Simply put, the definition of devotional (or devotion) is a way to spend time with God. This can be done in any variety of ways like journaling, singing, prayer, or any combination of those. They can be more structured and liturgical like in some Catholic or Lutheran traditions, or they can be informal and spontaneous, which you see in contemporary circles.
While there is value in both liturgical and informal devotionals, I prefer informal devotionals. This isn’t for everyone, but I will sometimes feel bogged down by structure, especially when I feel like God is doing something specific in me. For others, though, the structure helps them stay focused on the task at hand and can be more beneficial since their focus may shift.
How often should I do a devotional?
Now that we know the definition of devotional, you may be wondering how often you should do a devotional. The best answer I have for this is “it depends.” I do a new devotional every day based on what I read in the Bible that day. Feel free to sign up to receive those devotionals to get you started in your own journey. I send a devotional to your inbox each day. It’s the full thing, so you don’t even have to click back to my website. I use a method called SOAP, which you can read about below, and here you can see an example of my daily devotionals.
Every day can be a challenge for some people, though, so I don’t want to make a blanket statement saying you should do a new devotional every day. You might want that to be your goal, but the important part is to just start. Doing a devotional once a week to start or end your week would be a great way to begin. Then after a few weeks of that, add another day or two each week. Eventually, and more quickly than you can imagine, you’ll end up wanting to do a daily devotional.
Ultimately, choose the rhythm that works best for you. You want to make sure you give your best to God each time you show up to spend time with him. If you’re not a morning person, don’t try to force yourself to wake up before the sun rises to spend time with Jesus. You’ll just be grumpy. In the same way, if you’re not a night person, don’t try to stay up until midnight worshipping Jesus in the upper room. You’ll just be tired. There’s nothing wrong with doing a devotional at 1 in the afternoon during your lunch break.
Why should I do devotionals?
Now we know the definition of devotional and how often you should do them, but now the question we have to answer is why. Why should you do devotionals? There isn’t some deep, religious answer to this, so I’ll keep it brief. The reason we do devotionals is to set aside dedicated time to spend with Jesus. That’s it.
I don’t know about you, but I often feel like I get too busy to stop and pray. Having a dedicated time each day causes me to stop and recenter my life on Jesus. This is why I send daily devotionals straight to your inbox. It’s something you can just stop and read whenever you have a couple of moments. They take about 2 minutes to read, include a Bible verse or passage, and a quick prayer you can borrow to refocus your day on God. Make sure you sign up today to start getting those emails as soon as tomorrow morning.
How do I do a devotional?
Just like there’s no wrong time or frequency to do a devotional, there’s no wrong way to do one either. I’ve listed out a few options below to get you started, but please note that this is not a comprehensive list. I’m hoping you’ll find something new to try here, but there are a lot of different ways to spend time with Jesus. The point is to just do it.
Silence & Solitude
Silence and solitude are some of my favorites. All you need to do is find a quiet place and spend between 3 and 5 minutes in quiet. Steady your breath and just focus on the Lord and listen to what he has to say. If your thoughts drift, that’s fine! Come back to the present, focus on your breath, and continue to sit in silence.
Three to five minutes may not seem like a long time but think back to the last time you spent that much time in silence. If you’re like me, unless you intentionally do this, you probably haven’t had that much quiet time in years. Turn the TV off and start building up your tolerance to silence one minute at a time.
Bible reading is a natural place to start when spending time with Jesus. I recommend sticking to the New Testament if you’re a Christian unless you have a specific verse that came to mind in the Old Testament. If you’re looking for inspiration, the Old Testament has no shortage of that, but the New Testament is where you find Jesus.
Verse of the day
One way to read the Bible is through the Bible app, which sends you daily verses if you sign up for it. Reading a quick verse or two should be enough to get you started in reading longer passages.
Also in the Bible app are Bible reading plans. These are often short collections of verses that you can read over a few days. The app can send you reminders if you allow notifications. This is a great way to build up your Bible reading habits.
My daily devotionals
As I’ve mentioned, I send out a new devotional each day. You can subscribe to my mailing list to get one sent to your inbox starting as soon as tomorrow. Each devotional contains a Bible verse and some quick observations, so it’s a great way to get started. Sign up today.
The last way to read the Bible that I’ll mention is called lectio divina. This is a bit more structured, so to do this you’ll need to follow a couple of steps.
- Read through a scripture a couple of times. Pay attention to detail and remember to highlight keywords and phrases that stick out to you.
- Think about the verse in the context of your life. How does it apply to you specifically? Find yourself in the context of the verse actually being said at the time it was written.
- Pray about the verse. Take some time to ask God some questions if you have them. Talk to Jesus about how the verse impacts you or how you feel about it. Ask the Lord to help you understand the passage more and in its proper context.
- Contemplate. Similar to meditating, think about what God is trying to teach you through the passage. Use the silence and solitude method mentioned above, or quietly pray to God thanking Him for his goodness.
Writing out your thoughts is a good place to start when considering different ways to do devotionals. Not everyone is a writer, though, so this doesn’t work for everyone. Here are a couple of suggestions to get you started in journaling.
This stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. For Scripture, simply find a verse you’d like to focus on, then write out a couple of Observations. What do you notice about the verse? Who is it written to? Then think about the Applications of the verse. How can you use this in your life each day? Then close out your journaling time with a short Prayer.
For a sample of this in action, see my daily devotions.
Freewriting means what it says. Take a pen to some paper and just write out what you’re thinking. This is the least structured method mentioned here, so it may take some time to get used to. Talk to God about how you’re feeling, how your day went, what you’re thankful for, or anything really. This is your time with God, spend it however you want.
Prayer is simply talking to God. I know I sometimes make this out to be some complicated thing, but it really is quite simple. Here are two categories of prayer that I made up but I think are helpful in figuring out how to start.
A structured prayer is a prayer that has been created by someone else for simple repetition. This is popular in liturgical churches like the Catholic Church where there’s a lot of call-and-response in the services. There is power in everyone knowing the same prayer and saying it at the same time.
I don’t normally use structured prayers, but when I do I tend to recite the Lord’s Prayer. This allows me to fill in my specific needs and desires while saying the same prayer Jesus used to teach his followers how to pray. If you don’t know where to start, I recommend that prayer.
Prayer can be thought of as a conversation. While most people don’t hear God respond audibly to their prayers (I don’t), this is still an easy way to engage in your part of the conversation. Mix this in with silence and solitude so you’re copying what a conversation would be like. Most people don’t enjoy conversations where one person dominates the whole dialog so be mindful of that here, too.
Informal prayer time can be used to talk about anything. From gratitude to requests, there are no limits to what informal prayer can be. Unlike structured prayers, informal prayers don’t have guide rails.
Worship is more than music, but that’s a conversation for another time. However, for the sake of this post, I will refer to worship as music.
Take time to listen to worship music in your free time. There’s a lot of good stuff out there, so feel free to reach out if you want some suggestions. If you’re a musician, learn some worship songs, too. You, as a musician, have a unique way to communicate with God, and I encourage you to utilize it every chance you get.
At the end of the day, the important part is to respond to what you feel Jesus is saying to you in your devotional time. I encourage you to spend daily time with God, even if it’s just 5-10 minutes, and watch your life change for the better.