How to Have Devotions in God’s Word

by Stephen Rhoda

Maybe it seems like a question with an obvious answer, to ask how to have devotions in God’s Word, but the need for this instruction arises from the words “in God’s Word.”  Our devotions should not be a matter of simply reading someone else’s spiritual thoughts and reflections and closing with a short prayer.  The problem is that this is how many devotional books are set up, and to a significant degree, we might refer in our day to “the lost art of personal devotions.”

So how should we have devotions in God’s Word?

First, I believe it’s right to say that the use of a devotional book is optional.  Such books can be helpful, provided they explain and apply the teachings of God’s Word, but the most important thing is that you spend time reading God’s Word as part of your devotions.  It doesn’t have to be a tremendously long portion of Scripture, but you ought to be reading God’s Word and reading more than just one or two verses printed at the head of the page of some devotional reading. 

At other times, however, we should give ours to reading more extensively from God’s Word.  One very helpful practice is to choose a book of Scripture and commit to reading it in one or two sittings.  This may take a full hour or two at a time, depending on the book you choose and how quickly you read.  The question you may need to ask yourself is whether God’s Word is personally important enough to read and study more extensively on your own. 

Second, your devotions should indeed be a matter of studying God’s Word.  Even if you’re reading a shorter passage, the point is to learn the teachings of God’s Word, or perhaps to be reminded of what you already know.  The initial question you might ask is very simply, “What does this passage of Scripture teach or remind me about God?”  And since Christ is the fullness of God’s revelation of Himself to us, the next question is to ask, “Where do I see see Christ in this passage?” -or- “How is this teaching also taught to me in the person and life of Christ?”  Finally, not to be neglected is the question, “What should be my response in order to live in the light of this teaching and the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ?”

Third, your devotions should include prayer.  When you read God’s Word, He is speaking to you.  So having finished your reading, you should respond by speaking to Him in prayer.  As believers in Christ, God has called us into a Person-to-person relationship with Him.  Through Christ, God is our heavenly Father, and He is present with us by His Word and Spirit.  So talk to God.  You may even find it meaningful and helpful to pray out loud, which may feel strange at first but will help you to be conscious and thoughtful of your faith all day long.

In addition to responding in prayer after you have read God’s Word, you might also pray more briefly before you start reading.  Given the dullness of our hearts and minds in sin, we need to ask Christ to work by His Spirit to help us understand His Word and apply His teaching to our lives.  Even further, as you become more conscious of the Person-to-person experience of devotions, you may find yourself led to stop and pray even as you are reading God’s Word.  Maybe something in your reading will stop you in a moment of conviction for sin.  Maybe something will remind you of how blessed you are to have salvation in Christ.  Whatever the moment, you might then pause to pray, confessing your sin or offering a joyful expression of thanksgiving to God.

Finally, I believe it’s necessary to ask whether “devotions” is even the best word for the time we spend reading God’s Word and responding in prayer.  On one hand, “devotions” is a great word, because we do this out of a faith devoted to Christ.  On the other hand, a better term might be “private worship” or “personal worship.”  As far as I can tell, the term “private worship” has actually been more commonly used throughout the history of the church.  For example, the Westminster Confession refers to “the public and private exercises of [the Lord’s] worship” (Chapter 21, Article 8).  In addition, the writings of the Puritans often refer to the time that a Christian spends in God’s Word and prayer as “private worship.”

The value of this term is that it reminds us that worship lies at the heart our relationship to Christ.  He is our God, and we must relate to Him with a joyful trembling (Psalm 2:11).  We need to remember that when His disciples met Him after His resurrection, their immediate response was to worship Him (Matthew 28:9,17).  And when John saw Christ in His exalted state, he “fell at His feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17).  But the term “private” or “personal worship” also conveys the close relationship that we have with Christ.  Even as we tremble before Him, we do so in peaceful fellowship with our beloved Savior and Friend (John 15:15; Revelation 3:20).

If you begin to think of your “devotions” more in terms of “private” or “personal worship,” you might also be led to add singing to your exercises.  Praise and thanksgiving to God can be offered both in spoken prayer and in song, and many songs lead us to make specific requests of God as we sing.  Here again, it may feel strange at first to sing by yourself, but once undertaken, you may soon find this exercise indispensable in your relationship to Christ.

In conclusion, my hope here has been to provide a brief set of instructions for a meaningful devotional life for the believer in Christ.  This is certainly not all that might be said about what should or should not be done in times of private worship.  So may God by His Word continue to call and lead you to be in His Word and in prayer every day.

Challenges Issued in This Article

Spend time in God’s Word and in prayer every day as a matter of “private worship.”

Read God’s Word for your devotions, and not just someone’s reflections.

Use a devotional book if it helps you understand and apply God’s Word, but don’t allow it to shorten the time you spend reading God’s Word.

Set aside times to read longer portions of God’s Word at one time.

Consider praying out loud and even singing to God as part of your devotions.

Always pray in response to God’s Word, but consider also praying more briefly before and during your reading of Scripture.