Every Christian who is really growing in his or her faith makes personal time with God a priority. At Christ Covenant, personal devotion is one of our covenantal agreements because it is essential for spiritual flourishing and growth in Christ. Throughout Christian history, the church has long held to the idea of abiding with the Lord or being intentional to stay connected to the Lord. Jesus told his disciples on the night he was betrayed and arrested, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5). What Jesus is telling us is that if you want a fruitful Christian life, if you want a life that is marked by the fruit of the Spirit, then you must seek to be a branch that is connected to the vine; you must seek to be a Christian that is connected to Christ.
In light of this, we ask that every member create space in their life for personal devotion. As one who abides in Christ, this should be a priority. This means you are spending at least 10-15 minutes alone with the Lord at least five times a week. We hope that as you make this a discipline in your life that the time would grow, but the most important aspect of personal devotion is consistency.
You may be asking something like, “How do I get started and what am I supposed to do?” The purpose of this field guide is to answer those two questions by giving you practical steps to take as you develop the discipline of personal devotion.
1. Choose a Time
The first step in having an effective personal devotion is choosing a consistent time that works for you. For some, this is in the evening before bed, and for others, it’s at some point in the middle of the day (during a lunch break, etc.). However, the most popular time for personal devotion is in the morning. The most typical times for devotion are right after waking up or immediately following getting ready for the day. As a reminder, the most important thing is choosing a time when you can be consistent.
2. Choose a Place
Choosing a consistent place is another important step in developing the discipline of personal devotion. If you have a place where you consistently seek and meet with the Lord, that space will begin to develop a certain gravity. Coming into that familiar place will help you quickly focus and make the most of your time. It goes without saying that the place needs to be quiet and largely free from distractions where you can be alone. We recommend having your personal devotion at a desk or at least sitting up on a chair. This will assist in helping you stay alert and engaged in your study of God’s word and prayer.
3. Choose a Scripture Reading Plan
In keeping with the theme of consistency, it is important that you find a consistent scripture reading plan. Don’t spend time every day trying to find a passage to read. Instead, make your Bible intake robust by reading through the whole Bible. And make your Bible intake orderly by having a plan on how much scripture you intend to read. The Lord could redirect your plans, and you could end up spending the entire time meditating on one verse. However, we all do well to have a plan. Pre-written devotionals are another great resource that many Christians prefer. The key to success with pre-written devotionals is to make sure that you find a devotional full of the scriptures.
4. Use a Plan for your Prayer
One of the things that we often talk about at Christ Covenant is praying through scripture. This one simple tool can make your prayer life come alive. It can take a person who struggles to pray for more than a minute or two and make them a person who enjoys extended periods of God-centered prayer. Christians have also followed a basic fourfold approach to prayer for centuries that includes: Praise, Thanksgiving, Confession, and Supplication.
Praise is the act of meditating on the goodness and glory of God and expressing gladness to Him.
Thanksgiving is the act of thanking God for the particular goodness that he has shown you in your life.
Confession is the act of confessing particular sins before the Lord as you repent of those sins.
Supplication is the act of asking the Lord for his blessing, care, and guidance.
Combining the Praise, Thanksgiving, Confession, and Supplication method with praying through scripture is a great way to energize and bring consistency to your prayer life.
How to Pray Through Scripture
Read a verse of Scripture, use the words to guide your prayers, once you cannot think of anything else to pray continue to the next verse and so on letting the words that God inspired in His Holy Bible guide the words that you are praying back to Him.
5. Consider Journaling
Journaling is a tool that Christians have often used in personal devotion. Journaling is not a biblical discipline, but it is a very practical idea that will help you do at least three very important things. First, use a journal to keep track of your prayers. A record of things you are praying about is a very helpful tool for looking back on how the Lord has answered those prayers. Second, use a journal to express your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Sometimes it is hard to pray or even put things into words. The act of writing something out can be very helpful and healing in the journey of seeking to understand your own soul. Third, use a journal to stay focused. A journal is a great tool to keep you focused on your prayers and can help you meditate on and memorize scripture. For instance, during your devotion time a “to-do” for the day pops into your head. Using a journal to simply jot it down can create alleviate a distraction and help you to refocus on your intentional time with the Lord.
6. Create Goals and Seek Accountability
Creating goals can really motivate you in your journey of developing the disciple of personal devotion. Here are a couple of examples:
What sin do you want to be killing in your life?
What fruit of the Spirit do you want to see more clearly?
Writing down goals like this and making them a point of prayer can be powerful as you work your way through scripture. You can seek to discern how the truth of scripture applies to your written goals. It is also helpful and good to find a trusted friend and share these goals with them. Invite them to regularly ask you about your consistency in personal devotion and the goals that you are working to achieve. Accountability is a great friend to discipline.
7. Be Flexible
If you decide that a plan isn’t working, try another plan. If you have been using a plan for a while, and it is getting a little stale, feel free to try something new. The key is consistently creating space to meet with the Lord, however, this does not mean that you always do the same thing. It is important to remember that your personal devotion will likely not be a perpetual “mountain top” experience. The value of a regular time of personal devotion is the small and consistent gains you make over a long period of time.
Our hope is that this field guide will be helpful in getting you started down the path of having a consistent and meaningful time of personal devotion.