Introducing POUR

The acronym POUR stands for Pray, Observe, Unwrap, and Respond. This method is similar to other popular Bible study methods, with one key differentiator—the POUR method is intended to lead the reader in a deeper hermeneutical approach to interpreting Scripture. This means that the goal of the POUR method is to take the reader beyond an introductory understanding of God’s Word. Instead, when executed properly, the reader will have obtained a stronger grasp of the original intent of the source by examining the text through various context lenses. Furthermore, once they have rightly divided the word of truth, they will be able to rightly apply it.

Why Another Method?

There is already a rather substantial number of Bible study methods in existence, so one may wonder why another is needed. It is a valid question and one worth exploring. The short answer is that we felt a more methodical, systematic approach was necessary for those who wanted to understand the Bible at a deeper level. To be clear, all exegetical approaches to interpreting the Bible are good. However, the unfortunate reality is that many well-intentioned believers are using eisegetical and narcigetical approaches (both defined below) today that lead to erroneous interpretations, false doctrines, and lifestyles in conflict with the Bible. While we do not naively believe that we will correct everyone's interpretation of Scripture, we are hopeful that some may find the POUR method to be an additional resource for assisting them in their growth of understanding and applying God's Word.

Again, there are many other Bible study methods. However, instead of listing all of them here, along with their benefits and drawbacks, we will look at the most popular methods and specifically how they compare to the POUR method. Please understand that it is not our intent to minimize the effectiveness of the methods below. Instead, we aim to simply provide a comparison between each and the POUR method.

Method Comparison

Inductive Bible Study

Popularized by Kay Arthur's Precepts Bible Studies, this method has three components—Observation, Interpretation, and Application.

In many ways, this method is very similar to POUR, especially within the Observation and Application areas. The primary difference is that POUR is quite a bit more systematic in the interpretation of Scripture. The Inductive Bible Study approach leads and guides readers as they attempt to interpret Scripture. On the other hand, POUR is intended to equip disciples with the ability to study the Scripture on their own.


Both approaches are similar in their approaches. The first three letters stand for Scripture, Observation, and Application. The last letter stands for Prayer or Kneeling in Prayer, respectively.

When compared to the POUR method, both approaches attempt to consolidate Observe and Unwrap assuming that the interpreter will conduct the proper due diligence in their contextual study. However, this is not necessarily guaranteed and could, therefore, lead the interpreter to an erroneous conclusion. The interpreter must ensure that their observations are correct so that their application is sound.

The 5 P's

Developed by Priscilla Shirer, this study method is more meditative in its approach. Rather, than an in-depth hermeneutical process, studiers rely more on God's revelation for the interpretation of Scripture. In some ways, the emphasis is on the perspicuity of Scripture in order to draw an interpretation. However, paraphrasing before (or without) correct interpretation can lead to disastrous results. The interpreter should proceed cautiously. The POUR method, on the other hand, directs the learner to an application of Scripture only after they have arrived at the correct interpretation.


The APPLE approach focuses the reader on the attributes of God who then attempts to translate those attributes into promises, principles, or lessons to be applied. The POUR method is much more comprehensive in its approach to studying the Bible. In doing so, the POUR method teaches the interpreter how to look at God's attributes against a larger, more comprehensive backdrop. The POUR method enables the reader to see a larger canvas of God compared to just a single color, thus allowing the larger tapestry to inform a solitary thread throughout.


Compared to the HEAR method's Explain step, POUR leads the interpreter through a deeper, more methodical approach through the Observe and Unwrap stages. Additionally, HEAR's Apply and Respond phases are consolidated to the Respond stage of POUR.

The same concern with HEAR exists as with the SOAP/SOAK methods above in that one must be extremely careful to not misinterpret Scripture due to misunderstanding a passage's proper context. The interpreter must execute the proper level of diligence and rigor in HEAR's Explain step. The POUR method, on the other hand, offers more prescriptive guidance in its Unwrap stage.

Please do not allow POUR to discourage your usage of another method listed above—or many others that are not. For many believers, especially those beginning to study the Bible, one of the methods above may be more appropriate. Like any other task, you must decide which tool is best for the job at hand. In the end, we simply encourage you to pray before beginning any Bible study and seek God's guidance on which method is right for the moment and your intended outcome.

What is Hermeneutics?

Hermeneutics is defined as the art or science of interpreting Scripture. When we talk about "studying the Bible," we are actually describing hermeneutics. Therefore, many of us are engaged in hermeneutics whether we know it or not. However, we must be careful to follow proper hermeneutic procedures. Unfortunately, this is where many people err today.

There is a concept known as the perspicuity of Scripture. It refers to the ability of the Holy Spirit to reveal Scripture's meaning to each believer. However, knowing that Satan can come disguised as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), we must take precautions to ensure that it's actually the Holy Spirit speaking to us. Remember, if Satan can twist God's words with Eve in the Garden of Eden and Jesus in the wilderness, he most certainly will twist God's words with us.

In a way, hermeneutics creates a set of guardrails to help us understand God’s Word correctly. It establishes a set of rules or best practices to ensure that our method of interpretation is accurate. Instead of erroneously jumping into an application of Scripture for today's living, hermeneutics realizes that the content of the Bible was not written for us but its original audience, and it forces us to view Scripture through their lenses. Only after we have uncovered the meaning of passages in their original context can we glean from those revelations and rightly apply them to our context today.

