PUTTING GOD FIRST - Your Personal Devotional Life
1. PERIOD (an interval of time that is meaningful for listening, praising, sharing personal requests with the Lord)
Unless you schedule a regular time with the Lord, how easy it is to neglect it. It doesn't make any difference if it is morning, evening or some time in between. For some people, early morning is best, before outside impressions have a chance to clutter the blotters of their minds.
The Psalmist said: Each morning I look to you in heaven and lay my requests before you, praying earnestly (5:3).
Isaiah 50:4-5 reads, "He awakens me morning by morning, awakens my ear to listen like one being taught."
The words "Spiritual Streakers" titled an article which suggested many believers of Jesus run out of their homes in the morning without wearing Christian clothes. The devil sees us walking around spiritually naked and he laughs knowing we are defenseless against his strategies and tricks.
Each morning before Dr. Charles Stanley puts a foot on the floor, he deliberately imagines putting on each separate piece from the wardrobe closet of Ephesians 6:10-18. Dr. Stanley says he does this conscientiously each day and his life has been revolutionized.
You may be a night person and be more awake and aware then. Jesus is recorded as praying both in the evening and in the early morning. Whether you have your devotions morning, noon or evening is not as important as the fact that you do establish a PERIOD - a regular, meaningful time when we LISTEN.
Proverbs 1:33 says, "But he who LISTENS to me will dwell secure and will be at ease."
This period of praying for personal requests and listening is not to be confused with the admonition in Scripture to "pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads" (Eph. 6:18) - being in an attitude of prayer which means that when you stand in the checkout line at the grocery store, rather than getting impatient you pray for the checker. . . . . . pray for the little old lady who is fumbling in her purse to find the needed change . . . pray for the TV celebrity whose name has just made the news . . . the neighbor boy with lunch box who waits on your corner every day for the bus . . . the family who is suffering when you hear the siren on an ambulance or emergency vehicle . . . requests which the Holy Spirit brings to your attention throughout the day.
Jesus expressed the time of individual prayer as "going into the closet" (Matt. 6:6). The Amplified Bible expresses it: "And when you pray, go into your most private room and closing the door, pay to your Father who is in secret.
The Living Bible paraphrase sheds further light: "But when you pray, go away by yourself, all alone, and shut the door behind you and pray to your Father secretly, and your father, who knows your secrets, will reward you."
The word "closet" in the original Greek text referred to "a chamber on the ground floor or interior of an Oriental house generally used for storage or privacy. It was a spot for retirement; a secret chamber, closet, storehouse."
The key word is privacy.
Let's look at some possibilities. They may notbe ideal, but the Lord does not have prerequisites as to where He wants to meet with us. We choose the time and place and He will be there.
One mother with young children asked her husband to stay with the children while she spent an hour in the public library conversing with the Lord. I have heard many different people report they resort to the privacy of their bathroom to be uninterrupted. One mother hung a little sign on her door which read, "Thank you for not disturbing." The family then knew she was having her devotions and not to bother.
Author Donna Leonard says that a love seat in their bedroom at the back of their home is her sanctuary.
Rhonda Downey, a lady who regularly attends the prayer group I lead each Sunday morning during the regular S.S. time has her place out in the patio (during good weather) - she takes several translations of the Bible, her dictionary, a notebook, pen, sun glasses. That's her "closet."
Consider this an appointment with a friend and mark it on personal calendar as such. Often business men will tell their secretary's to hold all calls during a lunch break or another designated time and to tell callers that he is in consultation.
It is reported that Suzanne Wesley, mother of 21 children, would simply place her apron over her head. This was a signal to her children that she was talking to God and was not to be interrupted.
You may find it difficult to find a place by yourself, but remember that the LORD does not require ideal conditions. YOU demand that. God will meet you even when others are around.
3. PREDETERMINATION (To settle or decide in advance)
A. Deciding in advance not to let physical distractions stop you.
The distractions will always be there!
If you are on your way to the place in your home you have selected for your private sanctuary with the Lord and distractions reach out to grab you as you are headed there - it may help to picture the Lord waiting for you to come. Consider this an appointment with a friend and mark it on personal calendar as such.
If you PREDETERMINE (settle/decide in advance) to give God top priority, the reward of His presence is incomparable.
