Thursday, January 5, 2017

A few recommendations on how to begin to have daily devotions

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Psalm 119:9-11 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. 10 With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. 11 Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.

Today we want to consider how begin having a personal quiet time or daily devotions with God. We noted in the last post that Jesus' example is the primary reason for having a daily time with God. It is patently obvious that spending time with God in both prayer and the Word is a critical spiritual discipline for the Christian. The above text lays out the importance of being in God's Word. King David is the author. His prayerful tone in the above verses demonstrate how prayer and time in God's Word mesh together like gears in a clock. We could say that having a daily quiet time with God will enable the Christian to "run-right" during the course of the day. What we want to know is: how does one begin their quiet time? The below suggestions are not intended to be comprehensive, but rather introductory. 

1. Grab a Bible you can understand and read it everyday
The average home in America has at least one to two Bibles. If a Bible is not accessible, there are many free downloadable apps one can download into their phone or look-up on-line (such as or New English Translation online (NET Bible). There are numerous English translations and versions available to Bible readers. I recommend that the reader begin with one of the following translations or versions: New King James Version (NKJV); New American Standard Bible (NASB); English Standard Version (ESV); Holman Standard Christian Bible (HCSB); New Living Translation (NLT) and New International Version (NIV). The King James Version (KJV) is an appropriate version for readers familiar with it and can even be used in concert with one of the above translations for easier understanding. Once you have a Bible, treat it as a close friend. Access it's pages everyday. Your strength of faith is proportional to the frequency and time spent in God's Holy Word.

2. Start small and work your way up
When it comes to doing one's quiet time, starting small is the best approach. I recommend five minutes. Start by thanking God for Who He is (His power, His glory, His Word) and for what He has done (His provision of salvation, giving you the opportunity to talk to Him in prayer). Sometimes praying through the A.C.T.S acronym can aid people new to prayer. The acronym represents different sorts of prayer: adoration / confession / thanksgiving and supplication (that is, asking God for your needs). 

Starting out one's quiet time in prayer sets the tone for the remainder of you time alone with God. Once you have prayed, focus on a verse or two. The Psalms are a good place to begin, since they deal with prayer. The following specific Psalms are really good to look at when beginning to develop one's quiet-time with God: Psalm 1; Psalm 23; Psalm 139; Psalm 150. Another book of the Bible that is strongly recommended for those wanting to grow in their faith is the New Testament book of 1 John, located near the end of the New Testament. 

By focusing on just three to four verses a day, one can easily get through 1 John in one month. As time is invested on a daily basis, the five-minute time frame will quickly be outgrown.  I can recall in my younger days how the "five-minutes" turned into the sweetest times, quickly escalating to ten minutes, then fifteen and to the point where I no longer focused on "hurrying to get it done". We all start somewhere. Ask the Holy Spirit to whet your spiritual appetite. Make your time with God a matter of increasing quantity and quality.

3. Pick a place where you won't be distracted 
Jesus would go off into a secluded place to pray. In our 24/7 world, it is very easy to be distracted. Sometimes closing the door to one's bedroom or going to a room in the house that isn't used much can be a start. Sometimes people have found that praying on the way to work or school is a great time to talk to God. If anything, integrating one's prayer time in the routines of life sets the tone for how one may approach their job, their schooling or relationships. The point is that you are carving out both time and space to be intentional in your effort to grow in fellowship with God. 

Now be forewarned: efforts at doing one's quiet time will be met by increased distraction! It is of course no surprise, since the Christian life is characterized as one of continual spiritual battle. This is why the Christian needs to be ever asking the Person of the Holy Spirit in them to stir up the desire to persevere in such moments. Just like physical exercise relative to the physical body, the momentary discomforts of life strengthen the spiritual muscles to strive harder and farther with God. May we all grow in our daily walk with the Lord.

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