Spending time with God doesn’t have to be complicated. This basic plan for daily devotions will teach you how to communicate with God.
Communication involves two basic elements—sending messages and receiving them. We share our life with God by speaking to him in prayer, and he speaks to us through the Bible. Prayer is like the microphone on our phone which allows us to share our thoughts with God. The Bible is like the speaker which enables us to hear what he has to say to us. To enjoy time spent with God, we need to learn the art of listening and responding to him.
Here is a simple plan to get started.
- Pray (30 seconds)
- Read the Bible (5-10 minutes)
- Reflect on your reading (2-3 minutes)
- Pray (3-5 minutes)
If you have never had a daily devotional time, this basic plan can guide your quiet time with God. Eventually you will adjust these times as your relationship grows and as your schedule allows, but for now make it your goal to form a natural habit by doing what is manageable. Do not underestimate the powerful impact of small consistent routines.
Begin with Prayer
I begin with prayer to express my dependence upon God. It’s my way of saying to God, “I need to hear your voice. I want to spend this time with you.” Your prayer doesn’t have to be long or eloquent. Make it simple and direct. My beginning prayer is usually shorter than 30 seconds. I like to use a verse from Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.” Then I put John 17:3 in my own words, “I want to know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” This gets me ready to listen to God.
Read to Hear God’s Voice
Next, I read my Bible to listen for God’s voice. My goal is not to prepare for a Bible knowledge test, but to get to know my Creator and Redeemer. To get familiar with God, I use two general approaches to reading.
First, I like to read widely. That means I read rapidly to cover large chunks of Scripture in a short period of time. My goal is to get the big picture of how the whole Bible fits together.
The second approach is reading narrowly. Here is where I read and re-read the same chapter or chapters for several days in a row. For instance, Philippians is only four chapters long and can be read aloud at a normal pace in 13 minutes. By reading the whole letter of Philippians for five or ten days in a row I begin to internalize it in ways that cannot be done in one sitting.
Alternating between these two approaches over time helps me to get an accurate sense of who God is and what he is saying through his Word.
If you need a place to start, the Words of Hope Daily Devotional will give you a Bible reading for each day, and a short devotional to help you understand what you read.
Reflect to Get Personal
The storyline of the Bible is ancient history, but it’s history with a message. Since God does not change, these ancient stories of real people who lived in real places tell us something about God and his dealings with people. Therefore, we do well to pause at the end of our reading time to reflect, “What is important to God?” I find it helpful to explore three areas which can be summarized by the following three words:
Head: What does God want me to know? How does he want me to think?
Heart: What does God want me to desire and value? How does he want me to feel?
Hands: How does God want me to speak and act?
Respond to God in Prayer
Learning about God through reading the Bible shapes our responses to him. After you have read, take time to respond to God in prayer. At times you might respond with praise for his mighty acts. At other times you might respond with sadness for grieving his heart. At other times you might express confident joy because of his faithfulness. Sometimes, you might do all of these and more!
It’s not complicated to begin spending meaningful time with God. This simple order gets you familiar with the basics. So what are you waiting for? Schedule a time and a place to meet with God. Start with Genesis 1 and keep reading for 5-10 minutes. Then talk to God about what you are learning about Him and yourself.
The Words of Hope daily devotional is a great place to get started with daily Bible reading and prayer.