Devotions are intentional, focused time set aside to connect with God. The primary purpose of devotions is to spend quality, regular time in God’s presence through Bible reading, prayer, meditation, and reflection.
Devotions usually involve 3 main elements:
- Reading a passage of Scripture: This is to hear from God through His Word.
- Prayer: This allows two-way conversation with God – for the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Scripture, speak into needs/concerns, and listen for God’s voice.
- Meditation/Reflection: Taking time to ponder spiritual insights/truths from the Scripture and think deeply about applying it.
For believers, devotions provide the spiritual nourishment and grounding needed to navigate daily life. Just as our bodies need consistent meals, our souls need regular spiritual meals through devotions. Setting aside devotional time honors God as worthy of our focus and nourishes intimacy with Him.
The Focus of Devotions
The focus of devotions is centering our minds and hearts on God. This involves eliminating distractions, quieting ourselves, and consciously pursuing connection with the Lord. We engage our minds by reading/hearing Scripture and intellectually reflecting on its meaning. But devotions also involve spiritually engaging our hearts in prayerful response to God.
Through devotions, we prioritize listening to God’s voice over other voices in our lives. The busyness and noise of life makes it easy to crowd out spiritual focus. Devotions help drown out distractions and tune our ears into what God is saying. They provide space to hear God’s gentle promptings over the cacophony of competing demands.
Regular devotions also build the habit of intentionally seeking God first, which spills over into the rest of life. As Dallas Willard wrote, “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.” Devotions force us to stop hurrying and intentionally seek God.
Common Elements of Devotions
While devotional habits can look different, most devotions incorporate a few common elements:
Scripture Reading: Selecting a passage to read, reflect on, and apply. This may involve slowly meditating on a single verse up to reading a couple chapters.
Prayer: Prayers of praise to God, confession, thanksgiving, and intercession based on the scripture reading. Silent prayer and listening for God’s voice.
Journaling: Writing out reflections, spiritual insights, application of the scripture, prayers, and anything God speaks.
Meditation: Quietly pondering the scripture’s meaning and how to apply it. Visualizing biblical stories. Memorizing key verses.
Song/Art: Singing or listening to worship songs. Responding through art – drawing, painting, crafting on biblical themes.
Scripture Memory: Reciting and meditating on memorized verses selected in advance or from the passage read. Hiding Scripture in your heart through memorization.
While not every devotional time will include all these elements, using a combination can help deepen focus and application. The goal is thoughtfully responding to God through His Word rather than just speed reading for the sake of checking a box.
Length of Devotional Time
There is no mandated correct length for devotional time. The key is finding a sustainable rhythm that works within your schedule. Aim for at least 15-20 minutes for meaningful engagement. But 10 focused minutes are better than 30 minutes of distraction. On busier days, even 5 quality minutes connecting with God replenishes the soul.
It’s ideal to start your day with devotions to focus on God first before life gets busy. But sometimes lunch, evenings, or other set times may work better. The most important factor is consistency in prioritizing regular devotion time. Setting a reminder can help build the habit.
As Dallas Willard wrote, “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.” So don’t watch the clock. Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading rather than rush through or extend time arbitrarily. Let devotions flow naturally rather than stress over length.
Posture of Devotions
More vital than timing or length is cultivating the right heart posture:
- Attention – Eliminate distractions and focus fully on God. Silence notifications, sit somewhere quiet.
- Openness – Approach God with open hands and heart ready to receive from Him.
- Expectancy – Come with anticipation waiting to hear God’s voice through Scripture and the Spirit.
- Dependence – Rely completely on the Spirit to enlighten your study and prayers.
- Availability – Make yourself fully available to whatever God wants to speak or do in you.
- Honesty – If your mind wanders, be honest with God about your struggle to focus.
- Reverence – Remember you’re meeting with the Lord of the universe and adjust your heart accordingly.
Devotions are about encountering God, not just checking off items. Reflect on your heart’s posture in God’s presence. Removing distractions helps eliminate barriers to intimacy with God.
Personalizing Your Devotional Time
While certain elements provide helpful structure, each person can customize their devotional approach based on personal needs and season of life. Ask yourself:
- What length and time of day is truly sustainable for me?
- What healthiest rhythms and habits do I need right now?
- What mix of Scripture, prayer, writing, etc. best connects me to God?
- What resources (devotional books, apps, etc.) could enhance my time with God?
For example, some find praying through the different types of psalms a helpful devotional format. Others follow a devotional book’s daily readings. One simple approach is to read a chapter of the Bible along with a paragraph commentary each day. Those new to Bible reading may start with a short Gospel like Mark. Creative personalities may alternate reading Scripture with responding in song, crafts or visual art.
While structure is important early on to build the habit, don’t be afraid to follow the Spirit’s spontaneous leading once devotions become more established. Focused, unhurried time with God may follow different formats on different days according to your needs and God’s guidance.
Starting and Sticking with Devotions
If devotions aren’t currently part of your rhythm, taking the first step is often the hardest. But consistency is key. Consider starting with just 5-10 minutes reading a devotional book or app like First 5, which builds up time and habits. Scheduling set reminders and pairing devotions with an existing habit like morning coffee helps.
To stick with devotions long-term, stay centered on their purpose: Intimacy and life transformation, not duty. Think through what certain barriers tend to derail your consistency like busyness or lack of structure. Troubleshoot solutions. Enlist an accountability partner. Most importantly, draw near to God and trust that He will meet you there (James 4:8). His presence is the reward.
Devotions nourish and sustain us spiritually. Through them, we root our lives firmly in Christ, drinking deeply from the streams of His endless love and grace. Just as our bodies instinctively grow hungry when mealtimes are missed, so too our spirits instinctively thirst and yearn for time alone with God. Devotions are an indispensable lifeline for every believer seeking communion with their Creator.