I had been doing a spiritually oriented peer evaluation with my roommate that my Christian college had everyone do. We had talked about what he was doing for devotions, and while he had been regular, we both agreed that he could probably spend a bit more time each day in the Word. I was ready to move to the next category, until he paused.
“Ben, when I was growing up, we never really did devotions. And honestly, I don’t know how to do them.”
I don’t think my roommate was alone. Having counseled 2 summers at a Christian camp and worked in roles of spiritual leadership at my school for several years, I get the sense a lot of people struggle with how to do devotions. The truth is, I struggled with how to do devotions.
As a teenager I was always just told to “do” them. So I did, kind of. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. Learning how to do devotions has been a long process for me, and it’s something I’ve picked up here and there along the way.
This post is an expansion on a handout I made for guys (and girls) who struggle with consistent time in the Word. Most of these are lessons I’ve learned through practice or tips I’ve picked up along the way. None of this is super original, and most of it is pretty basic, but hopefully it will be helpful to some to have it all packaged together.
Establish the Habit of Devotions
- Choose a period of time. When will you do your devotions?
- Choose a place. Where will you do your devotions?
- Choose a plan. What are you going to read?
- Try reading through a short book (such as Philippians or James) every day so that you really soak in the message
- Try reading from different sections of the Bible every day (such as a chapter from the OT/Poetry or Wisdom/NT)
- Get on a through the Bible in a year program (it ends up being less than 4 chapters a day!
- Whatever you do, get on a regular plan and stay on it!
As humans we are creatures of habit, and we are either in the habit of doing our devotions or we are in the habit of not doing them.
Prepare the Heart for Devotions
- Begin with prayer confessing any known sin and asking God to teach you from His Word and change you with His truth.
- It might be helpful to begin by reading a short devotional to direct your thoughts to God before you actually begin in on your Scripture. Some examples include Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotions, Our Daily Bread, Gospel Meditations series, anything by the Puritans, a short chapter from a solid Christian living book, or a hymn text.
- Come with a Spirit of meekness when you come to God’s Word, humble and hungry to learn. (James 1:21, Job 23:12)
Ask the Right Questions
When studying your Bible, ask questions like. . .
- What does this passage teach me about God? What is He like? What does He do? What makes Him angry, upset, sad, happy?
- What does this passage teach me about man? What is he like? How does he behave? What are the results of his actions?
- What genre (type) of writing is this? Is it a poem using figurative language? Is it a letter that is crafted like a sermon? Is it a true historical story that is making a point?
- How should what I’ve seen about God change the way I live today? How should what I’ve seen about man change the way I live today?
Getting the Most out of Devotions
- Write! Make notes in your Bible with different color pens and highlighters and keep a journal of what God has taught you. If you don’t like writing in your Bible (I don’t), copy and paste a passage of Scripture into a Word doc, double space and give wide margins, and print it out. You will be much more likely to mark up something like that than you would your Bible.
- Be consistent! Building spiritual strength is like building physical strength. It’s not about one huge workout once a week, but rather consistency over time that makes a difference.
- Memorize and Meditate! Pick a phrase or a truth from your devotions and mull it over throughout the day. Memorize a passage of Scripture by learning a couple verses a week.
- Remember this is a relationship! The word “devotions” often comes to be a technical term for reading the Bible and praying. While these things are obviously going on, remember this is you spending time with your Father, not another item on your to do list for the day.
Written by Ben Hicks.
Read more of Ben's posts here.