- Understand what you are doing - You have to start by defining your terms. What do you mean by "devotional time?" Devotional time is simply a time where you get alone with God in personal meditation and worship. This includes two indispensable elements. Those two elements are prayer and Bible reading. You may wish to include singing, listening to music, journalling, reading supplemental works, etc. but you must include Bible reading and prayer in your devotional time. Do not allow the other elements of your devotional time to crowd out the essentials.
- Pick a good time - It is absolutely imperative that you find a time that works. Pick a time in the day that you are most alert. There is nothing inherently spiritual about doing your devotions in the morning or in the evening so pick a time where you believe you will get the most out of your devotional time. The key here is that once you pick a time you don't deviate from it. Make this time a habit.
- Set reasonable goals for yourself - If you have not been regularly in the Word of God for a while don't set huge goals for yourself that you won't be able to reach right away. While daily being in the Word of God is a good goal to have allow yourself to get there incrementally. Be careful not to set legalistic goals. Nothing that you will do will make you a better person in God's eyes. Your relationship with God is secure and complete because of Jesus Christ.
- Go to a quiet place - This may seem old hat to hear again but it really is vitally important. You need to find a place where you can focus. Jesus said you should enter into a closet when you pray (Matthew 6:6). Find a place where you can shut the door to all of the world's distractions and open the door to heaven.
- Have the right kind of tools - Whether it be a good journal, study Bible, commentary, or pack of pens and highlighters you need to have the right kind of tools that will help you really dig into God's Word. Your devotional time isn't just some kind of pleasure reading time there is a real purpose to it. I would suggest you invest in a readable Bible that has plenty of room for notes in the margins. It's also a good idea to have a journal for both prayer requests and things you have learned in your Bible reading.
- Set out to read a passage of Scripture not just a verse or two - If you are going to understand a passage then context is king. Sometimes when we get stuck on one verse that really jumps out at us we can be prone to come up with some rather faulty interpretations of the verse. Keep in mind three principles of context (1)Biblical Context - does your interpretation of a verse fit with the message of Scripture?. (2)Book Context - what is the main theme of the book?. (3)Immediate Context - what was the author just talking about?
- Commit verses to memory - During your devotional time there are bound to be verses that really speak to you. Once you understand the context and teaching of that verse take some time to commit that verse to memory. Develop a system of memorization that works well for you. For example, you could write the verses down on a 3x5 card and keep that card on you at all times. If you just read that card 5 times a day by the end of the week you will have it committed to memory.
Ultimately all you need for an effective devotional time is a vibrant relationship with God.
Posted by Caleb