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If you’ve been a Christian for more than a few days, you’ve probably been told you need to have devotions every day. Some people call this a “quiet time.” But the question you may not know the answer to is this: How to have awesome daily devotions?
In other words, “What are devotions? What is a quiet time?” And even more importantly, “How should I ‘do’ devotions? What are the ‘must-haves’ and the ‘never-dos’?”
The good news is there are very few ‘must-haves’ – more on that below. And even fewer ‘never-dos’! But before moving on – look at the title of this article again. Do you see that word ‘daily’? THAT is a must-have.
No one will be grading you or checking up on you. So having daily devotions is entirely on you. But it’s a must-have because it is the only way to live this Christian life successfully.
Full disclosure: it’s also a process. I’ve missed the ‘daily’ part so many times! But every year and even every month, I get better at the dailiness of dependence on the Lord. And daily devotions are key in that process. For you as well as for me.
Aside from the daily part, what are the must-haves, the essential parts of your devotional time? There are only 3:
- The Word of God
Awesome Daily Devotions Require God’s Word
Any explanation of how to have awesome daily devotions must include the Bible. God’s Word is God’s primary way to teach you, speak to you, and give you the guidance and wisdom you need daily. If you’re like me, part of the reason you have devotions is that you know how desperately you need godly wisdom for everything you’ll face each day.
One of the amazing parts of meeting with the all-knowing God of the universe every morning is that He already knows what you’ll be facing. He knows the good. He knows the challenging. He knows the mistakes and temptations. When you meet with Him, He can give you wisdom and guidance before you even know what you need!
There is no secret to this. It is simply reading the Bible. And reading the Bible. And reading the Bible. Reading it so much that the Spirit has the tools He needs to guide you. He can direct your thoughts to specific passages as you face that difficult co-worker. He can remind you of God’s comfort when your child comes home with a story of being bullied at school.
As you immerse yourself daily in God’s Word, you will be renewing your mind – which leads to transformation and discernment (Romans 12:2). Since God’s Word is essential to renewing your thoughts, reading the Bible is absolutely essential.
To get the most out of your devotional time, you should read the Bible in a methodical, well-planned manner. That doesn’t mean you can only do what’s on your plan. But, as my dad used to say, “We have a plan so we know what we’re deviating from.” In other words, if you go ‘off-plan’ you do so for a specific reason and you realize what you are doing and why.
Here are just a few devotional planning ideas to get you started:
- Read through one chapter of a book every day.
- Read 5 Psalms and 1 chapter is Proverbs daily – you’ll read through both books in 1 month.
- Use a devotional book but then also read the section of Scripture that includes the verses that were used. For example, if Philippians 4:8 is quoted in the devotional book, also read Philippians 4:2-8 (or all of chapter 4).
- Choose a gospel and read only the sections as your Bible divides them – one section each day. For example, in my Bible, the Gospel of Matthew has anywhere from 2 to 9 section dividers inserted by the publishers. By reading shorter sections like this, you can read over them two or three times, pray through the section, meditate on it, and consider how the Lord wants you to live in response.
- Read the portion of Scripture your pastor will be preaching this coming Sunday. Read the same portion every day, asking for insight and wisdom.
One devotional plan that probably isn’t so great is reading through the Bible in a year. Don’t get me wrong – reading through the Bible in a year is a great habit! I’ve done it several times and am doing so again this year. But reading 3 to 5 chapters during your devotions usually doesn’t yield the same rich results as reading a smaller portion does. Instead, try setting aside 20 – 30 minutes every evening for your “read through the Bible” plan.
Awesome Daily Devotions Require Prayer
The second essential for awesome daily devotions is talking to God – also known as prayer. If you are not used to praying regularly or if you think that you need to know lots of fancy words to pray correctly, here’s some good news: Praying does not require any great knowledge, fancy words, or long lists. It only requires that you talk honestly and openly with your Heavenly Father.
If you did not have a close relationship with your earthly father, this might be more of a challenge for you. If it helps, think of prayer as talking to your closest friend.
In close relationships, conversations run from the mundane (what did you buy yesterday) to the important but normal (how are the kids) to critical issues that make you vulnerable (how do you feel about… or what will you do now…). It is the same way in prayer.
