In medicine and nutrition, SOAP notes are often used as a means to lay out the patient’s history, problem(s), findings, and then formulate a plan. (More on this below).
Having a background in nutrition education and being that currently practice medicine, SOAP notes have been an integral part of the way my brain processes information for over a decade. That is why when Faith shared how she was introduced to using the outline strategy of SOAP notes for scriptural study, it resonated so strongly with me!
I mentioned in the last Kaci’s Currents that I have been using this format in my morning Bible study time for a while now. Probably for the last 6 months actually. I used to just pick a verse out of the passage that I read for the day and write it in a notebook. I believe (and science has proven) that the process of writing out words—rather than simply reading or listening to them—helps to solidify them within us much more deeply. This is the point of scripture study after all! “I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalms 119:11
The thing I like about the SOAP format for Bible study is that it took my process and allowed me to engage with the Lord through scripture at an even deeper level. It serves as a guide to more intentional reflection, direction for application, and prayer that asks for the Lord to inspire a call to action in making some sort of change based on that experience.
It might sound complicated, but the whole process doesn’t take long and has made the Word come to life, take root, and lead my day in a much more powerful way. I typically ready a chapter a day in the New Testament. I also read the verse of the day on Bible Gateway and the devotions posted Monday-Friday on Proverbs31. It is rare that between those three resources, I won’t have at least one verse that I feel like resonates with me in a way that I can go through the SOAP format with.
In medical/nutrition use, soap stands for subjective (what your given about the situation, a patient’s complaint or main problem, a point of view set of information) objective (the raw facts and figures, labs, tests, data etc., that can’t be seen differently from person to person the way the subjective history can) assessment (the starting point of what’s going on, running diagnosis, etc.) and plan (next steps, treatment, care plan, etc). In the context of scripture study with SOAP notes, you are doing that process, but the acronym is different.
S: Scripture—your verse or verses of deeper study. I usually limit it to 1-2 verses. I feel the purpose is to go “one inch wide and one mile deep.” I’m trying to hone in on one thing the Lord wants to do, speak, or have me learn that day.
O: Observations about the verse/or short passage.
A: Application to something that is going on in my life, a way it speaks to something I needed clarity on, a point of growth, etc. I’m answering the question of can I do with this information?
P: Prayer asking the Lord for assistance in change, an opportunity for action, further clarity on the application, etc.
I decided that I would start sharing some of these SOAP notes with you since they really end up like little mini devotions. Maybe it will give you some new insight or inspire you to start using the format too. I’m so grateful that Faith took the time to share! It’s such a simple method that had made such a large impact on my quiet time.
So, let’s kick things off with a verse from 1 Corinthians 13… better known as the love chapter!
S: If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love [for others growing out of God’s love for me], then I have become only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal [just an annoying distraction]. 1 Corinthians 1:1 (AMP)
O: Words of any kind, spoken to anyone, even words of special spiritual meaning, will lose all impact and relevance if not spoken in love.
A: Think about a gong or a cymbal… They have very limited use. They make an abrupt impact, and often signify either a start or a finish, but they are not usually woven into a melody in the way other instruments are. So it is with our words if they are not inspired by or intentionally filled with love. You’ll get your point across, but lose the ability to speak into someone’s life in a way that connects them to the heart of God. Words of love speak life and peace.
P: Father, make my words those of intentional love. May they be an inspired melody, a calm and soothing breath of life, and always Truth which springs from love.
Thanks to all of you for going deeper with me!
Special thanks to my co-worker Daniel. The Lord used your encouragement to speak confirmation that He wanted me to begin this new series. I do hope everyone will check out his blog, podcast, and books.
Thanks again to Faith for sharing the SOAP format!
1/ Do you have a study method for scripture or book reading? (If so, share it in the comments!)