How to Get the Most out of Your Daily Devotions

By Jeff Bulthuis

December 13, 2018

Has your time spent studying God’s Word ever felt stale? Do you sometimes wonder whether your devotions are worthwhile? Or maybe—because you don’t have much experience with regular Bible study and prayer—you just want to make sure that your devotional time is well spent. No matter what mindset you have in approaching devotions, it’s important to remember a few key steps to get the most out of your daily devotions.

  1. Pray before starting. We often want to jump right into reading the Bible or a devotional, but it’s important to take a few moments to pray first. Ask God to be present with you. Ask him to speak through that time. If other concerns come to mind in prayer, offer those to God, too. Then ask for him to help you clearly focus on him during your time together.
  2. Read the entire Scripture passage. The Today devotional gives an extended Scripture reading along with a verse that is often from that same passage (sometimes it’s another Bible verse that speaks to the same subject). We might be tempted to skip the Bible reading so that we can hear the devotional writer’s reflections on it. Don’t forget: God’s Word is powerful and worth reading for yourself! “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  3. If possible, read the devotional with others. You can do this in a variety of ways. Sometimes families read our devotional together after a meal. Housemates or roommates can build a deeper sense of community by sharing time together in devotions. In workplaces, I know of Christians who read devotionals with coworkers in order to share the gospel and their lives with them. Those community times—with family, friends, or coworkers—provide opportunities to talk through the devotional. In doing so, you might be able to understand the writing more clearly or find new perspectives on how the devotional speaks directly to your life.
  4. Consider practical applications. When you’re finished reading the devotional, take a few minutes—either alone or with others—to think about how the passage and devotional applies to your life. After a challenge to share the gospel, you might think of a particular person in your life who needs to know Jesus or know him more deeply. If the devotional calls you to live a righteous life because you’re thankful for salvation, you might be convicted about specific ways to practice holiness. James instructs us, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (James 1:22-25).
  5. Use the written prayer as a starting point. At the end of the Today devotional, there is a short prayer. But it’s not the only way you have to pray! Instead, use that prayer as a springboard. Perhaps the written prayer calls God our Provider; hearing that name might cause you to recognize people or events that particularly need God’s provision. Maybe Jesus is referred to as the Good Shepherd, and your mind recalls the words of Psalm 23, leading you to pray through those marvelous images of who Christ is. As you conclude your devotional time, remember that the written prayer is a starting point for prayer, not the finish line.

As you read through these ideas for a deeper devotional life, are you seeing a theme? In all of them, I see a call to slow down. To use the words of Psalm 23, this is a way that God “leads me beside quiet waters.” When we apply these practices—praying beforehand, reading the full Scripture, doing devotions in community, applying the ideas, and entering deeply into prayer—we’ll experience what the Bible promises: “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8).

See our other resources on making personal devotions a habit

About the author — Jeff Bulthuis

Jeff has a B.A. in Psychology from Covenant College and an M.Div. from Calvin Theological Seminary. Jeff and his wife, Lisa, have five young children. They enjoy camping, spending time outdoors, and cheering on Chicago sports teams.

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