The Bible contains a consistent refrain underscoring the importance of God’s people regularly spending time in God’s Word: “Meditate on it day and night.”
We find this in Deuteronomy 6:6-7 when Moses reminds the Israelites that “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Joshua gives them the same command in Joshua 1:8: “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
And it is repeated again in Psalm 1:2, which describes the “blessed man” as one “whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.”
While you’d be hard-pressed to find a Christian today who rejects the importance of a regular, daily devotional, or quiet time, the reality is that many believers struggle to make the time to do even once a day, let alone “day and night.”
But I’m not here to guilt or convict you about the regularity (or irregularity) of your own quiet times. Rather, I want to offer three habits that you can consider cultivating to create more focused and fruitful devotions whenever you do make it happen. Here they are.
It’s said that “a failure to plan is a plan to fail.” When it comes to reading the Bible on a daily basis, this holds true. If you don’t know what you are going to read, or read next, you’ll be far more likely to just not read at all.
Furthermore, when you have a Bible reading plan, it takes the guesswork out of the equation, allowing you to dive right in and start digging for the riches found in the pages of God’s good Word.
I’ve suggested three good options for reading plans in a previous post, so I won’t cover this in-depth now, but here are the highlights:
Whatever you pick, just make sure that you pick — and stick — with a reading plan.
Philippians 4:6-7 encourages Christians to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Prayer should, therefore, be an integral piece of your devotional time. When you read the Bible, God talks to you. When you pray, you talk to God. Prayer is the fuel of faith. On the other hand, prayerlessness reveals a heart of pride.
Prayer is also a powerful weapon against the devil. English Pastor Samuel Chadwick (1860-1932) once said that “Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”
Still, many believers struggle to concentrate when it comes time to pray. To help with that, why not try keeping a “prayer list” and using that in your devotional time? You can keep all the people that you want to daily pray for on the list, and even add other categories that you pray for once a day, like “missionaries I support” on Monday, “political leaders” on Tuesday, “the health of my local church” on Wednesday, etc.
There is no shame in keeping a list. Don’t twist yourself in mental knots to try and remember off of the top of your head what you want to pray for; write it down instead. This will focus your attention and your requests to God.
Finally, make a habit to journal a few reflections from both your time in God’s Word and your prayers each day. You don’t need to produce a hefty tome of brilliant theological insights — just jot down a few applications or implications of what you read that day to help them better stick in your mind and heart. And make sure to note when you see your prayers answered!
Not only does writing help sharpen and clarify your own thoughts, but journaling creates a “record of God’s grace” in your life that you can return to when the trials come. It has also been said that those who have a “short pen” must indeed have a “long memory.” Journaling takes some weight off of your mental workload and allows you the freedom to revisit what you’ve learned from God and how you’ve seen Him work in your life, and others, over the years.
Pick a Bible reading plan. Keep a prayer list. Start a journal. Incorporating these three habits into your daily devotionals will help you concentrate better, learn more, and make the most of the time you spend alone in communion with God, whenever that may be — morning, noon, or night.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.