A healthy devotional experience is essential to living a balanced, fulfilled Christian life. Prayer, Bible reading, and community service are key ingredients in remaining spiritually grounded.
Yet we’re not all the same. Our different backgrounds, educations, and interests mean that we will approach our devotional activities differently.
Here we offer a glimpse of how some of our friends find spiritual refreshment.
Enjoy your walk with the Lord as you use devotional methods suited to you and your temperament. —Editors
When I was a child, it was a normal occurrence in our home to find my parents on their knees in the wee hours of the morning. It was habitual for them to read the Bible and to lift up every member in the immediate family specifically by name in prayer, then list various members of the extended family facing a challenge. In the quiet, dark hours of the morning, before the break of dawn, when the world was fast asleep, they found sweet communion with the Father in prayer and Bible study.
As a young man I came to appreciate the quiet hours of the morning. Initially the need for scheduled devotional time stemmed from having the schedule of a young person filled with the demands of an academic life, living in a dormitory. Early morning afforded me the silence and solitude that precedes daybreak, before the hustle and bustle that make it nearly impossible to spend some quality time devoted to nurturing my relationship with the Lord. Over the years this has become the most integral part of my day. Nothing has kept me more engaged with God on a daily basis than seeking Him every morning in devotion and prayer. Instead of being a challenge on the long days, it fuels me physically, emotionally, and spiritually to power through them.
Prayer and devotion are inextricably intertwined. I read those precious words breathed by the very Creator in my Bible, all the while beseeching God to send His Spirit to help me glean from it the lessons He has in store for me. I ask God to empty my mind of all preconceived notions that I may have, and give me the ability to apply immediately what I have learned in my life.
God loves to send us the Holy Spirit, but we have to ask! If our devotional life is in a rut, He welcomes our humble confession of our lukewarm condition as we ask Him to breathe His sweet Spirit back into us.
Paul expressed the passion of his life in Philippians 3:10: “That I may know Him” (NKJV).* Knowing Christ is what spiritual growth is constantly accomplishing. It is what my soul ever craves.
* Bible texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Stanley Ponniah works as a senior accountant at Adventist Church headquarters, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.
I’m an early riser, and when I say early, I mean early. If I sleep to 4:30 a.m. my day, I think, is almost shot. I get to the General Conference early, too. That way I have much of the building to myself, and it’s during this time that I often have my personal devotional.
I generally walk the halls, reading my Bible. If I’m reading the Old Testament, I read it in Hebrew. Though I am amazed at the miracle of language, and how one language can translate into another and keep most of the original meanings, there’s no question that working in the original is a blessing.
In my morning walks I truly try to connect to the Lord through His Word. I take the Word as The Word. Even what I don’t understand I seek to submit to, accepting it as from the Lord and, to whatever degree, applicable to myself here and now. I especially love reading about the power of God, the presence of God, and the love of God. The God revealed in the Bible is the God to whom I pray as I walk and read, the God whose promises I claim for myself, despite my unworthiness.
Every morning I think about my blessings. Like everyone, I have painful struggles, things I don’t like and cannot understand. But, as I think about all that I have to be grateful for, and all that I have to thank the God I’m reading about, I get comforted and hopeful. I also love to recount the Lord’s leading in my life. The God who spoke the world into existence (Gen. 1), the God who freed my people from Egypt (Ex. 12), the God on Calvary (Luke 24:20) is the God who in a stunning way intervened in my life in 1979, and hasn’t stopped since. Some of my favorite texts, which read wonderfully in Hebrew, are Deuteronomy 4:1-9, with verse 4 being my favorite: “But ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day” (KJV).
Worship, for me, is learning how to, indeed, “cleave unto the Lord.”
No question, some mornings I feel close to the Lord; others, I don’t. But it doesn’t matter; what matters is that I believe, trust, and cleave to the Lord, who, through His Word, speaks to me early in the morning in the quiet halls of the General Conference building.
Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide.
