Tips for a Fruitful Devotional Time
There's a few times on the calendar such as New Year, the beginning of school, or a vacation getaway that Christians tend to take a look at their walk with God and endeavor to make strides closer to Him. Just because you're reading this, I trust your passion is for Christ and that you're seeking His Presence. I'd like to offer a few tools to help.
1. Have a Plan When Approaching the Scriptures
Builders have blueprints, artists have models, athletes have training regiments, and the retired have savings. Every success in life begins with a plan. At some point, the successful man or woman made a budget, rough draft, diet, calendar, or even a simple to-do list.
Our Spiritual walk isn't any different. Paul spoke of personal discipline in 1 Corinthians 9. Most pastors recommend setting aside a specific time and place, and using a Bible reading schedule or devotional guide. These disciplines will help you to keep your time situated for Scripture reading and meditation.
We have 3 Bible reading schedules on our church's web site, such as the Entire Bible in One Year. I've known Christians who are successful with apps, journals, devotional books, guides, emails, and checklists. The point is, what gets planned gets done. University professor Dr. Gail Matthews found that an individual is 42% more likely to achieve a goal simply by writing it down! That's incredible!
You can dramatically improve your time in the Bible right now, just by writing down your plan! Or print it! Or buy it! Just plan it!
2. Read and Pray Aloud
Church emphasizes this, but I wonder if most Christians are only experiencing their faith out loud in the assembly and not on their own. Part of getting alone, literally alone, with God will help you to be able to speak out loud with the Lord. Vocalize the Scriptures. Voice your prayers. The devils will hate you for it. And you will be emboldened in your faith!
Along these lines is listening while you read. You can find a (pretty epic) playlist of the Bible being read out loud here, This may help you to focus on what you are reading with less distraction.
I'm not talking about praying aloud for an audience, but when you're alone with the Father. Why? Well, Jesus did. (Heb. 5:7; Mat. 26:39)
3. Keep a Prayer List
Last year, I asked Pastor Mike Norris how to stay on fire for Jesus, and without hesitation, he said, "keep a prayer list." I'm sure that advice has been passed down through many generations of wise men who could get a hold of God in prayer. In fact, I'm sure it has, I've read this concept in many books on prayer.
I've tried to go digital with this idea, and maybe that would work for you, but since I was in Bible college, I have manually logged them in a blank journal, and it works to keep my mind focused while praying, because otherwise, if my body is sitting still in silence, it wants to sleep! Stay sharp and enjoy your time with Christ and loving on others in prayer as you use your quiet time to write, recite, and rejoice in what the God of Creation is doing through the prayers of a little anonymous Christian.
Vero Beach Baptist Church distributes a prayer list on Wednesdays. Other churches do the same, this is a great place to begin! Imagine how God could change our lives if we were strategic in prayer!
4. Memorize Scripture
There are neither shortcuts nor excuses for Scripture memorization. It's just a matter of work. On the commute, in our devotion time, or with family - there's plenty of time in the day to do it. I know few people who have memorized as much Scripture as successfully as Dr. John Goetsch. And thankfully, he wrote a book on it! You can find the excerpts in four parts here. I hope you'll study it, friend. If a quarterback can memorize a playbook and an actor can memorize a 3-hour broadway play, I'm encouraged to think that a follower of God Almighty can commit the most precious Book to memory.
5. Be Sincere
J. I. Packer made an excellent caution on this matter of prayer lists. So that we don't mistake our prayer time for a check list, he taught, "Our amplifyings and argumentation will [then] lift our intercessions from the shopping list, prayer-wheel level to the apostolic category of what Paul called ‘struggle’ (Col. 2:1–3)." (Prayer. pp.229–230)
Praying and reading aloud blesses my soul, and I feel nearer to the Lord for it. Perhaps you talk to Him on your commute. Maybe you have personal time in the early morning or late evening. The bottom line is that this is all about time with your Savior, Who desires time with you. He actually desires time with YOU! So be sincere, my friend. He's such a good and gracious Father, Friend, and God.