Does your devotion time often feel like more of an obligation than a joy? Do you genuinely want to make spending time with God a priority, but you can’t quite seem to make it happen? I’ve been there! Here are a few lessons I’ve learned over the last several years on how to make my devotion time purposeful, consistent, and beneficial.
1. Pray. Pray. Pray.
Before you even open your Bible, pray for understanding and insight. God is faithful to His Word – if we seek Him, we will find Him. We are more aware of His presence when we take the time to invite the Holy Spirit to lead us. When you pray before approaching Scripture, it makes Bible reading about God revealing truth to you, rather than you trying to make meaning of things on your own.
When I come across a passage that is difficult to understand or is just plain dry, I pray through it. Even if I leave my devotion time with questions lingering or feeling like I didn’t “get” anything that day, I have learned not to be discouraged. He always makes meaning of it. I’ll find a commentary that’s helpful, or perhaps I’ll read something a few days later that will make that “dry” passage come to life. His Word is always relevant, and He’s revealing Himself and His will all along the journey. Trust Him to carry you through His Word.
2. Have a plan
Plan what to read ahead of time. Study a book of the Bible, read it chronologically, study a topic or theme, follow a reading plan, or read a devotional. Your devotion time won’t be well spent, and you’ll have little time to meet with Jesus if you spend half the time looking for something to read. Also, it’s very difficult to get any meaningful grasp of God’s Word if you’re constantly shifting gears.
There’s a much deeper well of understanding when you stick with something all the way through. Yes, sometimes the reading won’t feel like it resonates with you in that moment. That’s when you go back to point number one. Be steadfast, and trust God to reward your faithfulness in reading His Word for all that it is.
3. …But Don’t Be Afraid to Change it Up
While consistency is key in using your devotion time wisely and getting a rich knowledge of Scripture, it’s okay to change it up sometimes! Maybe you’re having a particularly anxiety-inducing week and you need to be reminded of God’s presence. Maybe you need to break up heavy passages of scripture with something a little easier to understand. Allow yourself the flexibility to take a brief break from your plans.
For example, right now I’m reading through the Bible chronologically; I’m in Exodus at the moment. I’ve also worked through the Psalms of Ascents and Psalm 119 in the midst of my regular reading, taking a day or 2 a week break from my reading plan. Most recently, I was feeling incredibly insecure and beat down by some personal failures, and spent a few days in Ephesians 1 allowing the Lord to remind me who I am in Him. It has refreshed me to get back to my goal of reading through the Bible chronologically.
Have a plan (and see it through), but don’t let your plans become burdensome.
4. Be Yourself
Find a rhythm that works for you. We all connect with God in different ways. Perhaps you like to pray aloud, or maybe you prefer to journal your prayers. Maybe your bible is filled with multi-coloured highlights and notes scribbled in the margins, or you like to keep your notes in a separate book. Maybe the wordiness of some Bible translations makes your head spin, and some others seem too colloquial. Don’t let anyone else’s vision of what “quiet time” looks like box you in. Don’t buy into the lie that your devotion has to look a certain way to be valid.
I am not a morning person. I don’t want a hot drink while I’m having my devotion, cause it usually just gets cold. Even though I love to write, journaling is something I do very infrequently. If I don’t pray aloud, my thoughts wander off. My Bibles are highlighted and scribbled in in a rainbow of colours. I prefer the NLT and AMP translations. That’s my method. It doesn’t have to be yours.
God desires your heart. That’s it. Seek Him genuinely, earnestly, and consistently. Crave His presence and love His Word. When you free yourself of a curated “quiet time”, you can enjoy knowing and being known by God.
5. Honor the Season You’re In
Your devotion time is not going to look the same in every season of your life. Don’t try to impose an old routine on a new season of life; you’ll just end up frustrated and stop showing up because it doesn’t look the way you want it to.
When I was a university student, I had my devotions in the evening, after dinner. I had 30-60 minutes to worship, to pray, and read my Bible.
When I graduated and started working evenings, I had my devotion in the morning (not too early though!).
When I switched to days, I went back to evening devotions. On the days I was busy at church in the evening, I read my Bible during my lunch break and prayed on my commute.
When I had my first child, my rhythm was severely interrupted, and for a while I resented it. I missed time with the Lord for days on end because by the evening I was too tired or too busy trying to get a fussy infant to bed. My mornings were even foggier than usual after a long night of interrupted sleep. For those first 6-8 months, my quiet time with the Lord just couldn’t look like it used to. I felt bad that I was “distracted” by my child. One day as I was nursing my son, scrolling mindlessly on my phone (as usual), the thought occurred to me to open my Bible app. Could I read my Bible while I nursed my little guy? Could I sing songs to the Lord while I rocked him to sleep? Could I pray quietly during that 3am feeding? Absolutely! And God met me there, even though it didn’t look the way I expected it to.
I encourage you, no matter the change in your schedule or your responsibilities, always find a way to show up in God’s presence. If you really want to know Him and do His will, it’s the only way. Don’t let the change of a season hinder your time with the Lord.
What does your quiet time look like right now? What do you find is the biggest hurdle in having quality, consistent devotions? Would love to hear from you in the comments!