Is a Personal Daily Devotional Life Optional?

The case for daily devotions

By: D.C. Collier, 4/16/14

Been feeling spiritually “dry” lately?  Experiencing recurring life “issues,” moral failures, broken relationships?  How’s your devotional life?  It is a proven fact that your “spiritual temperature” is directly related to the quality of your devotional life.    Most married couples learn, the hard way, that to neglect quality time together is to court relational disaster.  So it is with God.  Did you know that if you are a Christian, you are married to the Lover of your soul?  Forever.

Some of the most arresting verses in the bible describe the spiritual condition of Christians in a young church in Laodicea two thousand years ago who gradually strayed from their “first love” and paid dearly for it.  Like a spurned lover, God openly complains, “I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” Revelation 3:15-17.

God longs for our company and is jealous of “the stuff” in our lives that squeeze Him out.  We manage to spend hours watching a football game on TV and can’t spare fifteen minutes alone with God—what does that say about the condition of our hearts?  So what can we do about it?  In her book, “Lent, A Season of Returning,” Ruth H. Barton observes, “As we clear out the clutter of compulsive behaviors and emerge from the fog of inner distractions, we become more finely attuned to the presence of God and all the ways in which that Presence satisfies us utterly.”

The following practical thoughts and suggestions are intended to prevent deadly “soul drift” and keep our relationship with God fresh, vibrant and fulfilling.  Going deeper with God is not just for mystics and so-called spiritual giants, it’s for all of us to “seek Him with all of our hearts.”  Someone once said, “Coasting is a downhill process,” and nowhere is that more true than in matters of the soul.  Think about it, what could be more important than regularly connecting with the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe?

Getting alone with God

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  Luke 5:16

If anyone “had it together” it was Jesus.  Yet even He felt the need to get alone with the Father and “charge His batteries” before facing the rigors of His daily ministry.  Jesus understood the dangers of the many soul-numbing distractions that came His way, and was proactive in making space for silence, alone with His Father.  When is the last time you heard from God?  I mean clearly and unambiguously?

The missing link is intimacy, which flourishes in unhurried communion and withers in the face of hustle and bustle.  Children “got it,” when Jesus approached.  He filled them with a sense of expectancy, as they hung on His every word, knowing that something really important was happening.  Somehow we tend to lose that excitement as “life comes at us,” and the resulting narcotic-effect of losing our spiritual bearings leaves us exhausted and confused.

Few things are needed—indeed only one

”As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’  ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things,but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”  Luke:10: 38-42

In this well-known exchange between two people who truly loved Jesus, but who approached Him in very different ways, we learn the secret of life direct from the lips of the Master.  First, don’t live your life distracted by “things,” even good ones.  And second, sit down regularly at the Lord’s feet and listen.  That’s it folks!

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened…how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  Luke 11:9-13

What could be plainer?  We have not because we ask not.  Yet how often we complain to God that we didn’t get something we wanted, only to remember, “Duh! I never really asked Him about it in the first place.”  I’ve often feared that when I get to heaven, God will show me a warehouse of blessings that I could have had, if only I had asked.  But not me!  I forge on without Him, and then get “all weepy” when things don’t work out, all the while protesting, “Lord, don’t you care!”

Not enough time?  Really?

I know, I know, you’re busy.  Who isn’t?  But think about this—suppose you went to your doctor for what you thought was a minor complaint.  And suppose after running tests, your doctor sits you down and informs you that you have a life-threatening condition and without drastic, daily changes in the routine of your life going forward, you will die.  Do you think you’d find time to do what he says?  Would you be too busy then?

We can always find time to do what we want, it’s a matter of deciding to in the first place.  Dallas Willard once wrote about the three stages of getting something done.  First is the wishing for it, then there is wanting it, and finally there is intending it.  Nothing actually happens until we get to the third stage because then we attach it to a plan of action…we intend it.