The POUR method places hermeneutics front and center of its study process. It teaches the reader how to interpret Scripture faithfully and apply it accurately. However, instead of requiring readers to spend countless hours pouring over the vast content of hermeneutic processes and procedures like someone attending seminary, we have attempted to simplify the process for all believers. As stated above, our goal is to empower every believer to understand God's Word in a much deeper capacity than a mere an introductory level.

Exegesis for Interpretation

Proper hermeneutics requires us to apply what's known as exegesis. Exegesis comes from a Greek word that means to "draw out." In other words, we should attempt to understand (draw out) God's Word in its original context, then apply it to our lives. Unfortunately, there are two other perspectives of interpretation used today that are incorrect and have led many believers astray. These interpretation methods are eisegesis and narcigesis.

Where exegesis describes the process of drawing out, eisegesis refers to the act of reading into. In other words, it is taking our own life experiences and retroactively applying them to God's Word while believing that the Bible was written specifically for us and our current circumstances. For example, let's say someone has insulted us, and we happen to read a passage in the Old Testament where God commands Israel to attack them. Eisegesis could potentially give us a license to do likewise. While this may be a very dramatic example (only to prove a point), believers do this all this time at a far lesser level. For another example that is not quite so obvious, consider passages like Jeremiah 29:11 or Philippians 4:13. Taken out of context (which happens frequently), these verses would imply that God has great plans to bless us and make us successful. (While we're not necessarily arguing that this is not the case, there are stipulations to those blessings, and we must rightly understand how Jeremiah and Paul define "blessings.") Misinterpretation of these verses and too many others has created what is known as the "prosperity Gospel."

The third method of interpretation, and again an incorrect one, is narcigesis. It is the process of reading ourselves into a biblical passage. The most common one is the story of David and Goliath. Unfortunately, many preachers today will deliver messages on how each believer is a David facing many trials (Goliaths) in their life, and with God's help, those trials can be overcome. While this may sound encouraging, in reality, this form of interpretation heretically places us at the center of God's Word. We must be extremely cautious of such teachings.

Let us use an example to better explain the difference between all three forms of interpretation. Imagine a well of water fed from a pure mountain spring. The water is clear and refreshing and contains no contaminants whatsoever. Exegesis would be like lowering a bucket to draw out water from this well. What you would drink would be pure and nourishing. On the other hand, eisegesis is likened to adding some of your own tap water to the bucket before lowering it. In such a case, while your water may be "sanitary," it has still been processed and contains chemicals. Therefore, in mixing your water with the spring water, you have now rendered the spring water impure. Finally, narcigesis is simply you jumping into the bucket. It places you directly in the middle of the well water, which also (significantly) contaminates the water from the spring. Additionally, it disregards the proper use of the bucket. The bucket was never intended to be used for letting you down into the water; it is for drawing water out.

The POUR method guides the reader in conducting a proper exegetical study of Scripture. It helps the reader draw out from the well of God's Word so they may drink and be refreshed from its life-giving spring.


The POUR method intends to lead the reader into a deeper study of the Bible and, therefore, it is not intended for those who are pursuing a simple reading and reflection journal. And as stated above, the POUR method might not be the most ideal method for those who are just starting to study the Bible. The requirements and commitment of this method can be quite daunting to those starting out.

While anyone can follow (and is encouraged to try) the POUR method, this approach is ideal for those who are leading Bible studies, classes at their church, or small groups. Additionally, the POUR method is a great resource for lay leaders such as elders. As believers are encouraged to make every effort to rightly handle God's Word (2 Timothy 2:15) and we are told that teachers will be judged more strictly (James 3:1), those people tasked with teaching the truths of the Bible have a tremendous responsibility to communicate them faithfully and accurately. The POUR method is intended to aid and facilitate a proper hermeneutical study discipline.

As a last word, perhaps one of the great study methods listed above should be considered by new believers, those starting a Bible study discipline, and, possibly, those simply attending a small group or Bible study. The methods listed above will aid in laying a basic foundation. However, seasoned believers, group leaders, and other lay leaders of the church are encouraged to try the POUR method as its process will produce a much deeper and richer understanding of the Bible.


When applying the POUR method, one should not hope to accomplish its requirements in a single sitting as responsible, mature Bible study is a discipline and a process that requires time and energy. Again, to be clear, the POUR method requires quite a bit more overall effort than many other study methods. It is essential that the reader understands this before they begin.

As one begins, it may be helpful for them to set realistic expectations and pace themselves as they apply the POUR method. It is also suggested that the reader focuses on a single set of passages per week (compared to an entire chapter or book). This will give them ample time to complete the requirements while reflecting on the heart of the message. If the reader does not have enough time to dedicate to following the POUR method, it is suggested that they leverage one of the alternative approaches above so that they do not grow weary or discouraged and give up.

In the end, while we want to ensure the quality of study and its outcome to the best of our ability, any attempt to study the Bible is a worthy discipline. If the POUR method is the right approach for a believer, great! If not, that's okay too. Any method listed above is a good approach. The goal—what's most important—is to be faithful in study and to study well.

POUR Method
The POUR Method is a hermeneutical approach to studying the Bible.
It develops a healthy discipline of examining Scripture through its proper contexts.
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