Failure in the Christian life can usually be traced to failure in one's devotional life with the Lord. Satan certainly fights the believer at this point in an attempt either to keep him from his devotional time with the Lord or to make it ineffective with his interference in some way such as wandering of the mind and interruptions, and so forth, so that one's devotions may become a spiritual disaster area. The devotional time should be alive with the life giving presence of the Holy Spirit, so that devotions are life giving. A few suggestions may be of some help.
1. Set A Definite Time Each Day And Keep It Faithfully.
A morning time is probably best, before you go out into the day's activities. The Bible says of Jesus, "And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." (Mark 1:35) If our Lord Jesus had vital contact with God in the morning, dare we try to get by with doing less? Vital contact with God in the morning will see you through the day.
2. Find A Solitary Place.
It is good to get off by yourself some place where it is quiet and you can be free from interruptions. Choose the time and place that is best for you. Your solitary place may not be out in a mountain and yet it may be, but it could be in some quiet nook of your home when everyone is gone or in some room where you may go and be undisturbed by anyone. At any rate, seek a place where you may take your Bible and be shut in with God.
3. The Length Of Time You Take May Vary.
It is good to plan a certain amount of time whether it be for five minutes or an hour. This may vary of course, and you should not be locked up to a time limit, so as to lose your liberty in God and become a slave to the clock. There are times when a brief season of time may seem enough, and then at other times you would wish for several hours. Do not excuse yourself, however, from the necessity of taking out time with God which is vital to your spiritual health.
4. Make Sure You Are In Contact With God.
There are times when we are on our knees in the position of prayer, but our minds are off wool gathering. The Bible can be read the same way, without our minds even being in it, so we simply get nothing out of it. To be on your knees and to be thinking about things or planning the day's activities is not praying nor contacting God. Prayer and Bible reading take both concentration as well as consecration. Remember you are talking with God. The line is not busy except from the interruptions from your end.
5. Confess All Known Sin.
Remember that sin separates and causes broken fellowship. Be honest and come clean with God. Isaiah said, "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." (Isaiah 59:1,2). David said, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Ps. 66:18). The sure remedy is "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9). You are seeking to have devotions with a Holy God, so make sure there is nothing between you and Him.
6. Thanksgiving, Praise, And Worship Should Be A Vital Part Of Your Devotional Time With God.
Do not begin with 'the gimmes" so that your approach is always "Lord, give me this, or give me that," etc. Nor is it good to begin with giving God His orders for the day as though He needed to be commanded what to do each day. It is better to seek His directions rather than direct Him as to what He should do for you. Thanksgiving and praise sets a good tone for your prayer life and puts you in a proper frame of mind. Try "thanksgiving'" for a new lease on life. Praise Him for everything. Worship seems to be a lost art, but it should be revived when it comes to prayer. Literally spend time in your devotional time just to worship Him for all that He is and has done and is doing for you. Give yourself to admiration of Him and tell Him how much you love Him.
7. Have A Definite Bible Study Whatever Method You May Use.
A paragraph study of the Bible as mentioned in the last Quarterly Notes is a wonderful way to study the Bible devotionally. In doing so, you may combine Bible study with prayer and make it a vital time of meditation. This gives an opportunity to digest the Word and make it a part of your spiritual diet. Meditation takes time and should not be hurried. This is one of the secrets of success as given by God to Joshua (1:8). God must have time to talk to you through the Word as much as you need time to talk to Him. Devotions is two-way communication. Apply something fresh from the Word of God to your life every day and make whatever changes or adjustments may be necessary. Devotional life can then be a real means of spiritual growth and development in your walk with God. When you pray and digest the Word of God in the life giving presence of the Holy Spirit, your devotional life will give you that needed spiritual dimension of depth in Christ.
8. Bring Your Personal Needs Before God And Do Not Forget To Intercede For Others.
Remember that you have a Great High Priest in Heaven who knows all about you. There is nothing hidden from Him, and your life is bare before Him. He knows and understands your heartaches, weaknesses, temptations, trials, frustrations, failures, etc. Check up on Hebrews 4:14-16, and remember that you are coming to the throne of grace. Pray for your loved ones, your Pastor, missionaries, Christians in need, etc. You can be a real prayer warrior for others and effective as such in serving the Lord. There is a great need for strong intercessory prayer warriors.
9. You May Use Devotional Books To Help You, But It Is Far Better To Dig Into the Word Of God For Yourself And Enjoy Your Own Food.
What you get from the Bible for yourself is best and sticks with you more than what another may give you. Devotions are personal, and it is good to become an independent student of the Word of God for yourself and live in the refreshing atmosphere of the living God living within you by His Spirit.
From Quarterly Notes, "Practical Helps," by Al Troester. Used with permission of author.