The word “devote” is given the following definition in Webster’s Dictionary: “to give up oneself or one's time, energy, to some purpose, activity, or person.” Every person is devoted to something or someone whatever absorbs one's time. We will consider devoting ourselves faithfully to Bible reading, Bible study and prayer.
Any relationship requires faithful and consistent communication. When communication breaks down, so does the strength and joy of that relationship. God has given us two avenues of communication with Him: His holy Word and prayer. He speaks to us through our reading of the Bible, and we respond to Him in prayer. When we neglect these two means, we are neglecting our relationship with God. God will then become more distant, but not because God has moved away. The longer the neglect of our devotional life, the further we move from God and the more difficult it becomes to have a warm, secure, living and vital relationship with our triune God. When we fail to communicate with God, we lose the joy and confidence of our relationship with Him.
There is no set place or time of day required for having our devotions. In I Thessalonians 5:17 we are commanded to pray continually. The more a Christian uses time and energy for faithful, daily devotions, the more that Christian learns to pray continually—in all activities and circumstances. Also, the more the believer knows and understands who God is through reading and studying Scripture, the more the child of God feels a part of the relationship; and increasingly that person’s will and plans conform to God’s revealed will and plan.
Private or family devotions are appropriate any time of the day. To begin the day without prayer is like using a motor on low power. God’s blessing on everything we do on any given day is so important. God wants us to pray, and we desperately need prayer for the twentyfour hours given to us by God each day. The following poem, which hangs on our bedroom wall, expresses well the necessity of a morning prayer.
I got up early one morning and rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish that I didn’t have time to pray.
Problems just tumbled about me, and heavier came each task.
“Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered. He answered, “You didn’t ask.”
I wanted to see joy and beauty, but the day toiled on, gray and bleak.
I wondered why God didn’t show me. He said, “But you didn’t seek.”
I tried to come into God’s presence; I used all of my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided, “My child, you didn’t knock.”
I woke up early this morning and paused before entering the day;
I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.
Mealtime also provides an excellent opportunity for having devotions. It is important to recognize God as the giver of our food, ask God to bless our food and thank Him for it. After enjoying nourishment for the body, it is very fitting to nourish the soul with God's Word. We try to meet our physical needs; we should not neglect our spiritual needs.
Bedtime is another meaningful occasion for devotions. Hopefully we began the day by communicating with God; it is only proper to end the day in fellowship with the giver of every good thing. It is appropriate to commend our sleeping time to the one who does not slumber.
Morning, mealtimes and bedtimes are all excellent opportunities for devotions, as well as any time in between. Isn’t it a marvelous blessing that we can come to God any time, anywhere, and He is ready and willing to hear and answer us? We never get a busy signal from God. He never answers us; “Please hold, I have a call waiting on another line.” God is always available and ready for us. We are the ones who spoil availability and accessibility, not God.
Family prayer or group prayer is important, but don’t neglect your private prayer life. The following quotation, which was printed in the Steve Wingfield Ministries letter, expresses the importance of prayer for our spiritual well-being:
The prayer life of the Christian is the true gauge of the rest of his life. No one’s outer life of activity ever rises above one’s life of prayer. As you pray, so are you. You never become a better Christian than you are in your prayer life.
No matter how zealous, how busy, how benevolent, how good a name you may have as a Christian worker, teacher or preacher, you are no better than when you are alone with God in prayer. What you are and do in secret will appear openly. If you are weak, lacking and powerless there, you will be weak and lacking in spiritual power at every other point in your Christian character and activities.
Everything as to what you become and as to what you accomplish for the glory of God and His kingdom depends upon prayer as it depends on nothing else in the world.
In Romans 12:12 we are told: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (emphasis mine J.G.). The other means of communicating with God, Bible reading and Bible study, can take many forms. Thematic and random reading of Scripture passages are used much today through the many daily devotion books on the market and the popular use of booklets such as Today and Daily Bread.
These are very commendable devotionals if the Bible passage is read as well as the written message; but in our day, some Christians limit their devotions exclusively to the piecemeal Bible passage reading. This has some limitaions. Using eldom this method alone one reads a complete chapter or book of the Bible; nor does one read through the entire Bible, losing the chronological, historical order and context of Scripture. This type of Bible reading, used exclusively, hinders one from reading and understanding the whole of God’s message to us. It is like receiving a letter from someone and reading only parts of it, but not its entirety. You’ll never know what you are missing in the author’s message if you never read the letter from beginning to end, even if you read some parts over again and again. If it’s an important letter, you will want to read all of it, and reread it. God’s Word, His message to us, needs the same response; it must be read totally, and reread. The thematic or random reading of Scripture is excellent to use, but it should not be the Christian’s singular method of devotions.
The Bible can be read from Genesis through Revelation by reading a chapter, a book, or a part of a chapter or book each day. For variety, one can listen to a chapteror part of a chapter or book of the Bible each day on cassette. My husband and I find this method enjoyable for our bedtime devotions. Athird method for reading through the Bible which I have found very helpful and a great blessing, is using the pamphlet entitled: “Through the Bible 1997” (or whatever year it is). This brochure is published by the National Association of Evangelicals, PO Box 28, Wheaton, IL 60189. A person must make a daily time commitment for reading approximately three or four chapters a day to complete the entire Bible in one year. The brochure has a square for checking off each day’s designated Scripture passages. This provides an easy, accurate reading record. The daily scheduled reading is divided well chronologically, which is helpful, particularly in the latter books of the Old Testament. Passages from the Psalms are suggested reading for each Sunday throughout the year. I highly recommend reading through the Bible this way. Reading the Bible so consistently in larger segments lends itself well to seeing repetitions and themes which God places in Scripture. I used a Bible which had easy reading print and I highlighted verses of promise, comfort, hope and strength. It has made that Bible especially precious and valuable to me. I also made written notes regarding significant passages and concepts. Reading and studying God’s Word this way was insightful and spiritually strengthening. The pamphlets can be ordered in large quantities at a very reasonable price. I would urge churches to do so and to make them available at the beginning of each new year.
Prayer and Bible reading can be done any time of the day or night and any number of times in a day. Willful neglect of devotions has serious consequences for the spiritual life of the believer. Christian, be sure to devote adequate time and energy to Bible reading, study and prayer. If you are not devoted to devotions, you will soon become delinquent in having faithful devotions, filling your time and using your energy for something or someone else to which you are giving greater priority. Child of God, I urge you to concentrate your devotion on God, your relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart, through reading and studying God’s Word while praying faithfully. Follower of Christ, be “devoted to devotions.”
Jan Groenendyk was a Christian School teacher for twenty years. Her husband is Rev. Marion Groenendyk and they are members of First Zeeland CRC, Zeeland, MI.