Priscilla Shirer’s 5 Ps

One of the Bible study methods I find the most helpful is Priscilla Shirer’s 5 Ps. There are several reasons why this method works for me. First, you don’t need to purchase any outside resources. Second, there isn’t a specific timeline to follow as far as completing a book of the Bible in a few days or weeks.

Some reading plans are so overwhelming and others leave me wanting more. This allows me to go at my pace. It’s also great for group study. If you are reading with a spiritual mentor try this plan to prepare for your weekly meeting.

Additional benefits are that you can focus on two verses or ten. It just depends on the section of Scripture you are studying as well as your preference. When you follow all five Ps you are applying things personally to your situation so you may read something in a few years and pull something completely different from the passage. This is different than guided questions where an author of a study may not leave things open-ended enough as they attempt the lead you to a specific conclusion.

Before diving into this Bible study method I want to give you a few additional things to consider. In his book, How (Not) to Read the Bible: Making Sense of the Anti-women, Anti-science, Pro-violence, Pro-slavery and Other Crazy-Sounding Parts of Scripture, Dan Kimball establishes two important filters we must remember as we read Scripture.

Here are the four facts about how to and how not to read the Bible:

  1. The Bible is a library, not a book.
  2. The Bible is written for us, but not to us.
  3. Never read a Bible verse.
  4. All of the Bible points to Jesus.

Every Bible verse fits within a larger story, and whenever we read any verse, we want to:

  • Look at the specific Bible verse (many people stop here).
  • Look at the paragraph the verse is in.
  • Look at the chapter the Bible verse is in.
  • Look at the book of the Bible that the chapter and verse are in.
  • Look at where the book of the Bible the verse is in fits in the Bible’s whole storyline.

Much of the confusion over a single Bible verse comes from looking at that verse or story without knowing the full story. No single chart or graphic can capture the full complexity and beauty of the Bible’s storyline.

Here are Priscilla Shirer’s 5 Ps:

  1. Position yourself to hear from God.
  2. Pour over the passage and paraphrase the major points
  3. Pull out the Spiritual principles
  4. Pose the questions
  5. Plan obedience and pin down the date.

Let’s Practice a Passage:

Exodus 14:13-14 (NASB)

But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. “The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.”  

Steps 1 and 2

Step 1: Find a quiet place to read. The car, bathroom, your bedroom, during a lunch hour, or over while you are on the exercise bike. I realize that multitasking isn’t ideal, however, we all are in different seasons of life and it’s better to do something than nothing. Pause to pray for God to reveal what he wants you to learn as you read. It’s also important to remember that you shouldn’t get down on yourself if you go slowly.

If you read two verses several times and really focus on them for 15-20 minutes a day, you are far ahead of 70% of people who identify as Evangelicals.

Step 2: Read the passage a few times. You can do this by reading the same version, or by pulling up a tool like Bible Gateway.com which allows you to compare a few versions. A friend posted this image once and I love how it shows the different approaches that translators took through the years.

Sometimes when you are reading a passage it’s helpful to read it in a few different versions. Other times it’s best to read it multiple times and simply to try to memorize the words. Regardless, read the verses more than once so you don’t miss any major points.

BIble Translations

Pull Out Principles

v.13 God will save us and protect us from evil. v. 14 God can save me and fight for me while I say silent

As I consider these verses the principle I pull out is that God doesn’t need my help. He is asking me to trust him, to rest in knowing he will fight for me even with I’m silent.

Pose Questions

These questions should include personal application questions, however, they can also include questions about the context of the verses.

  • What is going on with the Israelites that makes this passage important?
  • Am I reading these verses in context?
  • Do I trust God to answer my prayer or am I fearful?
  • Do I believe God can answer my prayers w/o my medalling?
  • Can I stay silent and watch God work?

Plan to Respond

Your response should be personal. This can begin with a prayer and it may end there, but if you find that God prompts you to act pull out your calendar and obey.

Prayer:

God, I’m sorry that I try to take control instead of trusting that you are present in every situation. Starting today, when I feel the urge to defend myself I will pause first and pray. I will ask if you want me to stay silent or if this is a situation where I can speak up for myself. I will wait and watch with an expectation to see your work and will praise you when you do. God, I will try not to strategize on how to “help you fix things” and instead I will repeat these verses and claim them as a promise.

When I was first learning this Bible study method from Priscilla Shirer during a conference she made 3 statements throughout her teaching time that stood out to me:

1. “God does not speak to be heard, He speaks to be obeyed.”

2. 2 Chronicles 16:9 God is not keeping you from something He is keeping you FOR something.

3. Conviction is always paired with grace, condemnation is never from God.  

I think these three statements are important to remember as you read a portion of Scripture, listen to a sermon or engage with anyone who claims to be a Christian. If you have a thought (or suggestion from someone else) to obey man rather than God you aren’t hearing correctly and neither are they. Re-read the verses, pray for clarity and if you need a second opinion, find a trusted friend who has a history of pointing you to God. Listen to their perspective and pray some more.

If you are still not confident you have the right tools to start studying using the 5P’s method I suggest using a Study Bible like a Life Application Bible or using the Strong’s Concordance resource.   This will give you some additional notes to consider. Remember, the goal is to learn to hear what God is revealing, not what others what you to see, so you want to get away from using other resources as much as possible.

Priscilla Shirer has put together a 6-week study on practicing these principles. You can check it out for more information as well as this YouTube teaching about the 5Ps.  

editors note: originally posted 4/4/2011 updated 2/12/2022

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As Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), we’re all called to “make disciples of all nations” wherever we live. God invites us to partner with him and live on mission every day, even in the mundane moments of life. We do this when we love people as Jesus taught the disciples to do, without stipulations.

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