B. Determine to let mental distractions stop you.
When we wait in quietness before the Lord, how easy it is for our minds to focus on other things and take snapshots which catch our attention. The easiest way to solve this problem is to take pencil and paper and jot down those distractions - those things you ant to be sure and remember or
those ideas which come that you don't want to forget.
C. Committing to make devotions a habit in your life.
Sociologists tell us that it takes about 21 days to break a habit. It takes about 21 days to form a new habit. The reason many rehab programs fail is because they are only 21 days. They are working on breaking a habit.
But if something is removed - there needs to be something to fill that void. There needs to be another 21 days to form a new habit.
The same is true in our spiritual lives. If we are trying to break a habit of NOT having regular devotions, we need 21 days. If we are trying to form the NEW habit of having devotions regularly, it takes an additional 21 days. SO - 42 days are needed consistently - NO breaks.
The KEY to making this 42-day principle work is ACCOUNTABILITY. Find someone - preferably not a spouse -- not a parent (do not want to set yourself up for the "nags") - but a friend who is willing to let you be accountable to them. This simply means you tell your friend you have made a predetermination to have devotions for 42 days straight without a break so you can from the habit of having them on a regular basis. You would like for them to contact you daily - or weekly and ask, "How are your devotions going?"
When you know you have the obligation to report and be answerable to someone -- this adds the ingredient of MOTIVATION to your predetermination.
The phrase is trite -- but true! "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."
Often not knowing WHERE you are going to read the Word of WHAT you are going to pray about become obstacles.
Regular Bible reading and prayer will both enhance our relationship with God. They are interrelated. The WORD is food for the body. PRAYER is digesting the Word into our systems.
A. Bible Reading
2 Timothy 3:16-17, TLB says, (Reading the Bible is ) "useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right. It is God's way of making us well prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone."
Paul's testimony was, "This is why we never collapse. The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength" (2 Cor. 4:16, Phillips).
(1) Which Bible will you be reading from?
(2) What will you be reading?
The Psalms can be completed in a month by reading 5 Psalms a day. One method is to read every 30th Psalm:
Day 1 - Psalm 1, 31, 61, 91, 121
Day 2 - Psalm 2, 32, 62, 92, 122
Day 3 - Psalm 3, 33, 63, 93, 123
The wisdom of God can be gained by reading one chapter of Proverbs each day. There are 31 chapters. This book was "written to teach people how to act in every circumstance (Prov. 1:21, TLB)
(3) Make an accountability chart
This is the accountability factor which we've talked about. Also a great motivational tool. Some people just use their daily calendar - a put some kind of a mark on each day showing they have done their Bible reading.
You may prefer making some other kind of chart to keep in your Bible. It's so easy to miss a day - and then another day - and another. And we don't realize how much time has gone by since we last opened out Bibles to read. By having a chart - or marking a calendar -- it's before us as a constant reminder. In any relationship, communication is vital.
If you have difficulty communicating with God through prayer -- it may be as simple as needing some ideas on HOW and WHAT to pray for:
Adoration - worship God - tell Him how much you love Him - praise Him
Confession - acknowledge how much you need Him - open up your heart to Him
Thanksgiving - express gratefulness for WHO He is - what He has done
Supplication - petition Him for specific needs
(2) The Lord's Prayer can be used as a guide.
Praise ("Our Father in Heaven")
Repent ("Forgive us as we forgive others")
Ask ("give our daily bread")
Yield ("your kingdom come, you will be done)
(3) Prayer list
It is in praying for others that the joy of interceding is found. As you record answers, you will feel a new excitement as you realize God is real in your life. You can know the thrill of watching His perfect timing.
Why have daily devotions?
(a) To connect with God
(b) To develop an intimacy with God
(c) To get to KNOW Him.
Proverbs 3:6 says, "In all your ways acknowledge - KNOW (in Hebrew) Him."
Can only come to KNOW someone when you spend time with them. (Cannot do this in your own strength - yield/surrender your desire to have time with Him and He will help you accomplish the desires of your heart.)
2 Peter 1:5 says, "You must learn to KNOW God better and discover what He
wants you to do" (TLB).
Posted by BETTY BENSON ROBERTSON