Developing Personal Devotional Habits for the New Year

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Our church is about to launch into its annual Week of Prayer.  This has always been one of the highlights of the year for me, dedicating the first full week to prayer and going after God.  I always try to remind our students to watch out for getting all fired up in an event vs. developing daily habits, otherwise the thrill wears off and we go right back to our old ways.

I still find quite often that people are at a loss when it comes to their devotional times.  There are so many “patterns” I use to help people get started.  But my hope is always that it becomes more organic.  In most of our relationships, we don’t have to plan a conversation.  But to get started, this might prove helpful.

A very popular outline comes from an acrostic of the word PRAYS:

P – PRAISE.  This is a good place to start, telling God how amazing He is.  What does He mean to us?  Who is He?  What are His attributes that we cherish?  What are we grateful about?  

R – REPENT.  Obviously, none of us are perfect.  What do we need to confess?  Who are we bitter against?  How have we been careless with our words?  What have I done, knowing it was wrong?  What have I not done, know I should have?  A “dangerous” prayer, one that’s guaranteed a quick response, “Holy Spirit, show me:  where I’ve sinned, where I’ve been disobedient, where I’ve grieved my God…”  Then get ready!

A – ASK.  This is when we can express our concerns and prayer requests to God.  People we want to see saved, those who need healing, prayers for our families, church, and nation; maybe even our personal intentions.

Y – Yield.  Prayer isn’t talking to God; it’s communicating with God.  He wants to speak with us as well, but it’s difficult if we’re doing all the talking.  We need to wait on Him, in silence so we can hear His voice.

S – Scripture.  There are many ways to go about reading the Bible whether they’re One Year Bibles, or lists of Scripture to get through the Word in a calendar year.  Here’s some tips for reading the Bible:

How should I read the Bible?

  • With an open heart (Psalm 119:2,10-11).
  • With a hunger to know God more (Psalm 119:57-58).
  • Put into practice what we learn (Psalm 119:59-60).
    Through:  Observation – ask “What is it saying?  What does it mean?”
    And:  Application – ask “So what?  How can we apply this in our lives?”  (Matt. 7:24-27; James 1:22-24)
  • Have a desire to change and be changed (Psalm 119:65-66).
  • Think of His Word constantly (Psalm 119:97).
  • Ask for His help in understanding (Psalm 119:125).
  • Believe these are the Words of God, divine and powerful (119:89, 160).
  • Don’t get hung up on things you don’t understand.  Write it down and ask a pastor or do some research with reliable sources.
  • Always ask the Holy Spirit for insight into what you are reading.  Write these down as they apply to our lives.
  • Share what we’re learning with others.

How Long Should I Spend In My Devotional Time?
I don’t think the amount of time is as important as the quality of time.  I shoot for an hour or so daily.  But others who are starting out, try 10 minutes for several weeks.  When that’s solid, add another 5 or 10 minutes.  You’ll find it very simple after a couple months to spend longer seasons of time with God, even multiple times in one day.  It’s not a chore or duty, it’s a growing relationship with God Almighty!

  • Find a place where we can be alone.
  • If we have trouble with silence, play some worship music in the background (be careful, these can be distracting as well)
  • Eliminate distractions:  cell phones, laptops, tablets, television, couch, bed 🙂
  • Set aside a specific time, an “appointment” or time slot…and guard it!  It’s our most important meeting of the day!
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