Living intentionally

 “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.  Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.  Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.  The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.  Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.”  2 Timothy 2:2-7

The three examples above cited by Paul to his disciple Timothy stand as great examples of intentional living—a soldier gets killed if he fails at his job; an athlete forfeits the prize if he doesn’t train; a farmer starves to death if he doesn’t produce.  No one “coasts” to the finish line of any race that is truly worth running.  Christian commitment is a life-and-death matter, and while the stakes are high, the rewards are incalculable.

Our “daily” bread

“Give us each day our daily bread.”  Luke 11:3

When Jesus told us to ask for daily bread, how do you suppose God does that in your life?  Many think the verse refers to actual physical food, and in a sense that is true.  But then we read in John 6:27, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”  The obvious implication is that spiritual food is much more important in God’s eyes than physical food, and how else can “the Son of Man give you” something apart from the Word of God?  And with physical food, it must be daily.

Suppose I figured out how much food and drink I’ll need for an entire week and proceeded to consume it all in a single Sunday afternoon.  My bright idea being that I don’t want to be bothered eating during the week because I’m too busy.  How do you think that would work for me?  But that’s how many of us live, settling for time in the Word in sporadic “forays,” and then wondering why we seem to be “running on empty” by Monday afternoon!  We’re not built like that.  We need to feed our souls in the same way as our bodies.  Daily.

The divine “catch”

So what’s the “catch” here?  What is it that so many miss?

”At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.  All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  Luke 10: 21-22

The pearls of great price in God’s kingdom aren’t just laying around for anyone to trample.  They are revealed to a select few, a chosen few, who take the time to become as children and “hang out” with their dad.  I will forever value those few but precious hours with my earthly dad alone in a boat fishing.  It was then that I really got to know the real him, with his guard down and not being rushed.

Is it worth it?  Will it last?  Does it matter?  “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”  Revelation 22:12

Engaging your heart

We are tempted to think that God is primarily interested in our “time, talent, and treasure.”  We scurry about “doing” things for God, sometimes even secretly expecting to post “points” on some spiritual scoreboard in the sky.  But hear this,

“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,Father.”  So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” Galatians 4:6-7

Do you get it?  Between the covers of that bible you hold, if you put it up to your ear and listen, there is a Heartbeat.  The pages of scripture are alive with a Father’s love; a Father who is longing to connect with his always-too-busy kids, without conditions, demands, or expectations.  Just show up.  You don’t have to earn your way into His presence, nor beg for His attention, He’s “all ears.”

What a sad home it would be if its children felt compelled to “earn” their parent’s approval and acceptance by continually performing duties.  Scripture assures us that we are God’s children, His heirs, His “flesh and blood.”  Can you accept that?  The world, with it’s “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” value system tends to drown out God’s gentle nudges to come up, sit on His “lap,” and bask in His presence–empty-handed and undeserving.

Dwelling “in the now.”

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”  John 8:58

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:33-34

Are you haunted by past mistakes and regrets?  Do you find yourself ruminating about them?  How about the future?  Are you obsessively planning, plotting, and perspiring to “secure” that place in the sun?  Don’t let either your past or your future crowd out your present.

It could be said that all we have is the present.  The past is gone forever, the future hasn’t arrived yet, so the present moment—this very instant—is all you have for sure.  So don’t waste it!  Did you know that God dwells only in the present, “before Abraham was born, I am!”  God is not bound by time or space, and He wants us to come up and meet with Him in His heavenly realm in “the eternal now.”  Don’t let the past accuse you, nor let the future worry you. Force yourself into the present and find God there, “the Lord is near.”

To know Him better

Bottom line, the bible is God’s word, god-breathed and lived out in the life of Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was GodThe Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  And the whole purpose for it all?  To get to know God better.  Period.

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,  and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”  Ephesians 1:17-19

Living In step with the Spirit

“All this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:25-27

There are at least two great works that the Holy Spirit performs in the life of the believer, the first is to “get the man out of the world,” that’s salvation which is a one-time event.  The second great work is to “get the world out of the man,” that’s sanctification which continues for the rest of his life.

