“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17
Listening to good teaching and preaching on a weekly basis is essential for Christian growth, but it is not a substitute for your own daily reading of God’s Word. It should come as no surprise that having daily devotions in the Word of God is often a struggle for believers; the world, the flesh, and the devil are opposed to them growing in grace and communion with God. Therefore, believers should develop a plan and maintain a discipline of daily devotions.
Some people have asked me what I do for daily devotions. I have tried different plans over the years and I believe there isn’t just one way of having devotions. Different plans work for different people and sometimes its good to change approaches. The important thing is to stay in the Word of God daily, and if a system is getting old try something different, but don’t stop. Special devotional guides can be helpful; some of the best include Tabletalk magazine put out by R.C. Sproul’s ministry and the old classic Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon. However, I think guides should only supplement and not replace a daily Bible reading plan. The challenge with a Bible reading plan is not to do it just to check it off your list for that day, but to read devotionally and use the Scriptures as the focus of your prayer time. The main point of having devotions is to fill and inform your thoughts with God’s Word, and commune with God through His Word.
I’ve developed a system that has been working for me and I encourage you to try it. It is important for believers to expose themselves over time to the whole counsel of God (meaning the whole Bible) and not just one part. I attempt to read a chapter a day in each of the following sections of the Bible: 1) Old Testament historical books and Prophets, 2) Psalms, 3) Wisdom books i.e. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon, 4) Gospels, and 5) Acts, Epistles, and Revelation. If you follow this plan you get through the whole Bible in a little over two years and you repeat some sections more than twice a year
I use the plastic colored Post-it flags to mark where I am in each section. Post-it flags stay sticky for a long time, but one must be careful not to rip the thin pages when you remove them. I make it a point to get through each of the five sections every day but I don’t feel I have to complete a whole chapter if I just want to meditate on a smaller portion.
I try to train my mind to remember key thoughts that God has impressed upon me in each section and sometimes I underline key verses. If you like to journal you can jot down what God has taught you in each section. I will pray after reading all the sections using what the Spirit has taught me. In my prayers I concentrate on worshipping God for His attributes, confessing sins, thanking Him for the work of Christ and who I am in Him, and asking God to help me respond in obedience to His commands.
In most cases you can have a great devotional in 30 minutes. I suggest using a study Bible like the ESV Study Bible, The Spirit of The Reformation Study Bible, or The Reformation Study Bible. The notes can often help you understand difficult texts and the book introductions are helpful to understand the context and themes of each book.
As I stated before, the most important issue is having a daily time of reading and meditating on God’s Word with prayer. It also helps to have someone hold you accountable. Let us all aspire to David’s commitment when he said,“I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” (Psa. 119:15)