Some advice for daily devotions
· The morning devotional time should become a habit. ("Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny." But this takes time and has to start somewhere.)
· The battle of the alarm clock is won the night before. So, if it's a 6 o'clock appointment you wish to establish, it will be hard to achieve this if you regularly go to bed at 1 a.m.
· Choose a set time and location which will work for you, ideally in the morning before the day's activities encroach upon your time. Plan that time in, or it probably won't happen: it's your appointment with God. If it's early morning, decide whether you're going to wash and have breakfast before or after.
· Your ultimate aim is to get to know God, to worship and adore him, and to hear and speak to him. Everything else is secondary. As an aid to this, don't simply read the Bible but note down Bible truths that are particularly relevant to your need. As an example of this, here is a link to a list of verses I used at one time in my life (referred to in a sermon on 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 on 30th July 2017). But your verses will probably be different. Look for them and ask God to give them to you. Click HERE for my list.
· Don't bite off more than you can chew: it's better to spend two minutes of quality, focused time with Jesus than an hour of mere religious duty. Aim at ten minutes to begin with.
· Be comfortable but don't slouch: if you lie on your bed reading your Bible, pretty soon you'll be asleep! A rigid chair placed at a table makes good sense.
· Make sure the space you've chosen is clear of clutter, ready with all the resources you've decided you need (including at least one pen). Otherwise you'll end up eating away your time tidying up your space.
· Have a list of things you may want to pray about. You'll probably add to this. Don't be frightened of logically progressing from yourself to your family; church to world missions; and so on. But again, keep it short (certainly at first).
· Have some structure, but not too much. Decide what you'll do before your devotional time. You might want to use bits of the Anglican Morning Prayer, for example. But think of this partly as the little stabilising wheels on a child’s bicycle. Some of this structure you can jettison at a later time. Aim at balance.
· Don't get into legalism. The Lord knows that there may be times when you will be very tired or unwell. Don't make yourself ill. But then don't give way to indiscipline: the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. If you're checking your watch just to see whether you've had a good long time with God, you're probably missing the point of what you're doing.
· Have a notebook with you. If a thought comes to you about some duty and you can't get it out of your head, scribble it down and then carry on with your devotions. This is true for word studies too: it’s better to get lost in a lexicon at some later stage, not when your focus is on God.
· If you're able to, without disturbing anyone, pray out loud. It will aid concentration. Or, stand up and walk a bit as you pray. Don't sit letting your mind wander. The Bible should help to keep you focused.
· Don't be discouraged by the dry times. There will be moments when you wonder what it is you're doing. And sometimes you'll realise you don't really know how to pray; you'll even begin to wonder if you even know God!
For most of us , it's part of the process of repentance and growth to feel utterly bankrupt before God. And sometimes it's only when we've got to this point, and are humble, that we find the clouds seem to part and we are enjoying God. (Click HERE for John Stott’s experience of this struggle.)