In my last post I wrote about "Eight Reasons Why Believers Have Daily Devotions." In this article, I’d like to write about how we actually go about having daily devotions. It’s important to know that a script cannot be written for our quiet times with the Lord. We can be as close to Him each day as we choose to be. He delights in our desire to simply be with Him. So, while I am not going to give you three easy steps to planning a successful quiet time with Jesus, what I do have to offer are some general suggestions that you can prayerfully consider as you sit before the Lord.
1. Pray for the Right Attitude
If you have been spending a lot of time dealing with hectic schedules or anxieties over your business or family life, you cannot expect to pick up the Bible and immediately enter into its heavenly mysteries. Just as you ask a blessing over your meal before you eat it, so to, it is a good rule to ask the Lord to bless you as you partake of this heavenly food. If you don’t take the time to pray before opening God’s Word, it is completely possible that even though you are doing the right thing—reading the Bible—you will be doing it with the wrong attitude. Begin your time with God in prayer, and you will have the right attitude:
• Expectancy: You will expect to have a good time of fellowship.
• Reverence: Your heart will be prepared and still before His Majesty.
• Alertness: You will give Him your best.
• Teachability: You will come for the purpose of doing what God asks.
2. Choose a Consistent Time
Always give God the best part of your day. Make sure you are consistent with that time, and that it is free from as many interruptions as possible. Don’t try to squeeze the Lord into your already tight schedule, have a plan that provides a set time—put it on your calendar if necessary. For most of us, early in the morning usually works best. In fact, Jesus often chose to pray and meet alone with the Father early in the morning (Mark 1:35) and so did king David (Psalm 5:3). Time spent with the Father is more important than an extra hour of sleep.
Pioneer missionary Hudson Taylor once said, "You don’t tune up the instruments after the concert is over." How true! It’s logical to tune your instruments before you start to play. The same is true for our spiritual lives. If Jesus is really in first place, we ought to give Him the first part of the day. After all, doctors tell us that the most important meal of the day is breakfast because it determines our energy levels, alertness and even our moods. Likewise, we also need a "spiritual breakfast." When we start the day with the Word of God, we are beginning on a high note. We will often be able to share what we receive in the morning as an encouragement to others throughout the day. Why not even consider having two quiet times (morning and evening). Stephen Olford, a well-known pastor once said, "I want to hear the voice of God before l hear anyone else’s in the morning, and His is the last voice l want to hear at night."
3. Decide on the Amount of Time
How much time should we spend with the Lord? Aim to spend not less than 15 minutes a day with God in your personal devotions. Out of the 168 hours we all have in a week that will only take, one hour and 45 minutes of your weekly routine. That seems terribly small when you consider that you were created to have meaningful fellowship with God. Here’s a helpful hint: Watching the clock will ruin your time with God, instead try setting an alarm.
4. Pick a Consistent Location
Jesus had a custom of praying in the quiet garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39). The place you choose ought to be a quiet and secluded place where you can be alone and undisturbed. In today’s noisy world this may take some ingenuity, but it is important. As you consistently meet with the Lord in that place, it will become special because of the wonderful times you have had with Jesus.
5. Have a Basic Plan
It’s been said, “If you aim at nothing, you are sure to hit it!" To have a meaningful quiet time, you will need some general guidelines to follow. It could be something as simple as:
• Briefly Pray: Invite Jesus to be with you (Psalm 139:23-24).
• Praise God: Read a Psalm out loud or sing a praise song to get your heart and spirit in an attitude of worship.
• Read the Bible: Read slowly and systematically (not randomly), and read only a small portion. If you follow a Bible in a year reading plan, after you have finished your assigned reading for the day choose a small portion of it and review it more devotionally.
• Meditate: You can meditate on Scripture by reading the passage out loud a few times, asking questions, memorizing a verse, reading in a couple of different translations, paraphrasing it in your own words, and so forth. Talk with God about how this verse relates to your life and how He wants you to practically apply this truth.
• Journal: Write down any key thoughts the Lord gives you.
• Close in Prayer: After God has spoken His Word to you; speak to Him. Include times of adoration, worship, thanksgiving, confession, intercession and petition. Occasionally vary your physical positions in prayer (kneeling/standing). Tell God how you desire to respond to Him today.
While these five suggestions can help you in formulating a plan for your daily devotions, remember to guard yourself from the rut that routine can bring. Any good relationship is built on a variety of activities and experiences, and the same holds true with your relationship with God. Maybe you should spend the whole time in prayer or song, maybe one day you can walk as you read and pray, or maybe you should write a letter to God expressing your heart for Him instead of your normal journaling. However you mix it up, keep it exciting—don’t let your devotions become a duty. Never become devoted to the habit—only to the Savior.