Private devotional life is the foundation of our relationship with God. A relationship with Jesus is developed much like any other. Imagine how miserable a marriage would be if the two spouses never saw each other, never talked, never discussed life and all of its complexities! A marriage with no talking, a relationship with no relation, is destined to break down. So too, our relationship with the Lord will be as strong as we intend to make it. If we neglect Him, He will never neglect us! However, God will not force us to receive the fullness of the gifts of power and strength offered to us in a rich, meaningful relationship with Him.
The pattern for daily devotion offered in this journal is not a miracle cure. Similarly, the pattern provided in these pages is not the only way to effectively commune with Jesus, our King. That said, the elements included in this form of devotion are sure to provide the type of guidance and structure needed by most believers to cultivate a strong discipline in daily time with the Lord. Please take the time to read the explanation for each of the steps suggested, and consider trying them as written for 90-days before seeking to modify them. If you already have a healthy devotional life, please consider incorporating the daily readings and related journaling into your daily time with the Lord.
EXPLANATION OF THE STEPS
Lay your burdens and needs before the Lord
Often it can be hard to focus when we have so many thoughts, fears, and anxieties rushing through our mind. Take some time to “park” your concerns before God, simply writing down a word or two that will remind you what to pray for during your prayer time. Although you certainly could stop and pray now, that is not the intent. By laying these things before God in writing you are giving these needs a place to sit while you focus on God. As you continue to work into a time of prayer and devotion, feel free to add to this list the things that come into your mind.
Brief time of complete silence and listening
Silence is often uncomfortable, and yet it is one of the most vital elements of a healthy devotional life. This is not to say that God does not speak to us in the midst of rush hour traffic, with our radio blaring and the kids screaming in the back seat. The Lord is always speaking to us, no matter our environment. However, our ability to listen is the greatest when we are able to focus on His voice. Have you ever tried to have an important conversation, only to have kids or phone calls constantly interrupt you? How much more, then, must we strive for undistracted listening before the Lord. In this short period of listening (which is often no more than three or five minutes), take great care to have no distractions present. This includes music (Christian or otherwise), technology of all kinds, as well as other people. Imagine Jesus all by himself, early in the morning before the rise of the sunset on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. What distractions were with Him? Probably none, except for a few birds or fish off in the distance. Be silent, and simply ask “Lord, do you have anything to say to me this morning?” What do you hear? Do any thoughts seem to suddenly enter your head? Do you sense anything being spoken into your heart or mind, but almost definitely not your ears? Take time to write down what you hear, and then move on to the next step. If you do not hear anything, do not fear! There will be many, many days where God will primarily speak to you through His Word.
Briefly ask the Lord to speak to you through His word. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you more fully, and to help you to learn new truths about yourself and those around you. Just take a few moments to ask the Holy Spirit to guide your time in His Word.
Each day we are given a brief Psalm reading that often compliments the other daily readings. Take time to read through the Psalm of the day, meditating on its words. Pray the words of the Psalm for yourself, carefully considering each word and phrase.
Try to place yourself in the Psalm, reading it out loud (if possible) to help you focus. Think about what the Psalm is saying about God, humanity, and more importantly consider what it is saying to you personally.
Also, if you have time, consider reading the suggested morning and evening Psalms. Reading the Psalms can be a great way to awaken your mind before diving into the daily readings. If you follow the daily Psalms guide, you will read through the entire book of Psalms once per month.
Read, Journal, Pray
Read through the provided Bible verses using a translation of the Bible that is easy for you to understand. If you do not know the meaning of a word being used in the text, consider briefly looking the word up in a dictionary so that you will better understand what is written. As you read, take time to briefly journal the things you observe about the text. These do not have to be lengthy journal entries, and are simply intended to help us pay attention to what is being read. It is extremely easy to read the Bible and get absolutely nothing out of it, because we are just reading and not concentrating.
Make notes about the various things you observe in the text, and write down the truths that come to mind as you read. After you have completed reading the text and journaling your observations, write a brief prayer in your journal that asks God to help make real the types of things you have observed (see example below). Repeat this process for each of the readings given for the day (excluding the Psalm)
PRAYER AND WORSHIP
The closing portion of this pattern of daily devotion includes a prayer time using the A.C.T.S. prayer method. This prayer time can be as short or as long as time permits, but should not be omitted if at all possible. Although there is nothing particularly special about this specific pattern of prayer, it is a helpful guide to ensure we incorporate the most important elements of a healthy relationship with God.
