How's your devotional life?
Mine was in a great groove (see ‘6 Things That Helped Me Start a 104-Day Bible Reading Habit‘) until a particularly busy period at work knocked me off course. Early mornings and late nights killed my routine, and this was followed by children that were waking at irregular times. A disruptive combo, and I haven't got back in the saddle again since.
I want to get back into it again, but to be honest I'm struggling. I've been questioning my heart to find out why, and trying to get back into a good pattern once again.
Here are some questions I've been asking – that you might like to ask yourself too.
1. Why do I want to have a (better) devotional life?
It's always good to start with ‘why'.
We do this all the time:
- Why did I stop eating donuts? So I will have energy to play with the kids.
- Why am I studying for this Masters? So I can get a better job.
- Why am I going to the gym at 5.30 in the morning? So I can fit into my wedding dress.
It's a useful question for your devotional life too. And while there are many answers to this question, the one burning in my heart is simple – I can't live without it. When I carry on my life without this time, I move from thriving to surviving. From following His plans, to following my own plans. From loving Him, to loving created things.
And completely unsurprisingly, the cracks start to appear quickly.
Why do you want to have a better devotional life?
2. When (and where) am I going to spend this time?
When I was in a regular pattern, I was getting into bed and opening up my Bible. This is what I did each and every night. This time doesn't work anymore (with small children waking up at various times in the night), so I've started to open the Bible when I get on the train each morning. I need to make sure that I do this – and don't look at my phone, close my eyes, or do anything else until I've done it!
When and where will you spend this time?
3. What am I going to do in this time?
I've discovered that if I don't know what I am going to do (what I will read, who and what I will pray for, what I will write down, etc.) this time will quickly go nowhere. It's a bit like arriving at work without a plan for how you will start the day – responding to email will quickly consume your attention, and before you know it you've been ‘busy' for an hour but haven't done anything of significance.
I need a plan. For example:
- Read a chapter of Philippians.
- Pray about my plans for the day.
- Memorize a passage of Scripture.
There are no rules for what you do – everyone is different. But make a plan!
What will you do in this time?
4. When this time rolls around and I don't want to do it, how will I respond?
I often find that when the appointed hour arrives (i.e. when I sit down on the train), the desire has left the room. At this moment, I need to remind myself of why this time is important. I need words to speak to myself to fire me up about the benefit of this time, of my desperate need for this time.
“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4
What will you do when you don't want to spend this time?
5. How will I begin this time?
My friend Mike suggested these wonderful words from 1 Samuel 3:9:
“Speak, LORD, your servant is listening.”
These words are not only a humble request for God to speak, they also provide an expectation that He will do so. Often I find myself confessing my lack of desire, my desire to have a greater desire, and for God to work through my weakness.
How will you begin your time with the Lord?
6. How will I deal with distractions during this time?
I am easily distracted, and particularly when it comes to this time of the day! This shouldn't be surprising – we must expect distractions and be on the front foot in preparing for their imminent arrival.
Could your phone ring? Turn it to silent. Could you be tempted to look at social media? Turn your phone off! Could you be tempted to fall asleep? Stand up and move around.
What distractions can you anticipate, and how can you prepare for them?
This is a work in progress as I wrestle with a spirit that is willing, but flesh that is weak. But I pray this is useful for you as you pursue a more regular and soul-enriching time with the Lord.