I grew up in church having heard (and used) the phrasing, “doing my devotions.” This was the terminology we (my youth group) used to describe a dedicated time that included reading our bibles and spending time in prayer.
Perhaps this is just my own experience, but in the 4 decades of attending church, “devos” has been both a source of blessing and issue of guilt; a place to be fed and the cause of frustration.
Congrats. You’re not the only one to feel that way.
Like many of you, I would hear stories from the pulpit about the preacher’s devo-moments that rivaled what happened on the Mount of Transifiguration. I would get inspired from the testimonies of leadership and friends. My mind would be filled with high aspirations as I decided, “Monday, everything is going to change” as I, one more time, was going to begin a new “devotional habit.”
Perhaps we’ve approached devotions wrong. I feel we may have treated this necessary, on-going, spiritually healthy routine into nothing more than a diet fad. I see blogs and post saying something to the fact,
“If you need help, follow my prescription for spiritual health for a guaranteed outpouring of personal spiritual revival.”
Don’t get me wrong, I like reading plans and strategies (here’s a great place to get some reading plans). I utilize them both and they can be very effective. But I’m afraid we’ve turned devotional methods into the South Beach Diet and Atkins as the plug-and-play solution for all of our spiritual woes instead of embracing the simplicity of communion with God. That’s what devotions are about. And when that is realized, you’ll see “devotional time” lived out in two ways.
- A Momentary Discipline.
- Developing the daily habit of having time in the Word, seeking the Lord in worship and prayer, and listening to the Holy Spirit.
- An Experiential Devotion.
- “Devos” will be shallow at best if they are left in the moment and never manifested in our daily lives. We must have a dedication to living out our devotion to Christ. I struggle when people profess to know the scriptures but fail to model Christ through love, mercy, and compassion. When I read scripture, Jesus definitely spent plenty of time in personal prayer. But most of His life was engaging the world around him with the Kingdom of God.
So I thought I’d help you work through some frustrations by making this as simple as possible. As we say at Kfirst, “simple doesn’t mean easy.” Like any human relationship, your relationship with God will rise and fall on communication. You were wired that way because God created you that way. And I want to take some of the confusion out of devos by giving you, what I hope are, simple and practical steps to developing a healthy devotional life.
Find your sweet spot.
So many people are devotionally frustrated at the method, time of day, and manner for which they’re doing (or have done) devos. Find that “fit” that brings both challenge and growth without having to jam into someone else’s model. From the time of day to the translations you use, find not necessarily what’s easiest, but what facilitates spiritual health. I’m a morning person with my scriptures. When I pray, I head outside and walk the neighborhood. Periodically, I change translations. I’ll even hook up with a reading plan to guide me down a thought (topic). BUT…just because a method/location works for someone (even your spouse) doesn’t mean it’s a right fit for you.
Quality over quantity.
I love reading through books of the bible. But I found that just because I read a lot, it didn’t necessarily equate to understanding or practical living. Don’t treat your bible reading like a buffet where you gorge yourself and say, “I don’t know what I ate but I am full.” If you don’t know what you read because of the “quantity,” then have a smaller “meal.” Read a few verses a day. You’ll digest it better and exercise it in your daily life. Some preachers need to understand that principle for their sermons. 😉
Set some attainable goals.
Start small and build momentum. Set goals that will require some stretching but not so lofty that one missed day doesn’t make you call it quits. It takes time to build healthy habits. And the more you put into the habit, the deeper and wider the habit will grow. I’ve been amazed at watching people who gave God 5 devoted minutes a day developed a habit that has grown into something astronomically deeper and wider than they ever imagined.
Make time to live and listen.
When spending time in prayer, I believe one of the most missed opportunities is time in silence listening for the voice of God. But there’s a whole other side to the voice of God. When you are engaged in the Word, look and listen to God throughout the day on when/how to exercise what you read. For example: If I read John 1:14 today on how Jesus was full of grace and truth, I need to look and listen for opportunities to show grace and truth. It sounds so simple, but it’s the most pragmatic way to get our devos out of our prayer closet and into the real world.
I used to be intimidated by journaling and frustrated with people who excelled in it as I was envious about their writing abilities. But when I stopped comparing myself to others and decided to be my own person, it’s sparked a major passion in me. My daily entry might be just 3-4 sentences (nothing more than what I read in scripture to what God was challenging me to do). Other days, 6 pages will pour out of my heart (had a rough, emotional day yesterday). Find your “sweet spot” in your journaling. It’s become a great reference point to help me look back and be encouraged in how God has grown me as well as what He has worked through me.
I wanted to keep this simple and clean. “Devos” are not as complicated as you may have seen. Remember, they’re isn’t about getting checklist done and doing your duty for God. The goal is to meet with God, hear His heart, and letting him do something IN you and THROUGH you. “Devotions” must be more then a description of a moment but the evidence of our love for Jesus Christ.
I love you all. I belive in ya. Get into your devotions and live them out “for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father”
Thanks for letting me ramble…