Worship has nothing to do with music. The Greek word for worship offers us the image of bowing low to the ground before your King, before your God. In this opening piece of our time of prayer, simply speak words of worship and adoration to the Lord. Avoid the temptation to try and sound “religious”, or to use the “right” words. Simply speak what you know to be true about God from your own experience of Him, as well as from what is revealed in His word. A brief example of this type of prayer could be “Father, you are so good! You are loving, wonderful, kind, and generous to all of your children. I love you! I worship and adore you!” Take care to avoid thanking Him for specific things, that will come later. This is not a time of thanksgiving; this is a time for worship. To use an example from marriage, this is the difference between telling your spouse “thank you” for a gift they gave you and telling them how great of a spouse and parent they are. Thanksgiving is more often about something specific God has done, while worship is a humble time of reflecting on who He is. You may choose to sing a song of worship, or listen to a worshipful song to help you draw near to God in adoration.
The Bible says that if we confess our sins, God will forgive us and cleanse us from the stains caused by unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) . Each day it is helpful to spend a few moments reflecting on your life since the last time you intentionally confessed to God. This is not a time for condemnation, nor a time to beat yourself up about sin. Instead, this encounter with God is an encounter with His radical grace and mercy. When we bring our sin from hidden darkness and into the light of the cross of Christ, healing takes place. The Lord already knows each of our actions, righteous and unrighteous, before we do them! By being open with Him about our failures, the Lord draws near to us and strengthens us. Imagine what it is like when you know that someone (a spouse, a child, or a friend) have done something to you but they have not admitted it. There is a barrier created within your relationship that can only be removed by open, honest conversation. While the Lord is not as fickle as us humans, confession before Him works in a similar fashion. Open, honest conversation with God about our sin is an act of worship and repentance that helps us to maintain a close relationship with Him. Be specific, be honest, and if you struggle to see any sin to confess it may be helpful to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any unconfessed sin. Sometimes there will be no sin to confess, but more often than not He will help you see the areas of sin in your life that He is hoping you will work on with Him.
Journal your confessions each day just like a prayer. By writing down your specific sins you are bringing your sin into the light of day, rather than hiding it in the darkness of self.
Phillippians 4:6 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (ESV) Before we begin asking the Lord for all the many things we may need Him to help us with, it is helpful to thank Him first for the many things He has already done. Reflect on your life since the last time you met with the Lord in this way. What has He done? How has He acted on your behalf? What prayers have you seen answered? Strive to be specific, as this will help you to become more aware of countless ways that the Lord is active in your life. If no specific items come to mind, thank Him in a general way for the countless things God does to care for you and your family.
The word Supplication is a fancy church word that stems from older French and Latin terms meaning “humble request” . When we ask the Lord for the things we need in our life, we do so with humility and reverence. It is true that Hebrews 4:16 tells us we can approach the Lord “boldly” or “with confidence”, however multiple other texts remind us that it is the humble one that God looks upon kindly (Psalm 138:6). In the Old Testament, Moses was a man that God spoke “face to face, as a man speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11) . However, scripture also tells us that “Moses was very humble, more than any other man on earth”
(Num 12:3) . Humility is not optional in prayer, nor in any other area of the Christian life. So with humility, lay your requests before God as a loving, perfect Dad. He loves you. He is not only your Father and Creator, He is your Savior too. Although the Lord owes us nothing, He is gracious and merciful to us for the sake of His Son, Jesus and out of His great love for us. Avoid trying to use special “religious” words, and do not try to sound any particular way. Simply talk to God about your fears, hopes, dreams, needs, and anxieties in the same way you would speak to any other person.
It is at this time that you should return to the top of your journal page where you “parked” the cares and concerns on your heart. Pray now for each of those things, and anything or anyone else that comes to mind.
This simple pattern for daily devotion can be completed in about thirty-minutes, but it is best to spend as much time as necessary to fully invest yourself in it. It is hard to imagine spending too much time in prayer and devotion with the Lord. If you have additional time to give to God, consider reading each day something that will strengthen your soul. Reading biographies of great “heroes” of the faith can be a great way to open our eyes to additional ways that we can grow in our relationship with, and service to the Lord.