Loyalty, love, and enthusiasm for a person.
I remember when I first started going to a Baptist church when I was in high school It was the first time I remember hearing the term "devotions." The pastor or the Sunday school teacher would say something about doing "personal devotions." I had no idea what they were talking about! Apparently, though, it was important to do this thing called devotions.
At some point I finally figured out that they were speaking about having private time in prayer and in God's Word. Although I finally knew what they were talking about, I still had no idea how to do devotions. No one really ever pulled me aside and discipled me to teach me practical things like that. I just kind of flubbed through it. Consistency was difficult at best. Over the years I kept trying and fine tuning my devotional time. I found things that worked for me and got me in the Word. Consistency came with hunger for God's Word and self-discipline.
Today my quiet time has blossomed into a beautiful quilt of memories and styles. I wish someone had taken the time to teach me about devotions so that this quilt could have been made much sooner and with less struggle. It makes me wonder if there are other women out there looking for that kind of help. Maybe there are women looking to freshen up their devotional time that has become stale. That happens occasionally, too.
I hope I can give some simple insights and ideas so that you can glean the most possible out of this precious time called "devotions."
Here's the key to it all: There is no set-in-stone way to do devotions. It is as individual as we are. There are three things required for devotions: prayer, God's Word, and you.
I have come across or used six different styles of devotions (or some variation of these six) over several years. There are times when I found one to be better than another. I simply change up my style depending on the need, where God leads, the Bible passage, etc.
Through the BibleI chose the "Through the Bible in Six Months" plan, but many people do the one year plan. I recommend everyone to read through the Bible at some point (if not several times.) There are schedules that go straight through the Bible and others that go chronologically.
One Year Reading Plan
Six Month Reading Plan
Pros: You get a great overview of the Bible as a whole. You will read passages you usually neglect. You will build endurance and discipline.
Cons: It's difficult to call ANY form of Bible reading a "con." Any time we get in the Book it is a good thing! But for practical purposes, reading through the Bible at a specifically scheduled pace can feel overwhelming. If you like to dig into the Word, sometimes it can feel rushed. It is easy to begin treating the Bible more like a textbook, and it is tempting to treat devotion time as something to be marked off the "to-do" list. To overcome these "cons," don't feel bound to the schedule. If something catches your eye, park on it. No one says you must finish in a year or you fail at Devotions 101.
In this method, you pick a book in the Bible, and you read until God points something out to you. You basically read until you get something to meditate on (munch on) all day long.
Crunch and Munch
Pros: This method is great for when your time is limited. As a mother with young children, I thrived with this method. It also helped me with my struggle with consistency. It trained me to think throughout the day on what I read. It was easier to digest smaller portions.
Cons: It is very easy to pull passages out of context with this method. Be sure to read enough to get the context of the passage.
Apple TreeImagine walking past an apple tree full of apple. You decide to get some apples. The first time you do it, you grab the apples that are easy to reach from the ground. The second time, you have to stretch and reach a little farther. The third time, you have to grab a ladder and get up in the tree to reach more apples. You get a little deeper in the tree each time.
Just like that, you pick a book in the Bible. You go through that book at a quick pace the first time, maybe a chapter or two a day. You glean the easy and quick to spot truths. The second time you go through, you slow down and look for new things you didn't see the first time through the book. The third time, you go verse by verse, taking time to look up words, meanings of people's names, cultural references, etc.
Pros: This method easily develops into Bible studies because your curiosity gets you! It gives you a good grasp on the book as a whole. It is easier to maintain context and good interpretation habits.
Cons: It is a little more difficult with larger books.
Devotional BookThis method is self explanatory. You use a scheduled devotional book as a guide.
Pros: This method can be very beneficial for those who struggle with consistency. It is easy to do because everything is laid out for you.
Cons: It is easy to create a dependency on being "spoon fed" instead of listening for God to speak to your heart directly from His Word. It can encourage laziness in building endurance and discipline. Many devotional books are shallow in their content. The reader can be at the mercy of the doctrinal accuracy of the writer if the reader doesn't do the research.
Gleanings from the Fields Devotional Book (PDF written by Baptist Missionary Women from around the world.)
Apples for Teachers by Frank Hamrick (written for Christian school teachers, but I gleaned a ton as a homeschool mom and a Sunday school teacher.)
A Word to the Wise by Paul Chappell (Goes through Proverbs. Has more "meat" to it than most devotional books.)
25 and ZoomThis is my favorite method. You pick a book of the Bible and read through it at a fast pace several times... as many as 25 times. (Obviously not in one sitting! It can take several weeks depending on the book and your reading pace.) Then after that, slow down and "zoom in" verse by verse.
Pros: This method is amazing at helping you keep passages in context as well as understanding the book as a whole. When you go through the book slowly that last time, you will be shocked at how much "jumps out" at you.
Cons: More difficult to do with larger books.
Pick a book in the Old Testament to work through as well as one in the New Testament. Read one chapter in each every day. Also read a Psalm and a chapter in Proverbs every day.
PPON (Psalm, Proverb, Old Testament, New Testament)
Pros: Gives a well-rounded diet of wisdom, encouragement, and knowledge everyday!
Cons: If time is limited it can be more difficult to do. It can sometimes feel overwhelming if there are too many thoughts to meditate on for the day.
Other tips for devotion time:
- Journaling your devotion and prayer time is very effective in aiding growth. For some people, journaling can feel distracting or cumbersome and interfere with developing consistency. For others, journaling helps them to focus and helps them to retain truths to meditate on throughout the day.
- Pray before and after reading the Bible.
- Have a plan and have your supplies ready.
- Reevaluate occasionally and don't be afraid to adapt your style to the need.
- Fast food is better than no food, so if for some reason you are cut short on time, commit to praying and reading something in God's Word everyday even if it is just for a few minutes. Check out this blog post: Yesterday's Lunch by Jamie. It will encourage you!