What are personal devotions?
Personal devotions are intentional appointments in which you spend private time with God. Scripture warns us not to neglect the corporate meetings of God’s people (Heb. 10:24-25). But your faith will be shallow and your growth will be stunted if you only pay attention to God during public, corporate gatherings. In fact, you may need to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith if you have no desire for God outside of attending church services. After all, salvation is not just “fire insurance.” It involves a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. And with all healthy and growing relationship, you must invest time into it. Call it personal or private devotions. Call it a quiet time. Call it what you want. You ought to spend time with God – just you and God.
Why are personal devotions important?
The best reason I can give you for having devotional times with God is the fact that Jesus did. There were times when Jesus would get up early in the morning, before daybreak, and steal away to some desolate place to pray (Mark 1:35; Luke 4:42). And if Jesus – the incarnate, eternal, and only-begotten Son of God – found it necessary to spend private time with God, who are we to think that we can navigate our faith walk without spending time with God? Beyond that, spending time with God will build your faith, help you to resist temptation, and provide spiritual wisdom for life. The spiritual benefits of personal devotions are great, diverse, and numerous. But James 4:8a may say it best: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (ESV)
When should I have my devotional time?
Let me answer that two ways. First, you should have a devotional time everyday. Consider the things in your life that you do not go a day without? Eating? Television? Surfing the web? Talking on the phone? Reading the newspaper? There are many things – some good and edifying and necessary, some not – that are a part of our daily routines. It just shouldn’t be that you do many things every day, but only spend quiet time with God once or twice a week. You should put on your schedule a quiet time with God every day.
Secondly, you should have your devotional time in the morning. This is not a hard and fast rule. And there are many for who deem it better to have their quiet time in the evening. Or late at night. That’s fine. But for must of us, it is probably best that do our quiet time in the morning. Most of us are more refreshed and focused in the morning. Having it in the morning also helps to prevent your quiet time from being squeezed off the agenda at the end of a long day. It also seems to be appropriate to begin your day by checking in with God.
What should I do during my devotional time?
I recommend that your devotional time should focus on two essential disciplines: Bible intake and prayer. By Bible “intake” I mean more than just Bible reading. But Bible reading should be primary. Get a plan to read through the Bible in a year. Or read through particular books of the Bible. Or read an Old Testament and New Testament passage. The plan is up to you. But you should be constantly taking in the scriptures. This includes meditating (thinking deliberately about a scripture to gain personal application) on what you read and memorizing specific passages of scripture.
Likewise, your quiet time should be spent in prayer. You should worship God and give thanks to him for his blessings to you. You should confess your sins to God and ask for his forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ. You should bring your needs to him, seek his wisdom, and submit to his will. You should pray for others – family and friends, your church family, the lost, the sick and grieving. In fact, you should start a prayer journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy or complex. It can be a simple as getting a notebook to list the people and things you are praying for and the ways God is answering your prayers. This would greatly aide your personal devotions.
Now, there are many other helps I could recommend. But I think it is best that you view most other resources and practices as secondary to prayer and scripture intake. I will make one exception. It might help to also have a hymnal at hand during your devotions. Rather than just listening to CD’s of other people singing to God, you should get a Christian songbook and sing to the Lord in your quiet times with him.
In closing, let me appeal to take several action steps in response to what your have read above.
1. Make a commitment to start having personal devotions. Don’t think about having a quiet time. Don’t pray about making time for prayer. Don’t read on reading the Bible. Just do it! Make a commitment today to begin a quiet time with God.
2. Start now. There is really nothing holding you back. Set a time tomorrow to begin a quiet time with God. Put it on your calendar or schedule. Set your clock. Get your Bible, pen, and notebook handy. And start a quiet time immediately, if not sooner. Don’t give yourself time to make excuses for not doing it. Start now. Smart small, lest you set yourself up for failure. But start now.
3. Be prepared for resistance. The devil will do whatever he can to stop your personal devotions. The world will lure you with many enticements and distractions to keep you having your quiet or making it a priority. And your own flesh (or fallen, sinful humanness) will resist the development of this spiritual discipline. Even your blankets will attack you, when you try to get up 20 minutes earlier than usual to have your devotional time. Be aware. Be ready. Be persistent.
4. Make yourself accountable to somebody. Like with many things, it may help you to establish this new discipline if make yourself accountable to someone. Share your new commitment with someone who will pray for you, encourage you, and take interest in how you are progressing. Remember, two are better than one (Eccl. 4:9-12).
5. Don’t give up. There may be a day (or days) where you miss your quiet time. Don’t let the sense of failure cause you to give up totally. Just start over. If the Lord lets you live another day, then begin again where you left off. The Christian life is a series of new beginnings. So don’t be discouraged by failures.