While we are familiar with someone being “devoted” to something (like hobby or a sports team), or devoting time to something, we don’t often talk about what a “Devotion” is.
How can a Christian have a “daily devotion”? Shouldn’t we be devoted followers of Jesus Christ all the time, rather than it being something we just try once a day?
The idea of a “Devotion” or “Devotional” shares a lot with these other meanings. Usually, within the church, a regular devotion time just means a period of time (often a part of your daily schedule) when you are doing things that are specific to your devotion to God.
Certainly, each Christian should try to always be devoted to God, but many “non-devotional” activities – while still part of the Christian life – also involve things like work, school, and other people. “Devotions” tend to be more about just us and God, even if someone else reads or speaks a little bit to share some things about God for us to think about. This person is sometimes said to be “leading a devotion”.
Take a look at this Bible verse:
In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.
Mark 1:35 NASB
While this passage doesn’t use the word “devotions”, or “quiet time”, it is clear that Jesus took time to pray (that is, talking with God the Father), away from other common distractions. Jesus didn’t necessarily read from God’s written word during that time, but as a rabbi, he would have had significant portions of the Scriptures memorized. Until we have the Bible committed to memory (and even for those who have done this), Bible reading is a good idea for us – including during our one-on-one time with God.
Often, Christians will read the Bible and pray to God during their devotion time, but some might also do other things, like read a little from a Christian author, or write down what they are praying about (to review later, and see what God has done to answer those prayers). It’s a good time to mentally review the day before, to remember what God did in your life that day; and the day to come, to talk with God about where you might need His help. Both the prayer and Bible reading give you a chance to listen to what God is saying to you about either of those.
Your devotional time (or “quiet time” or “time with God”) may look different from mine, but Christians have found that taking time in your schedule – to do things that are specific to your relationship with God – is a great way to improve that relationship.
Because getting started with this habit can be a challenge, here are some suggestions for you to consider:
- Find a good “devotional”. This is just a short article or write-up that someone else put together for you to read. It is usually set up to help you with the two primary devotional activities: something to read from the Bible, and something to pray about. There are daily e-mail devotionals, on-line devotionals, printed devotionals, devotional apps, and devotionals included alongside certain printings of the Bible.
- Start simple. Some people may be able to schedule 20-30 minutes out of their day and jump into a “Read the Bible in a Year” plan, but others might need to start with just 5 minutes to read a few Bible verses and pray.
- Take notes. If you’re not comfortable writing down what you are thinking about each day, or what you think God is saying to you, start with a prayer list. Write a few things down, pray for them, and then add new topics as you think of them. Periodically, look back over your prayer list, and see what God has done for you since you started praying regularly.
- Don’t panic. You’re going to miss a few days; don’t worry about it. This is a life-long habit, and not some ritual that you are bound to follow (or face penalties). Some people like to have devotions tied to specific dates, and catch up on what they’ve missed, but it’s ok if that 30-day reading plan takes you a couple of months. (For me, my weekend schedule is different than my weekday schedule. Maybe that’s the same for you.) Just keep at it, and remember that the goal is not to punch a time clock, but rather to find ways to spend some one-on-one time with God.
- Mix it up. Maybe you’ll find a combination of reading and prayer that works for you right away. More likely, you’ll try some different things and see what works for the specific way God designed you, unique to your circumstances and demeanor. If you’re struggling, try reading a few chapters from another book of the Bible, or seek out another Christian’s writing on a topic you’re thinking a lot about. Our lives aren’t perfectly uniform – don’t be afraid to spend time with God doing different things during the various phases of your life.
A version of this devotion originally appeared at http://fcccanton.com/devotions/ as a Study Guide. Reprinted here by permission.