The mechanics of personal devotions
It's a geezer statement but still true nonetheless: different strokes for different folks. The Urban Dictionary (go here for their complete definition) indicates that it is the recognition that everyone has their own way of doing things or approaching life. Most believers know and understand that personal devotions, or a personal quiet time, involves Bible study, prayer, and time for reflection on the meaning and application of the Scriptures under consideration. How this is accomplished depends on many factors---the spiritual maturity, primary learning method, the amount of time allotted for the devotional time, the immediate surroundings, and the material available for the individual involved in the moments of devotion. Which is to conclude that the mechanics of personal devotions depend in great part on the person in study---different strokes for different folks.
Learning the discipline of a quiet time has been a progressive growth process for me. The operative term up front is the word "discipline". Recognizing the importance and significance of time with God was first element of this "discipline". Early on God impressed on me the contrast of life with and without times of devotion. It was during my three years of M. Div. study at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. To say that it was a hectic time of change and adjustment for Harriet, Liz, Brian, and me misses the mark on the short side, not including the reading and study load. It was madness and chaos for me. Harriet, on the other hand, handled the move, accepted a new work environment, placed the children in child care, managed our household, and typed all my papers with the calm resolve and assurance that defied the pressures. The difference? She had a long history with disciplined Bible study and prayer. I was the devotional slacker. And, it showed. When I was called as Pastor of Woodland Baptist Church six months later I knew how impressed their committee has been with Harriet's spiritual maturity. She's been the Assistant Holy Spirit in my life for 45+ years because her walk with the Lord is so steady and sure.
This "discipline" happened in stages for me. These stages, once again, aren't the secrets of the universe. They are quite obvious----
1. The selection of a time. This decision was decided for me at birth. I'm a morning person and always
have been. Yes, I know Mark 1:35 and the descriptive account of Jesus going to
a desolated place to pray while it was still dark. The early hour for me wasn't a
deep spiritual decision with the pure motive of following Christ. No, early
morning is the best time of the day for me. My decision in that first year was to
give God my best time. That was early in the morning, usually 6:00 a.m. or
before. It's been consistent for nearly forty years.
2. The selection of a medium.
Honestly, when I answered God's call to pastoral ministry my knowledge of
Scripture was pretty much intermediate Sunday School level. There was a new
hunger for God's Word that drove me to the Bible. But, my ignorance and the
rugged schedule we were keeping made comprehension an issue. So, I found
Christian author's to guide my initial devotional study. Back then I read Billy
Graham, Chuck Swindoll, Herschel Hobbs, and devotional classics like My
Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers to provide thought provoking
treatments of Scripture. They were my initial devotional pointers.
Over the years this study has transitioned to direct, verse by verse translation
and interpretation of the Bible. Early on the Psalms provided devotional
direction. Later, the Gospels, and the Pauline letters were challenging
devotional materials. Only in later years did that personal devotional time
search through Revelation or Leviticus. But, pure Bible study was the goal. It
informs, inspires, and challenges me today in these next chapters of ministry.
3. The practice of prayer.
So, today there are dozens of prayer acronyms and systemic instructions on
the rudiments of a meaningful devotional prayer experience. I'm pretty old
school here and utilize the tried and true ACTS prayer guide movement---
moments of ADORATION, CONFESSION, THANKSGIVING, and finally
SUPPLICATION. Over the years God has taught me to pray Scripture, to include
the promises of God in my prayer time, and on many occasions to simply pray
the Lord's Prayer. A number of years ago, I read and taught Experiencing God:
Knowing and Doing the Will of God by Henry and Richard Blackaby (B and H
Books, 1976) and discovered the blessing of listening as the conclusion of my
daily devotional experience. It has deeply enhanced my personal quiet time.
Yes, if Scripture is foundational, Bible study, prayer, and personal reflection are the basic elements of a personal quiet time. But, just as certainly, we are all different. So, the mechanics of this prescribed Bible study, prayer, and reflection may surely be different strokes for different folks. But, whatever they may be, if our heart genuinely seeks fellowship with him, it will be found.
Tomorrow in your quiet time, read and reflect on Jeremiah 29:13. Then, read James 4:8. Here are a couple of quiet times promises, regardless of the many accepted mechanics you may use to get there.
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