Your Bible

This little book is, as far as I know, the only book of it’s kind. Before you open your Bible looks invites Christians to have a look at our own hearts and attitudes as we open up our Bibles to feast on the nourishing Word of God. How many times do we open our Bibles in the morning with a sigh because we’re tired? How many times do we open our Bibles because we know that we should and not necessarily because we want to? Matt Smethurst starts his book by asking a question “Have you ever been intimated by the Bible?” most people have either by it’s size, some of it’s more difficult parts to understand or because of boredom, familiarity can kill our motivation to read and grow. Therefore, because we know our weaknesses and our proneness to struggle we need to be aware of and watch how we approach the Bible. This book is less than 90 (A5) pages, it is a quick and easy read but it’s one of those books that I’d recommend you re–read numerous times to check your attitude before you open your Bible.

Alistair Chalmers

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