A while back, I posted Bible Study Tips in the form of questions, using the standard who, what, when, where, why, and how format. Today, I’m borrowing that same format to talk about our devotional lives.
We’re into the third month of 2019. And it’s been a rough start to the year for me. I’ve been sick more than well, and even as I type I must stop periodically to have a coughing spasm. My big goal for March is to get healthy!!
Because of my illnesses – nothing serious, but definitely energy-zapping – I’ve fallen off-track with most of my goals I set for this year. I have lost some weight – illness will do that to you. But everywhere else I’m striking out. One of my big concerns is that I’ve gotten off the devotional track I was on. I have been pushing it aside to get more sleep and to avoid anything requiring any sort of effort.
The funny thing is, though, I’m still going to work. Apparently teaching third grade is more important to me than meeting with the God of the Universe and the Savior of my soul daily in prayer and the Word! Actually, it isn’t. But Jesus will never intrude in my life if I don’t invite Him.
I’m taking advantage of grace and mercy and starving myself in the process. It’s time for things to change! So, take heart as you read my questions and answers about your devotional life – I’m preaching to myself!
Who should have devotions daily?
Short answer: All those who have been born again into a living faith in Christ.
Longer answer: If you have a living faith in the risen Christ, you should want to be in His Word and in prayer and worship. If you don’t have that desire, then you can assume you are spiritually sick or weak. Or you may do as Paul suggests and “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Holding onto a childhood confession of faith, without having the hunger for His presence and His Word or other fruit in your life, might mean you need to take a hard look at your faith – or lack – and recommit yourself to Him. Or even ask Him for His saving grace, despite grandma insisting you ‘prayed the prayer’ when you were four!
I’m not trying to be harsh. The most loving word is the one that leads to Jesus, and that’s all I’m trying to do – be a word leading to Jesus.
What do I mean by ‘have daily devotions?’
Short answer: Set aside a dedicated time daily to spend in reading the Bible and praying and worshiping the Lord.
Longer answer: There are a thousand variations on this idea. The Bible should be central to your devotional life and as you get into it, you will likely overflow with prayer and praise. But don’t let your routine of devotions lead it to becoming a stale time. Vary your setting, your approach, your reading, your format, your process, even your time of day, if that helps you to connect with the Lord in a more intimate manner. Read first, then pray. Or pray first, then read. On nice days sit outside; on snow days sit in front of the fire. Listen to the Bible if you learn best by listening. Listen to it and follow along in your own copy if that helps you focus. The key is consistency. Be in the Word daily. When you miss a day, make it a learning experience and start over. If you’re laying in bed at night and realize you haven’t had devotions, nothing is stopping you from getting up and having them – even at midnight!
When should you – or I – have devotions?
Short answer: Whenever it fits best into your schedule.
Longer answer: While there are no ‘extra points’ for having devotions in the morning, my day always goes better if I do. I get up very early for my long commute, but still try to have about 8 – 10 minutes in the Word and prayer every morning. Many days (but not all) I will also have a longer time in the Word and prayer either in my car or at home in the evening. I also always start my commute with praise and worship music.
Psalm 5:3 is a favorite of the ‘devotions in the morning’ crowd: “In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.”
But David also said, “As for me, I shall call upon God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, And He will hear my voice.” (emphasis added, Psalm 55:16-17)
I prefer mornings. I’ve learned from many people over the years that morning devotions are favored by most believers. But if you really cannot fit it into your mornings, don’t let that stop you from having devotions in the evening, at noon, or just before bed. Anytime is better than no time!
Where should someone have devotions?
Short answer: Anywhere and everywhere.
Longer answer: Somewhere you feel safe to pray aloud if you desire. A place where you can sing off-key praise songs. A place where you can cry tears of joy or sorrow and not have to explain to anyone. Where you choose to have your devotions will impact how you have them. If you are in a space that is protected from the eyes and ears of others, you will have the freedom to be more spontaneous, more open, more vulnerable. And these things are necessary for your faith to grow. You do not have to have your devotions in the same place every time, but I find that having a routine spot, just like having a routine time and a routine process helps me to be faithful in keeping my appointments with the Lord.
Why should I, or any believer, have devotions daily?
Short answer: Because we live in a sin-sick world and need all the help we can get to make it through to glory.
Longer answer: The truth is that I am not strong enough in myself for all the problems life will bring my way. I have dealt with loss, betrayal, moves, death, depression, anger, lost friendships, and more. So has anyone wearing human skin. Life is just simply hard. I am so grateful to have a strength outside myself to draw upon whenever I need it. The Lord is always there when we need Him. So, cry to Him in emergencies. But also meet with Him daily to fill yourself with strength, love, mercy, grace, and so much more for the day ahead. Keep yourself full of Christ and you’ll be prepared for whatever the day brings. No, it might not be easy. But just imagine how much harder life would be if you didn’t have Jesus with you.
How do you ‘do’ devotions?
Short answer: Do what works for you.
Longer answer: Reading a devotional book every day with one or two verses stuck onto the story will not feed your soul as adequately as reading a Psalm and a chapter of the gospels every day would. Your goal should be, like mine is, to spend more time reading the Word than reading about the Word. Life is in the Word itself, not in the opinions of other people about the Word, or the stories that illustrate how they applied the Word, or even in anecdotes of people being saved by the Word. No, it is the Word itself that is and brings life.
First, get into the Word. Second, respond to the Word in prayer and praise to the Lord. Third, do it all again! Honestly, that’s all you need for a healthy devotional life. Other things – music, Christian books, devotional guides, podcasts – are all supplements to the basics. Like taking extra Vitamin C, while focusing on eating more oranges and grapefruit.
Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How
So, how do you answer these questions about your devotional life? You are the ‘who.’ But how have you answered the other five? Do you have a plan in place to keep yourself regularly meeting with the Lord? Have you figured out your time, place, process, and plan? If so, great! Keep it up and encourage others. If not, there’s no time like the present to start. It doesn’t have to be the beginning of the year, month, or week to start a new habit. You can start on a Thursday in the middle of the month! Just starting is what is important. Let me know how it goes.