Yes, God already knows everything you think, feel, struggle with, and have done or want to do. But He also wants to hear about it. Think of it like this. When your mother is getting older, she may repeat favorite stories of her life or your growing-up years. You’ve heard them dozens of times. Do you stop her? No. Because you know it gives her joy to tell it, so you listen.
God is the same way. He knows, but He also wants to hear your voice. As you make yourself vulnerable in prayer – and that includes confessing sins – He can love you and comfort you and guide you in the ways you need. Because you talked to Him. Being honest in prayer has the added bonus of helping to keep your pride in check – and mine!
Prayer is no great secret and there’s no one special way you have to do it – except, of course, to pray to the True God and in the name of His Son Jesus. You will find, however, that as you spend more time in prayer, you will learn more – and not just about prayer. You will learn more about God, about yourself, about your sins, about God’s will, about your true priorities, about your needs and neediness.
You might be wondering, “Do I pray first or read the Bible first?” The answer is yes.
Some people pray first, and some read the Bible first. But most believers who’ve been doing this devotional life for a while find that it doesn’t matter so much because you will find yourself going back and forth.
For example, I almost always have a short one-sentence prayer for sensitivity to God’s voice at the beginning. But then I might continue in prayer for things pressing on my heart. Or I might feel disoriented and need to anchor my thoughts in God’s Word. Or I might be discouraged and turn to the Psalms to both read and pray through one or two.
The secret of how to have awesome daily devotions is to be real, authentic, and honest. Don’t try to pretend or hide. You won’t trick the Lord into not seeing that sin or knowing about your brokenness. And as you are real before Him, in all your broken humanity – that’s when you learn why daily devotions matter!
There is nothing – NOTHING – better than knowing the God of the Universe sees you, hears you, and meets you right where you are. I never leave my devotions unchanged. And if you’re honest with the Lord, you won’t either.
If you need help with praying…
If you feel like you need a bit more help in learning to pray, here are a few suggestions:
- Use a prayer list like this or this.
- Pray through a section of Scripture such as Colossians 1:3-12 or the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12.
- Start your prayer time with worship by focusing on an attribute of God, starting with A (Awesome, Awe-inspiring, Amazing, All-knowing) and continuing through Z (Zealous, Zion-loving). Some letters are harder than others (Q? X? But be creative and use an online dictionary!).
- Praying the same passage for a week or a month. Maybe Psalm 1? Or a portion of Psalm 119?
- Singing the same hymn daily until you have memorized all the verses. Those old hymns have some great theology!
- Asking God to speak to you clearly, then sitting quietly for at least 30 seconds (a minute is better). Write down what thoughts came to your mind. Pray about those thoughts.
- Use a ‘formula’ for prayer like ACTS.
If you’re not familiar with the ACTS prayer, each letter stands for one aspect of prayer:
- A – Adoration, which is also known as worship & praise for who God is.
- C – Confession of your sins.
- T – Thanksgiving for all the blessings God has given you – both the small and large.
- S – Supplication, which is simply asking for what you, your family, church, friends, neighbors, country, and world needs. Supplication is what most people think of when they think of prayer. Asking for things.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to pray. And the amazing thing is, the more you pray, the more ways to pray you’ll discover. The Spirit of God will never let you run out of ways to communicate with your Lord and Savior.The more you pray, the more ways you will discover to spend time praying. Your desire for prayer and power in prayer will grow constantly. Click To Tweet
Awesome Daily Devotions Require Writing
Reading the Bible is important. Praying is important. But walking away unchanged from your “devotions” is a problem. I put “devotions” in quotes because, if you are walking away unchanged you might just be going through the motions and not really connecting with your Lord – which is the entire point of having devotions!
I will say, there is value in just going through the motions at times. We all have seasons when it seems our Savior no longer cares, is no longer there, or has decided we’re too broken, too messed up, or too much trouble. That is never the case, of course – but we feel that way at times.
And at those times, ‘going through the motions’ can be an anchor to what you KNOW in the depths of your soul is true. So during those hard times, keep “going through the motions.” This season will pass more quickly when you keep yourself in the Word and in prayer – even if it seems useless.
