It is a new year and I am sure that many Christians have resolved to be more consistent in their times of personal devotions than they were in the previous year. I thought it might be helpful, then, to share a method I have been using for my times with the Lord. I hope others can join in the discussion, sharing the methods they use. While there is no single right way to do personal devotions, I do believe there are some that are better than others, and like you, I am always eager to learn how I may make my devotions more beneficial.
A common trap believers fall into is making their time of personal devotion a selfish time. Without structure, prayers often become mere lists of perceived needs, wants and desires and reading Scripture becomes a chore and a burden. Many Christians feel guilty, admiring and desiring the biblical examples of those, like David, who delighted in the Lord and in His Word. They sincerely desire to have a passion for prayer and Scripture, yet find themselves lukewarm at best.
It is my sincere hope that we can share different ways of daily delighting in the Lord and sharing time with Him. If you have a method or some pointers you would like to share, please feel free to do so by linking us to an article on your blog (if you have one) or by posting a comment in the forum.
And without any further ado, I will tell you about the structure I have been using, which I call An Hour of Personal Worship. To give credit where credit it is due, it is adapted from an article I found quite a while ago written by Jim Elliff. I find it usually takes about an hour, though it could certainly be made longer or shorter. A weakness in this plan is that it does not go into great detail about the actual methodology of reading the Bible. I recommend using the inductive method of Bible study, but it is a method that is not easily compressed into merely a couple of paragraphs. Perhaps at a later date I’ll write an article about it. For the first few times I used this structure I followed it nearly to the letter, but as time went on began to adapt into what you see here. I have little doubt it will continue to change.
This structure is more than merely reading the Bible and praying – this is a time of intimate, personal worship to God. I recommend doing this in private, away from children, friends or spouses who may inadvertently distract you and draw attention away from God. Sit, kneel, lie, walk – do whatever you need to do to make it a comfortable time.
1. In Jesus’ Name
Begin your time of personal worship by acknowledging that it is only through Christ’s merits that you can come before the Father. It is only through the work of Christ in which He took our sin upon Himself and satisfied the Father that we can now be accepted by God. Acknowledge your unworthiness and dependence on Him. In the spirit of the following verses, believe and trust that Christ died to be your Mediator to the Father. Thank Him for allowing you access to God.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13)
For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:18)
2. Delight in Him
Delight in the Lord, expressing your wonder of His greatness. Praise Him for who His is – for His character and attributes. Do not focus yet on the things He has done for you, but on His person and attributes. A good place to start as you mediate on Him may be with answer four of the Shorter Catechism: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” You might also thank Him for His love, patience, kindness, goodness, knowledge and glory.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Have a time of personal repentance where you reflect on your own sin and shortcomings in the light of the perfect majesty of God. Confess and repent of specific sins, asking God to forgive you for them. Trust that He is faithful to do so.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
4. Express Your Longings
Express your deepest, most personal longings to God. This is not a time to pray about everything you need or want, but a time to make known to Him your deepest desires. This may include your desire for deeper fellowship with Him, for personal holiness, to “finish strong” and so on. Ephesians 1:15-23 may serve as a guide for this.
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for the living God. (Psalm 42:1,2)
5. Read a Psalm
Read a Psalm or a portion of a Psalm. Consider reading it out loud, remembering that Psalms were written as music and poetry. Praise God through your words.
6. Sing to the Lord
Sing a song to the Lord. You might consider singing a version of the Psalm you just read or singing a biblically-sound hymn or chorus. You may prefer to make up your own song based on the Psalm you just read or any other passage of Scripture. If you are not a singer, consider reading or reciting a creed or reading a question and answer from a Catechism.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! (Psalm 100:1,2)
7. Intercede For Others
Bring before God the needs and concerns of others. You may wish to remember specifically:
The leadership of your church
The leaders of your nation
Those who have asked for prayer and those you have promised to remember in prayer
Those who are grieving or troubled
Those who have experienced disaster
Because you will find there are so many people to remember in prayer, you may wish to make a system of rotation where you pray for only several of the groups each day, remembering to include each group at least once per week.
Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you. (1 Samuel 12:23)
8. Place Your Day Before God
Place your day before the Lord, dedicating the day to His service. This is a good time to ask Him for specific opportunities to serve Him in sharing the Gospel and serving others. It may be helpful to go through your day chronologically, asking him for help, patience, guidance, faith and so on in specific areas. For example, you may ask Him for patience as you deal with your children, guidance as you examine job opportunities and wisdom as you share the Gospel with your neighbours.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Petition the Lord for other needs that you have not yet brought before Him. This is the time to make personal requests and desires known before Him. More than just remembering these before Him, ask Him specifically for guidance, deliverance, wisdom or endurance. Bring your petitions before Him with faith and humility, knowing that God loves to grant the desires of your heart.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (Jn. 16: 24)
10. Study The Word
Having prepared your heart and removed any emphasis from yourself, it is now time to turn to the Bible.
Begin by asking the Spirit to illumine the Words you will read, “…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints…” (Ephesians 1:17,18)
Read a passage, and preferably at least a chapter, of the Bible. Read it first as a whole and then in smaller pieces. Seek out the key verses and read them meditatively, continually seeking God’s wisdom to help you understand. Reflect, contemplate, ponder them. Read with a view to understanding the sense and meaning of the passage. Then begin to apply the passage to yourself, asking how this truth relates to you. Ask the following questions of the passage:
Are there commands to obey?
Are there examples to follow?
Are there errors to avoid?
Are there sins to forsake?
Are there promises to claim?
Are there new thoughts about God?
Are there principles to live by?
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1,2)
You may wish to finish with a prayer of application, asking God to apply to your heart what you have learned.
Finish your time with a prayer of thanksgiving. Be specific in thanking God for his forgiveness, goodness and providence. Thank Him for the time you have been able to spend with Him.
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Hebrews 13:15)
And That Is It
If you have used this method, I trust you have just spent a meaningful, intimate hour with the Lord. May God bless you as you dedicate yourself to becoming intimate with Him.