It happens to all of us at one time or another. There are times when we wake up eager to get into God’s Word, when our times in the Bible are an absolute joy and thrill. We hope, we wish, we pray that these times will never end. But they do. At times we wake up with no desire to open the Word. We find to our sorrow that the joy and thrill have given way to cold duty. I know this all too well. With September here and fall and winter laid out before us, perhaps this is the time to spark that lukewarm devotional life. Here are a few suggestions.
Ditch Your Plan
Bible-reading plans can be a tremendous aid in telling us what to read each day and in keeping us on track in actually reading it. The desire to finish the plan combined with the sense of personal failure that comes with abandoning it can be enough to keep us going. Yet often we fall behind in those plans and the discouragement of being a day, then a week, then a month behind paralyzes us into inaction. If that’s the case for you, why don’t you ditch your plan? Ditch it without shame, without that sense of failure, and do something different instead. Why not begin to read a Psalm a day, or a chapter of one of the gospels? Find a list of 100 key Scripture passages and focus on them. Pick a short book like Colossians or Titus and read it every day for a month. What and how much you read matters a lot less than the simple fact that you read something and meditate on it.
Start a Plan
Sometimes a plan is the problem and sometimes a plan is the solution. If your reading is infrequent and unstructured, why don’t you think about finding and following a plan? While we typically think of annual plans that begin in January, there are also great plans that run for weeks or months. A three- or four-month plan may be just the thing to get you through to the end of the year. If Bible-reading is an especially big struggle for you, try a 5-day-per-week plan that allows you a couple of catch-up days each week. Bible.com can get you started with a whole list of options. The ReadingPlan app has been my companion all year long and I’ve grown to love it!
Change the Medium
Sometimes a change of medium is in order. If you have been struggling to pick up the Bible and read it each day, why don’t you think about switching to an audio Bible. Bible.com will read you any passage you want in a variety of translations. ESVbible.org and the ESV app will read it for you as well. Get some headphones and go for a walk while you listen. On the other hand, if you have been listening and struggling to keep up, maybe you should switch back to reading. If you’ve been struggling to read your printed Bible, maybe try an app to see if that sparks some more interest: Logos handles daily reading beautifully, as do apps like Olive Tree and Accordance. If your app has made reading difficult, go back to the printed Bible, perhaps grabbing a reader’s edition that focuses on making the Bible look simple and typographically beautiful.
Get in Community
The phenomenon of daily, private devotions is relatively new to church history and there is something to be said for reading the Bible in community, perhaps as a married couple or as a group of friends. If you are struggling to read the Bible, why not allow yourself to feed off the habits and self-discipline of someone else? Ask your husband or wife if you can join in their devotions or ask your friends if you can get together with them to read and to pray. The biblical mandate is not to have a daily, personal quiet time, but to be steadily, consistently taking in the Word.
Find a Devotional
If getting in community won’t work or isn’t of interest, why don’t you consider allowing your devotions to be guided by a trusted daily devotional? Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening is a classic that just never grows old. You can find other great devotionals by Paul Tripp, John Piper, Tim Keller, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Randy Alcorn, and a host of others. Just be sure that the devotionals are focused on the Word of God and that you don’t rush over the Scripture readings. See how these authors love and trust God’s Word and allow that to feed your soul and elevate your enthusiasm.
Read a Good Book
One great way to spark greater interest in personal devotions is to read a good book on the spiritual disciplines: Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life is a classic that will gently show you the joy and necessity of being disciplined in your pursuit of God and godliness. David Mathis’s Habits of Grace is another excellent choice that focuses on the importance of developing good habits in reading the Word, praying, and participating in Christian fellowship. Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ A Place of Quiet Rest is a good pick that is geared specifically for women.
Read & Pray
I leave this one for last even though it is of utmost importance. When your devotional life has grown cold you can do nothing better than pushing through it by not allowing yourself to stop. Reading and praying have their own way of sparking greater joy in reading and praying. Don’t allow your lack of interest to keep you from doing what you know is so good for your soul. Read and pray and trust that the warm desire will return.