Praying like your life depended on it

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”  Matthew 6:5-8

Consider this paradox:  The real “you” can only be seen when no one is looking; when you have no one to impress, when your guard is down, and when you allow what is “inside” to show on the “outside.”  We are talking about integrity and it only comes through honest dialog with God.  Guess what? He knows you through and through anyway—do you think He ever says, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming!”  So get real with Him, it absolutely obliterates anxiety.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

A typical twenty minute daily devotional…

There is nothing magic in the time it takes for a devotional, the key is quality.  For that reason, it is best done first thing in the morning before emails, phone calls, and the rush of the day press in.  In the early morning, your mind is clear, the coffee is fresh, and the silence is restorative.  Here is a suggested outline for your daily time with God:

1.     Confession, cleansing, renewal (1 John 1:9)

Put your sins “on the table,” ask forgiveness, appropriate God’s strength in overcoming these in the future.  Confession comes from a root word meaning “to agree together with.” Apply this to prayer. It means to agree with God. Something happened yesterday you called a slight exaggeration — God calls it a lie! You call it strong language — God calls it swearing. You call it telling the truth about somebody in the church — God calls it gossip. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18).

2.     Bible reading for each day (One Year Bible)

Ask God for spiritual insight (Ephesians 1: 17-19) We are spiritually blind apart from the Holy Spirit, ask for His wisdom and revelation.  Look for a take-away application of your reading for the day.  What stood out to you from your encounter with God and His word?  How will you apply it?

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4  Daily reading from God’s word according to the “One Year Bible.”[1]  And as you read, think in terms of the following three stages of comprehension:

Observation:  What does it say?

Interpretation:  What does it mean?

Application:  How does it apply to my life?

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.”  John 6:63

3.     Pray for your needs and other’s blessings (Philippians 4: 6-7)

“Supplication” means to “ask for, earnestly and humbly.” This is the part of your prayer life where you make your petitions known to Him. Ask for others, then for yourself. Why not include other people around the world, such as missionaries, students studying abroad, friends in distant places, and above all the people of many lands who have yet to hear about Jesus Christ.

And finally,

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Matthew 11:27-29

It could be asked, what do I have in my life that is more important than getting to know my God—the One with whom I will spend eternity?  As Jesus pointed out in the verses above, “knowing” God is a matter of revelation, and revelation requires that I regularly “tune in” on Him and find out what He is doing.  We are far too enamored with what we are doing and the resulting burden of self-absorption can become unbearable.  Jesus promises His faithful followers that they will be beneficiaries of one of the most elusive and precious human treasures, “rest for your souls.”  Money can’t buy it, making time for God assures it.


How to Plan a Daily Quiet Time
by Robert D. Foster

It was in 1882 on the campus of Cambridge University that the world was first given the slogan:

“Remember the morning watch.”

Students like Hooper and Thornton found their days “loaded” with studies, lectures, games and bull sessions. Enthusiasm and activity were the order of the day. These dedicated men soon discovered a flaw in their spiritual armor — a small crack which if not soon closed, would bring disaster.

They sought an answer and came up with a scheme they called the morning watch — a plan to spend the first minutes of a new day alone with God, praying and reading the Bible.

The morning watch sealed the crack. It enshrined a truth so often obscured by the pressure of ceaseless activity that it needs daily rediscovery: To know God, it is necessary to spend consistent time with Him.

The idea caught fire. “A remarkable period of religious blessing” followed, and culminated in the departure of the Cambridge Seven, a band of prominent athletes and men of wealth and education, for missionary service. They gave up everything to go out to China for Christ.

But these men found that getting out of bed in time for the morning watch was as difficult as it was vital. Thornton was determined to turn indolence into discipline. He invented an automatic, foolproof cure for laziness. It was a contraption set up by his bed: “The vibration of an alarm clock set fishing tackle in motion, and the sheets, clipped to the line, moved swiftly into the air off the sleeper’s body.”

Thornton wanted to get up to meet his God!

The intimacy of communion with Christ must be recaptured in the morning quiet time. Call it what you want — the quiet time, personal devotions, the morning watch, or individual worship — these holy minutes at the start of each day explain the inner secret of Christianity. It’s the golden thread that ties every great man of God together — from Moses of David Livingstone, the prophet Amos to Billy Graham — rich and poor, businessmen and military personnel. Every man who ever became somebody for God has this at the core of his priorities: time alone with God!

