Recently, on a Sunday morning, I lingered in bed, soaking up the last drop of sleep. I was exhausted from a long week and a rare evening out with a couple of friends the night before.
When I woke up, I could hear my husband engaging with our son, giving me a much needed break.
I pulled myself out of bed, grabbed my journal and found my Bible and a pen. Then, I sat up in bed and tried to pull my thoughts in line to pray.
With my journal and Bible in front of me and my head in my hands I asked God for help and direction. I sat in silence for a few minutes.
Then, I started reading the story of Abraham in Genesis chapters 12 and 13.
How I choose what to study during my devotional
One of the hardest things for me to decide when I’m having devotion is what to read. This time, I knew I wanted to read about Abraham because I’m working through some questions I have about how God views business people.
The reason I have this question is because I’m stepping out and starting something of my own — between this ministry, IGNITE | Digital Discipleship Ministry and my strategy and communication firm, Flying Sparks Strategy & Communications.
Reading the Bible
When I started reading, I read slowly, verse by verse. As I read the text, I noted questions I had in my Bible, as small commentaries, and I also wrote notes and questions in my journal.
Beyond reading the Bible, I approached God with a question, asking, “God, how do you view the work that I’m doing.” Somehow, it was easy for me to answer that question when I was working directly for the church, but now that I’m not working directly for the church, I wonder how God sees me.
So, I decided to look at Abrahams’s story because even as a businessman, with lots of wealth, God calls him His friend. Because of this, I was curious to know more about him and his relationship with God.
I’ll give you an example of what this Bible reading looked like for me.
How I read Genesis 12 & 13
I started reading Genesis 12. It says, “Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country from your family and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.'”
From reading this, I had a few questions. I started by asking,
- “Did Abram know the destination would still be Canaan?” I asked this question because I knew back in Genesis 11:31, there was a mention of Canaan. Abram’s father, Terah was initially headed toward Canaan, and he stopped half way at Haran.
- When I read that the name of the place where they stopped was Haran, I thought it was interesting because Terah’s deceased son was named Haran so I wondered if the place was named after the son.
Along the way, I’m not sure how significant any of these details are or if they’ll bring new insight, but it’s the type of stuff I’m wondering about.
The command & the promise
Probably, the most important things I noticed when reading was when God was speaking to Abraham. Again, He said, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your Father’s house to a land I will show you.”
This, I noticed, was a command. It was much different than what God said next, which was:
“I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great and you shall be a blessing…”
God was no longer commanding Abram. Now, He was making a promise to him and prophesying over him. It made me wonder, why did God’s tone change? I wondered:
- Did God make a big promise to get Abram to follow a hard command, which is to leave?
- Or does this promise appeal to Abram’s psyche?
- Is God speaking to and assuaging Abram’s fear?
During my devotional time, I note these questions, and leave them unanswered so I can sit with them and ponder them throughout the day and even the next day in my devotional time.
In fact, I picked up this same line of thinking the next day as I continued reading Abram’s story. In reading, I arrived at Genesis 15:1-6, and I learned that Abram is fearful. This is shown in Genesis chapter 15, where Abram spills his guts to God and explains all of his fears.
This told me that God’s promise was speaking to Abram’s fears. In fact, I realised that God’s promises speak truth to our fears.
From there, I posed the question to myself,
This is the rhythm I use when reading the Bible. It’s a time of reading and reflecting, pausing and noting, asking and listening.
Learning to listen during worship
Listening is an important part of my devotions. However, it’s not a practice I was brought up with as a child rather it’s a practice I am learning as an adult.
I’ll admit, I’m not the best at listening because it requires a certain level of calm and stillness that I’m still exercising.
Practically speaking, I set a timer on my phone for 5 or 6 minutes, depending on the day, and I say, “God, is there anything you want to say to me?” From there, I sit in silence and work to focus my attention on God and what He wants to say. I give Him the space and the opportunity to speak. Sometimes, I hear Him in that moment and other times, I hear Him at another time during the day. The point of the exercise is to practice giving God the space to speak truth into your life.
Sitting still isn’t the only way to hear from God. I often find that I can listen while going for a walk as well, however, for me, listening in a quiet, still position presents less risk for getting distracted.
How to pray
The topic of prayer is a big one that I won’t be able to fully cover in this article because it really deserves special treatment. Prayer is the lifeblood of any Christian’s life and it’s a practice and a discipline that is as much about changing us as it is getting what we want from God.
You can read a bit more about my views on prayer in the article, “How Does God Answer Prayers?”
How I incorporate music into my worship
As I mentioned in my article, How I Relieved the Pressure on Myself to Have the Perfect Devotional, there are times when simply meditating on a song can be a deeper act of worship for me than a half-hearted, in-depth Bible study. So, sometimes, that’s what I choose to do or I’ll just make it a practice to surround myself with Christian music throughout the day to invite Jesus’ presence into my life and all that I do.
When I have a bit of time, my devotions can run from 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 minutes. I usually don’t put a time limit on it. The most important thing is to focus on connecting with God.
What about you? How do you spend your devotional time? I’d love to hear from you!