If you’re like me, you know you need to prioritize daily time alone with the Lord. But how to do it? That’s the question.
Back when I was a young mom with small children, I struggled to develop a regular quiet time. Because I didn’t have tools or discipline to get into God’s Word for myself, I often went for long stretches of time without connecting with God in a meaningful way.
But then I discovered devotionals.
Their short, daily entries gave me the structure I needed to start cultivating my relationship with the Lord.
Years later, I still find myself turning to my favorites as a supplement to my Bible reading. For God often meets me in their pages, and I believe He wants to do the same for you.
Choosing a Devotional
I know that some people are purists when it comes to their quiet time. They read the Bible and only the Bible. And that’s great for them. But for me, devotionals (and other Christian non-fiction) are, in a sense, a sermon. And as Paul wrote:
“[God] brought his word to light through the preaching…” (Titus 1:3)
Aren’t you glad for the many methods God uses to get His truth to our hearts? We are so unique. We all speak different emotional and spiritual languages. What speaks powerfully to one person may not speak at all to another.
Gratefully, there are hundreds of devotionals on the market as well as online. I love going to the Christian bookstore to get an idea of what’s available.
Here are some of the things I look for in a devotional:
- Bible-centered – I don’t need man’s opinions, I want to be pointed to God’s Word.
- Inspirational – I want to be encouraged and inspired to live the abundant life Jesus came to give. Practical application scriptural truth is important.
- Thought-provoking – I love it when a devotion gives me something to chew on throughout the day.
When it comes to devotionals, I want more than a check in a box on my to-do list – I need something God can use to check my heart and change my life.
I find myself returning to several favorite devotionals that God consistently uses in my life…but, to be honest, some of them are a little “thick.” They feature older language (such as My Utmost for His Highest) and I’ve had to develop an expanded spiritual vocabulary and thought process to get the most out of them. But oh, it’s been worth it!
My favorite devotionals include:
- My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers (updated language version available)
- Streams in the Desert and Springs in the Valley by L.B. Cowman (updated language version available)
- Sparkling Gems From the Greek by Rick Renner
- On This Day by Robert Morgan
Other popular devotionals are:
- Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
- Portraits of Devotion by Beth Moore
- Trusting God Day By Day by Joyce Meyers
- The Songs of Jesus by Timothy Keller
[Note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means I may receive a small compensation should you choose to buy.]
I love the fact that many devotionals are available online – or even as apps for your phone! The following websites offer some great links:
Using a Devotional
When I first started using a devotional regularly, the short format allowed me to stop for a few moments and focus my heart on the Lord. But as I learned how to read and reflect on scripture for myself, my spiritual appetite grew!
Devotionals took on the role of an appetizer preparing my heart for the main course of the Word.
Here’s how it works for me:
- I open my quiet time with prayer, inviting the Holy Spirit to speak truth to my heart.
- I usually start by writing in my journal, pouring out my heart to the Lord and asking Him for wisdom.
- What I do next depends on the direction I feel. If I go to my Bible reading, I read slowly, really thinking about what is said. I choose a verse to meditate on, then I respond to what I’ve read in my journal. [More about that in a future blog post!]
- When I open my devotional to that day’s entry, I do the same thing. I read slowly, then if inspired, I write down a phrase or portion that really speaks to me and respond to what God is saying in prayer.
Though it doesn’t always happen, I’m always amazed when the devotion entry ties in directly with something the Lord’s been speaking to me or to a situation I’m currently going through.
God’s Word really is “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword,” Hebrews 4:12 tells us. Whether we read scripture in the Bible or it’s expounded upon in the pages of a devotional or Christian book, God’s Word has power! “It penetrates [and] judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
And aren’t you glad it does? For what the Bible reveals, God is more than willing to heal.
Creating a Devotional
I was simultaneously thrilled and terrified! To think that God might want to use my words as He’d used other people’s words in my life was humbling to say the least.
The writing process was such a blessing! My friend, Angela Howard, and I were literally immersed in the Word of God for several months as we looked for verses to open each day’s reading and scripture portions readers could reflect on at the end.
Here’s an entry from At the Feet of Jesus: Daily Devotions to Nurture a Mary Heart. It’s from the week leading up to Christmas:
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Luke 1:38
I must confess I have a hard time relating to Mary. She’s everything I’m not—at least in the natural. Quiet. Submissive. Willing to trust God.
Had an angel appeared to me telling me I’d been chosen to carry the Son of God in my womb, I would have asked for a lot more details before I said, “May it be to me as you have said.” And chances are, a praise song would not have been the first thing out of my mouth (Luke 1:46-55).
Instead of pondering these things in my heart, as Mary did, I would probably have raced out the door to buy a maternity shirt with the word MESSIAH printed on the belly and HIGHLY FAVORED OF GOD on the back.
But oh, how I want a willing spirit like the mother of Jesus had. I want to be able to say yes to the Lord without asking why and where and how. Unfortunately, I understand all too well what Richard Foster writes in his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home:
“To applaud the will of God, to do the will of God, even to fight for the will of God is not difficult…until it comes at cross-purposes with our will. Then the lines are drawn, the debate begins, and self-deception takes over.”
It is one thing to want God’s will and quite another to do it. As we’ve seen, the human heart has a huge capacity for self-deception, and our flesh is contrary to His ways. So even when I’m nodding yes to Him, too often my actions are saying no.
I want to learn to say yes to God as Mary did. Nothing held back. Nothing reserved. Gladly allowing His will to be birthed in me. No matter the cost.
—Having a Mary Spirit
READ: Luke 1:39-55
REFLECT: Imagine what Elizabeth’s words in verses 42-45 must have meant to Mary. Read aloud her song, known as “The Magnificat,” in verses 46-55 and make it your own song of praise.
I hope you’ll take a few moments and do the “Read & Reflect” exercise. It’s a great way to center your heart on the reason for the season.
At the Feet of Jesus Giveaway
To celebrate Christmas, I’m giving away two devotionals – one for you and one you can give to a friend! You can enter the contest here.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I’d love to hear from you…What are your favorite devotionals, and why?