David says in Psalm 57:7, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed.” A fixed and established heart produces stability in life. Few men in the Christian community have this heart and life. One of the missing links has been a workable plan on how to begin and maintain a morning watch.

I want to suggest that in order to get under way, you start with seven minutes. Perhaps you could call it a daily “Seven-Up.” Five minutes may be too short, and ten minutes for some is a little too long at first.

Are you willing to take seven minutes every morning? Not five mornings out of seven, not six days out of seven — but seven days out of seven! Ask God to help you: “Lord, I want to meet You the first thing in the morning for at least seven minutes. Tomorrow when the alarm clock goes off at 6:15 a.m., I have an appointment with You.”

Your prayer might be, “Morning by morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; morning by morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation” (Psalm 5:3).

How do you spend these seven minutes? After getting out of bed and taking care of your personal needs, you will want to find a quiet place and there with your Bible enjoy the solitude of seven minutes with God.

Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. Thank Him for the good night of sleep and the opportunities of this new day. “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Open my heart. Fill my heart. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Lord, surround me with Your presence during this time. Amen.”

Now take four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear some word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

One of the Gospels is a good place to begin reading. Start with the Book of Mark. Read consecutively — verse after verse, chapter after chapter. Don’t race, but avoid stopping to do a Bible study on some word, thought, or theological problem which presents itself. Read for the pure joy of reading and allowing God to speak — perhaps just 20 verses, or maybe a complete chapter. When you have finished Mark, start the Gospel of John. Soon you’ll want to go ahead and read the entire New Testament.

After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him — in prayer. You now have two and a half minutes left for fellowship with Him in four areas of prayer that you can remember by the word ACTS.

A – ADORATION. This is the purest kind of prayer because it’s all for God — there’s nothing in it for you. You don’t barge into the presence of royalty. You begin with the proper salutation. So worship Him. Tell the Lord that you love Him. Reflect on His greatness, His power, His majesty, and sovereignty!

C – CONFESSION follows. Having seen Him you now want to be sure every sin is cleansed and forsaken. Confession comes from a root word meaning “to agree together with.” Apply this to prayer. It means to agree with God. Something happened yesterday you called a slight exaggeration — God calls it a lie! You call it strong language — God calls it swearing. You call it telling the truth about somebody in the church — God calls it gossip. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18).

T – THANKSGIVING. Express your gratitude to God. Think of several specific things to thank Him for: your family, your business, your church and ministry responsibilities — even thank Him for hardships. “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:18).

S – SUPPLICATION. This means to “ask for, earnestly and humbly.” This is the part of your prayer life where you make your petitions known to Him. Ask for others, then for yourself. Why not include other people around the world, such as missionaries, students studying abroad, friends in distant places, and above all the people of many lands who have yet to hear about Jesus Christ.

Let’s put these seven minutes together:

1/2 Prayer for guidance (Psalm 143:8) 4 Reading the Bible (Psalm 119:18) 2-1/2 Prayer Adoration (I Chronicles 29:11) Confession (I John 1:9) Thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:20) ___________ Supplication (Matthew 7:7) 7 minutes

This is simply a guide. Very soon you will discover that it is impossible to spend only seven minutes with the Lord. An amazing thing happens — seven minutes become 20, and it’s not long before you’re spending 30 precious minutes with Him. Do not become devoted to the habit, but to the Savior.

Do it not because other men are doing it — not as a spiritless duty every morning, nor merely as an end in itself, but because God has granted the priceless privilege of fellowship with Himself. Covenant with Him now to guard, nourish, and maintain your morning watch of seven minutes.

[1] The One Year Bible: Arranged in 365 Daily Readings. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1986. Print.

[i] Published by NavPress, a ministry of The Navigators,  P.O.Box 6000, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80934 USA file_id.diz  “SEVEN MINUTES WITH GOD, How to plan a daily quiet time” by Robert D. Foster, n.d., from The Navigators


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