I grew up in a Southern Baptist home. On Sundays, we checked off our offering envelopes with the following: Sunday School Attendance, Bible Brought, Lesson Studied, Giving, Daily Bible Reading, and Worship Attendance. Growing up I was expected to do these six things every week to provide a solid spiritual foundation, but it was not until my twenties that I experienced my first “wow” moment with devotion, and it was through the Living Bible.
The Living Bible, first published in 1971, introduced me anew to scripture. When I got mine, I determined to read it through and wasn’t far into Genesis when I began seeing things I didn’t remember reading in the King James Version (KJV). So I would go back to the KJV to be sure this new Bible wasn’t adding things. Each time I checked, the same truth was there, just more clearly spoken in the paraphrased Bible. This new understanding enlivened my devotions. I was eager to learn from this plain-speaking Bible. All this to say, choose a Bible that is right for you, and consider changing translations from time to time. My devotions are always energized by a new translation.
By nature, I am a curious individual and want the details. I keep a concordance, map, and commentary nearby for when I read scripture. A concordance helps to find scriptures easily and most Bibles have them in back. A map brings a visual to the time and place in scripture. A commentary gives information by those who have spent their lives studying and expounding on scripture. You may not use them every day, but if something comes to you in while reading your Bible that you want to understand better, having resources right at hand will enable that. I am presently using Matthew Henry’s Complete Bible Commentary, a favorite of Charles Spurgeon and George Whitefield, with Whitefield saying he read it through six times, the last time on his knees.
Create an environment that welcomes the Lord. I like to begin with worship music. Sometimes I sing along, other times I close my eyes and sit in silence as it penetrates my soul. If you have trouble with random thoughts intruding on your quiet time, keep a pad and pen nearby for writing them down for later, then get back to the Lord. Welcome His presence by being 100% His!
Inspiration from The Word for Today, the devotional magazine our church graciously provides, will help you get in stride with the Lord as you begin your quiet time. A year-long devotional book I cherish and read over and over is Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. A clergy favorite, one pastor was quoted as saying it was his second most important book–right after the Bible.
Along with those you know to pray for, ask the Holy Spirit’s guidance for any others. When I ask Him who I should pray for, almost always someone unexpected comes to mind. I trust that prompting even if I never know why. When in prayer, allow God time to speak to you. Someone wrote that most of us rush into prayer, pour out all our needs and wants, then turn and hurry into our day without giving God time to speak to us.
Set aside occasional devotions where you ask God for nothing. Praise Him for the God you know Him to be and thank Him for how He has blessed you. Turn any petition that begins to form on your lips into words of how you trust Him to love and take care of you. If your child came to you in this manner, would it not delight you? Our Father yearns for this, too. Do this and be prepared for an infilling of joy and peace.
Learn about the lives of great servants of the Lord. Did you know George Mueller built five orphanages and cared for over 10,000 orphans on faith alone, trusting God to send the money or food they needed each day? Did you know Mother Teresa came from a well-to-do home and gave it all up to minister to the poor and dying? Did you know that her first patient was a man she found dying on the steps of a hospital and that she gathered him into her arms and refused to leave until the hospital took him in? The life stories of people of great faith will take you up the mountains of praise and worship and encourage you in your own relationship with God.
Keep a journal nearby. Record prayers God has answered and include the details, for it’s in the details that we see God’s hand. When we know His personal interventions, it builds our confidence in trusting Him more.
Devotions come alive when we come hungry, come expecting, and come grateful. If you let these things be the hallmark of your time with God, you will never be disappointed.
“Spend plenty of time with God, let other things go, but don’t neglect Him.”
–J. Oswald Sanders, missionary, evangelist, author