by Mary Lou Redding
The phrases "doing devotions" or "having devotions" may sound foreign or weird. These phrases are simply ways people describe spending time with God by reading the Bible (and other Christian literature) and praying. Why bother to read the Bible and pray? Why is having a regular time with God important? We spend time with God in order to deepen and strengthen our relationship with the One who created us and yearns to be with us.
But because we are all different and because each of us has a unique relationship with God, no one devotional pattern will work for everyone. And no one way works for anyone all of the time. Experiment until you find the time of day, content, and length of time spent that helps you feel connected with God.
- Begin your devotional time by quieting yourself. Take a few deep breaths and become still. Some people light a candle or say a simple prayer such as, "O God, open my heart to hear your message to me in the words I read."
- Then read a short passage in the Bible and some additional reading. A resource such as The Upper Room can guide you in choosing scripture passages, and its witness from other believers can help you connect the words of the Bible with concerns of everyday life.
- At the end of your reading time, be silent and wait to see what words, feelings, or images rise in your heart or tug at your thoughts. Notice what situations or people come to mind.
- Consider how the words or images connect with your life; then pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to see what God may be saying to you through what you have read, thought, and felt.
- Say a prayer, asking God to help you follow the guidance you have received and to be with the people who came to mind during your reading and reflection.
You may want to record your thoughts and feelings in a notebook or journal, to help you remember what God has been saying to you. Many people find it helpful to write about concerns and to write a prayer as a way to end their devotional time.
If you are just beginning to take time for reading the Bible and praying, plan to spend about ten minutes. As you become more comfortable with the process, you may find yourself spending a longer time.
OTHER IDEAS TO HELP YOU
- Start small. Use a resource such as The Upper Room that provides short, daily readings and guides you to look at small portions of scripture. Don't start off planning to spend 30 or 45 minutes.
- Keep it manageable. Don't set impossible goals such as reading an entire chapter of the Bible three times a day, every day. Choose a discipline that you can stick with.
- Look for help. If you are unfamiliar with the Bible, put a bookmark in the contents page of the Bible you use so you can turn there to find where each book begins. This will save time and help you avoid frustrated searching for a particular reading. If you need help finding something to read that "speaks" to you, ask people at church for suggestions of what they have found helpful.
- Find a spiritual "buddy." Ask a friend, co-worker, or someone at church to become your devotions partner. Then, each day, call or e-mail one another to discuss what you have read and what connections you make between the reading and your concerns.
- Remember the value of having a pattern. Finding a regular time and place to read the Bible and the day's meditation in The Upper Room helps most people be more consistent in turning their hearts to God. Regularity can become a rhythm that comforts, and having a familiar time and place may help you to settle into God's presence more easily.
- Remember the value of being flexible. Doing exactly the same things in the same way can become stale over time. If events in your day interfere with your usual pattern, find another time to read and reflect, or turn your mind to God by singing a Christian song. Don't let a pattern control you and cause you discomfort. The point is to spend time with God, not to do this in a particular way.
- Be creative. Try something new from time to time. Here are some possibilities: Read your meditation outside. Write your prayers in a journal. Take a "prayer walk" with the intent of looking for God, and pray in response to the people and situations that come to mind as you walk. Listen to Christian music and talk to God about what it brings to mind.
The most important thing to remember as we try to grow closer to God is that God is already reaching out to us. God is the one who gives us the desire to grow, and God wants us to grow. We just keep showing up, even when we don't particularly feel holy or loving or eager. And we can trust that if we do so, God will show up, too.