The coffee is poured, the Bible is open, and you’ve found a quiet place to start your devotional. You intently read the scriptures, sip the coffee, and then seven minutes later you’re done reading and asking yourself, “Now what?”
Consistently reading the Bible can be challenging for most of us, not only for those who may be new to doing regular devotions. Many of us are unsure of how to approach devotions and then just feel guilty because “devotions are what Christians are supposed to do” and we can’t figure out how to do it.
So how do we do devotions? How do we engage with God’s Word meaningfully? It takes time. We thought we’d share a few practices that we’ve found helpful for us in relating to God in our devotional time. None of these are a “silver bullet” to having a good devotional time, because each of us live very different lives and have different personalities, but we hope that these things will be a helpful place to start.
Pick a Time & Place — How many of us have said “I need to workout”, but then never got around to it? Often, we have a desire to start a habit, but then never make a plan and so never start. Scheduling time with God is a crucial step in beginning the habit of devotions. Go ahead, take out a calendar, mark a time, and then adjust as necessary. Pick a place where you can be as free from distraction as possible. This might be after the kids are put to bed or before you leave for work.
Slow Down — Our lives have no shortage of fast-paced, information-filled moments. Our work, the news, texts, and social media all vie for our attention and it’s difficult to pull away. Take a moment to calm down before beginning your devotions; if it’s helpful, consider turning off your phone or computer. Breathe deeply, take a walk, listen to a worship song, do whatever you need to prepare your heart to engage with God & his Word.
Opening Prayer — Devotions are a conversation, not just a reading session. We have the opportunity to have a cup of coffee with God and get to know him better through our devotions. Even though we might know this, prayer can often feel lifeless and empty. Start your Bible reading time out with a simple prayer, asking God to open your eyes to what you are about read and experience. Pray for openness, that God would show you and teach you more about Himself and you.
Engage the Scriptures — Now it’s time to read the word. Take your time and focus on what the verses are saying. Who are the characters? What emotions are being talked about? Our prayers don’t have to just be at the beginning or end of our devotions, remember devotions are a conversation, take time to talk to God about what you’re reading. He’s listening.
Spend some time in Prayer again –Did you learn something new about God’s character? Did God reveal something in your life? Talk to God about it. A helpful method to approach prayer is called the ACTS method and it goes like this:
Adoration – Praising God for who he is.
Confession – Turning from sin that so easily entangles us.
Thanksgiving – Telling God of all the things we are thankful for.
Supplication- Asking God for the things we need from Him.
Reflect — What verses grabbed your attention? What questions came to your mind as you read? What emotions did you feel as you read? Take a moment to reflect, consider writing your reflections in a journal, notebook, or the margins of your Bible if it helps to engage with them.
Share — Devotions are an opportunity to grow more deeply in not only our relationship with God, but also others. Every day, God meets with other brothers & sisters in your life and is working to transform their lives. What did God share with you during your time with Him? Could that possibly encourage someone else? Did God convict you of something? How can you invite someone into that process to help you? Share what God is teaching you with another person.
It’s our belief that God will meet you wherever you’re at in your devotional journey, whether it’s just starting out or a seasoned veteran. Although it may feel like God’s word is water splashing against rocks for a season, remember that God’s Word is always working to refine transform you:
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.