I know what it means to “live in survival mode” spiritually. That’s how I spent much of my young adulthood. I was busy doing many good things, traveling the world working for God. I sincerely loved the Lord, but something was missing. Finally, I told God, “I don’t want to settle for ‘half-baked wilderness Christianity’ anymore. I want the full deal. I’m daring to ask for more.” And more is what He gave me (Eph. 3:20).
Several spiritual keys help me keep my walk with God fresh and vibrant, even while juggling life and full-time ministry.
Jesus captured my heart. I value my daily time with Him. I ask God to wake me up early enough each morning to enjoy a “spiritual feast” in His Word and in prayer. I find a solitary place, turn my phone off, and enjoy worshipping Him with songs of praise. If I’m feeling a little dry, I even fast from any spiritual distractions (see the third point) for a few days until I more earnestly hunger for the things of heaven.
I’m always on guard against self-sufficiency, recognizing I desperately need my Savior. When I’m about to do a task, when dealing with trials or temptations, when being applauded for achievements, and even when I fall, I always seek the Lord in prayer, for apart from Christ my own efforts are futile. I claim the promise from The Desire of Ages: “From the soul that feels his need, nothing is withheld. He has unrestricted access to Him in whom all fullness dwells.”*
I’m always on guard against spiritual desensitizers and breaches. These “spiritual desensitizers” take myriad forms: while shopping at the mall, on the magazine rack at the grocery store, in conversation with others, on my dinner plate, and probably most often during my down time, while browsing the Internet, or reading posts on social media. I have learned that I must be especially vigilant in guarding my five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, even touch—for these senses can quickly become captives to the enemy. I must keep open the channels between myself and the Lord; otherwise I go spiritually dry. That’s why I don’t just read the Word, I pray the Word. This has given strength and victory to my daily life.
Jesus came to give us abundant life (John 10:10). Let’s not settle for wilderness Christianity!
* Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), p. 300.
Melody Mason is the author of Daring to Ask for More: Divine Keys for Answered Prayer.
It starts when I get in the shower—the exact point of my morning that sets the course of my day. You see, a certain number of things have to happen after that point, with little wiggle room, in order for me to get out of the house and to work on time. There is no wiggle room there, either. I usually have patients already waiting to see me when I arrive.
While hopping into the shower sets my temporal course of the day, it is what happens before that sets my mental, emotional, and spiritual tone for whatever is ahead. It’s during the early-morning hours of the day, before the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, that I spend a few precious minutes with my Friend, Jesus.
There are days I long to be free from the demands of my daily routine, where I am free to do what I want, when I want. Interestingly, I have noticed that during my “free time” I am less likely to pursue moments with Jesus. I seem to find other things of importance; a project, time with a friend, or some leisure activity. It is really during my regular daily routine that I find the consistency of time spent in Bible study and prayer.
From a behavioral perspective, routines serve useful purposes in our lives. They build efficiency into regular activities and conserve energy that can be better spent for other mental activities. I do not need to plan my routine every morning; it is almost automatic. Building a routine around valued activities can increase the likelihood that those behaviors will occur. These behaviors might include such things as family dinners, date nights, or designated time for physical activity. Less time is spent thinking about what to do and when to do it. Valued activities become woven into the pattern of our lives.
Recently my morning routine changed, forcing me to leave the house 35 minutes earlier than usual. I struggled to think about how I was going to adjust my schedule to accommodate this new need and not give up my precious devotional time. As the new schedule drew near my son asked, “Mom, when are you going to do your Bible study?” I treasured this simple question, for in it lay some important implications. First, there was an implicit challenge, the challenge not to let go of an important activity. Second, there was an acknowledgment that others are paying attention to my choices. My choices affect not only me, but those around me.
I thank God each day for our precious time together, and I pray that He will strengthen me even when I feel tired and distracted. Each day as I head out to face the challenges of the day, I say, “Here I am, Lord. Send me” (see Isa. 6:8).
Sharlene LeClerc, a clinical psychologist, lives in Charleston, South Carolina.