However, most of the time if you’re just “going through the motions” something is probably wrong. Be honest with yourself, dig deep with the Spirit, and root out whatever it is. Confession and repentance over whatever it is will open your heart and mind and emotions to the delight of meeting with the Lord – and the equally delightful change He wants to make in you.
What does that have to do with writing? Glad you asked. Writing is simply making notes about what God did during your time with Him. Nothing fancy. You might want to
- Add a reminder to your calendar about something you need to do.
- Write a short email or text of encouragement to someone.
- Write 3 sentences in a journal about what you read and what you believe you need to do as a result.
- Make a list of people you prayed for – and then send them a text that says, “I prayed for you today.”
- Write out one verse that hit hard on an index card or sticky note to carry around with you all day.
The important thing is to NOT just close your Bible, walk away from your prayer spot, and get on with your daily life. Instead, take your devotions with you – some small portion at least – to give you the guidance, wisdom, peace, comfort, joy, or whatever else you’ll need throughout the day.
Responding to what you read in the Bible is more important. You don’t want to be like the person James describes:
“But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves…But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works—this person will be blessed in what he does.”James 1:22, 25 (CSB)
When you write something down in response to your devotions, you respond to the Word and to the Lord, as a “doer” and not just a “hearer.” In fact, sometimes I have stopped in the middle of my devotion time to write a card of encouragement or add an item to my to-do list. Then I just go back to reading and praying and listening to the Lord. He’s always right there waiting for me!
How to Have Awesome Daily Devotions – Some Things to Consider
The 3 essentials discussed above are all that is necessary for awesome devotions. But that doesn’t mean you cannot add other things if you wish. Some people include other routines from time to time – or all the time. Some of these may help you connect with the Lord – which is the only reason you should add anything!
- Reading a devotional book
- Listening to or singing worship music or hymns
- Reading a Christian living book
- Writing out your prayers
- Memorizing and reviewing Bible verses
As you consider whether to add anything else to your devotional time, also consider why you have devotions. And check out this post for ideas about the when and where of your devotions.
Do you have daily devotions because you think you should? Or because you want to spend time in the presence of Jesus? While there is something to be said for sticking with a habit even when you don’t feel like it, desiring to spend time in God’s presence is a far better reason for having a quiet time.
The question you need to ask yourself is this: will adding [this item] to my quiet time draw me closer to Jesus? Or will it just make me feel better, smarter, more accomplished, or more deserving? Do not add anything that will not draw you closer to Jesus. Even if your best friend, mother, or husband thinks it is essential!
These are all good, worthwhile activities. I’ve used all of them as part of my quiet time in the past. But that doesn’t mean they are right for you during this season of your life. If you only have 20 minutes for your devotions, spend it in the Bible and prayer. If, however, you have an hour, add those habits that will grow your faith.
If you need some help deciding, my first suggestion would be to add worship music and hymns (and yes, sing along!). The second would be memorizing the Word.Time with the God of the Universe should fill you with peace, joy, love, confidence, and purpose. But also with humility, graciousness, zeal for righteousness, sorrow over sin, and utter contempt for the idea of 'self-reliance.' Click To Tweet
Awesome Daily Devotions? Final Thoughts
The bottom line when it comes to having devotions is this: it is your time set aside to meet with your loving, forgiving, gracious God & Father. Whatever draws you closer to Him is allowed. Whatever draws you away, isn’t.
One caution, though. There are myriad false gods in the world and in the church today. You must be in the Bible consistently to recognize the true God from the Satan-inspired false gods.
If you come away from your quiet time feeling proud instead of humble, ready to conquer the world instead of ready to serve, or expecting to have effortless victory instead of expecting to stand for righteousness even when it seems futile – you might need to return to the Word.
Time with the God of the Universe should fill you with peace, joy, love, confidence, and purpose. But also with humility, graciousness, zeal for righteousness, sorrow over sin, and utter contempt for the idea of ‘self-reliance.’ You will know, without a doubt, that you are incapable without the empowering of the Holy Spirit – and you will rejoice in that truth.You'll never regret turning away from technology and toward your Savior. Click To Tweet
Now run – don’t walk – away from the computer or phone and grab your Bible. The one with pages, not in an app, where you can record what God teaches you in the margin. You’ll never regret turning away from technology and toward your Savior.