The time to make New Year’s Resolutions approaches. While historically I have been “bah humbug” regarding New Year’s Resolutions, this year, I’m making a few.
The main one is to be more disciplined in setting and following my devotional time with the Lord.
A couple weeks ago, I posted 8 Steps to Enhancing Your Spiritual Gifts. A friend requested a follow up post on how to have a good devotional time.
I mentioned in that post that I was writing as much for me as for anyone else. And that goes for this post. I know how to do this, but I’ve been lax in practicing this spiritual discipline.
1. Set a Devotional Time in the Morning
I’m not a morning person. For years, it’s been one of my goals in life to be a morning person, but alas, I have a really comfortable bed. So why go against my biological grain and the comfy bed to set aside devotional time in the morning? Here are three reasons.
A. Jesus got up early to pray.
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:35
B. Daily Life is Busy
I’ve tried to have devotional time after my kids wake up, and it’s practically impossible. Between ceaseless interruptions, I end up scrolling Facebook.
Then there’s work during the day and family life in the evenings and…
I just need to carve out 15 to 30 minutes for me and the Lord, and the only time we can have alone, uninterrupted, is before the kids wake up. That means 15 to 30 minutes in the morning.
C. Brain Chemistry
I want to program my mind to be more like Christ’s, and there’s a brain function while drifting into and out of sleep, not to mention during sleep, which involves your brain clearing junk out and setting itself for the coming day.
Therefore, usually right before going to bed, I’ll read something from the Bible – from the Gospels, Psalms, or Proverbs – that’s really good. That intentionally puts something really healthy into my brain before sleeping, and then I bookend my sleep with more time with God’s message to us. That’s good stuff.
Tricks to getting up early.
A. Before you go to bed, set your mind to getting up early the next day.
B. Don’t hit snooze. Get right up.
C. If you have a coffee maker, try this. The night before, set the automatic timer to make coffee 5 minutes after your alarm goes off, but don’t put the pot in the coffee maker. That way, if you don’t get up when your alarm goes off to put the coffee pot beneath the coffee drip, your coffee maker will make a big mess… thus conditioning you to get up right away next time!
D. Make a deal with yourself that you won’t look at social media, check email, check the weather, or whatever little ritual you do first thing in the morning until you have your devotional time.
The point is, train yourself to easily get up 4 or 5 days a week to have a devotional time with the Lord.
Coffee in hand, I go to my devotional space and begin with some worship.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name! Psalm 100:4
Invite the Holy Spirit to join you and spend a few moments soaking in the Lord’s presence through worship. I sometimes will use worship music to facilitate this, but usually, I do it with no tools, in the silence of the morning, and I just begin praising and thanking God out loud. I do so standing up, lest I get too comfortable and doze off asleep in my chair.
If you don’t know to worship, pray Psalm 5, which starts, “Consider my groaning…” (I groan in the morning)… “I pray, O Lord in the morning…” Okay, if you think that joke was in poor taste, then try Psalm 24, a rousing anthem to wake you up.
Or go to the playlists on this site, and learn how to worship.
To be honest, sometimes my entire devotional time is this, including praying/worshiping in the Spirit.
3. Scripture Reading
I suggest following an annual reading plan, such as the One Year Bible, available in the free YouVersion Bible app (although I prefer the paper version). This offers a daily reading from the Old Testament, the New Testament, a Proverb or Psalm, so that you read the whole thing in a year.
If you have time, couple your reading with a daily devotional (but this is the first thing I cut out, if I’m short on time).
Personally, I like Darrel Bock’s “365-Day Connect the Testaments Plan” available from Logos Bible Software, because it includes a daily devotional reading and exports the whole thing to the calendar in my mobile devices. That’s just neat.
Many are available for free online, like Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Daily Devotional.
Keep in mind, this is not Bible study. It’s Bible reading. Set a different time for Bible Study. Allow the Holy Spirit to work the Bible into your heart during this time.
If I’m short on time, I’ll just read from Proverbs. There are 30 chapters in Proverbs, and whatever day of the month it is, I’ll read that chapter. Sometimes I’ll do that right before going to sleep.
Occasionally, I’ll have skipped several days in my Bible reading plan. In this situation, I recommend that you don’t try to catch up… just jump to the day you’re supposed to be at. Otherwise, it can quickly become overwhelming to get caught up, and after all, there’s always next year to stay on plan.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book…” Exo 17:14
Get a journal and jot down ideas that that came while reading the Bible.
Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so he may run who reads it. Habakkuk 2:2.
I’ll record any dreams I remember and any prophetic words I’ve received.
I’ll also record important To Dos for my day and thoughts that come to mind. For instance, this blog post started as notes jotted down in my journal (the picture above).
5. Daily improvements
While journaling, I’ll considering the day before. I’ll write down
A. What went well
B. What didn’t go so well
C. One thing I can improve upon to make today a better day than yesterday. Just one thing. There might be a dozen things that I could do, but I just select one per day.
Paper or Digital?
I prefer paper journals, and I make it a special event. For instance, my journal is in a leather cover, and I write with a nice fountain pen. I enjoy the sensory experience of it all.
For some people, computers are better tools for journaling, and that makes a lot of sense, especially when searching for an old dream, prophetic word, article ideas or whatever. Some people use a simple Notes programs in their smart phones or tablets, but I recommend something like MacJournal. (I don’t have a recommendation for Windows).
In fact, I often type out the first drafts of these blog posts in MacJournal. Important dreams or prophetic words, I’ll eventually transfer from my paper journal to MacJournal.
However, I’ve simply not had a ton of success in journaling early in the morning using a digital tool like this on a regular basis. I think my eyes aren’t awake enough to stand looking at a screen first thing in the morning, and I find it too easy to go to Facebook or Twitter. Also, I just like paper and pen. I’m an analog kind of guy.
I conclude my time with prayer.
…in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Phil 4:5
Actually, prayer is all throughout my time with the Lord, but I conclude my devotional time specifically with prayer. I make my requests known to the Father and jot down any responses he has for me.
Be sure to listen to the Father during prayer. It’s not a one-way conversation, and record what God says back. Consider those thoughts to make sure you heard the Lord correctly, and that it wasn’t just your heart speaking. Get Hearing God for more on that.
I intend to do this consistently, but won’t make it a law and won’t feel guilty when I miss a few days. The benefits, however, of consistently having an awesome devotional time far outweigh the benefits of staying in my comfy bed every morning.
This entire process is an important tool to live with God’s heart and Christ’s mind on earth, full of the Holy Spirit and aware of what the Father is doing. If you enjoyed it, please share!