Are they even possible?
Yes! In this article, I would like to address some common misconceptions about personal devotions and give some brief responses to them as well as discuss how to have them. Let’s begin.
Misconception #1: “If I didn’t get the right feeling it doesn’t count.”
We have all been there! Whether it was early in the morning or just at a time when we read something and it seems like the Bible is nothing more than ink on a page or pixels on a screen. Don’t be discouraged! It is so important that we realize and apply this truth. Personal devotions aren’t about a feeling. Problem solved! Right? Ya, not exactly. Let’s be honest, it is great when our feelings are positive and not negative. Yet this is not always the case. We are human and some days are better than others, and that’s part of the reason why our personal devotions cannot be emotionally led. Emotions change, God does not.
Solution to Misconception #1
The joy that can be found in personal devotions that are based on God will be life-changing. Let’s think about what the phrase personal devotions even means. Devotion is worship and personal devotions should be a time of personal worship to God. The solution to a feeling-oriented worship time is simply to change the misconception of what is a successful devotional time.
Let me explain: If I thought that the standard of meaningful devotions was a feeling, then I would do all I could to get that feeling every time, but what if that feeling was not the reason for or even the result of meaningful devotional time? Like I said, We all would rather our feelings and emotions to be positive rather than negative, but if we bring that thinking over to our personal worship time doesn’t that make it all about us? The solution that I offer to misconception #1 is that personal devotion must be truth-oriented and not feeling-oriented. My feelings change often, probably too much, but what never changes is God and His Word. Since the Word of God is referred to as truth by Jesus Himself (John 17:17), it would make sense to have Bible reading as a central part of personal devotions. When we read scripture what should we look for? Truth. Too vague? When we read scripture we should look for things that pertain to God and tell us about the unchanging character of God and what God wants from us? The central focus of our personal devotional time must be God.
Misconception #2: “The more I read, the more spiritual I am.”
We all know that one guy that gets up at 5 a.m. every morning “without fail” and reads his Bible for one hour, followed by one hour of prayer and fasts until the next day. Okay, maybe we don’t know anyone who does that, but sometimes we feel that unless we have an extreme morning devotional time when we read at minimum five chapters then we really didn’t have “good” personal devos. The misconception that I want to address is the concept that says, you must read a ton of scripture in order for it to be worth claiming as “quality” devos.
Solution to Misconception #2
This is just simply not true. Here is the reason, all scripture is given to us that we might learn about God, learn what God approves and disapproves of, and then be corrected and directed by God through His Word. No matter the amount of scripture you read, the objective in it should be to see truth pertaining to the character of God and truth that God expects me to live by. This can be done with as little as a single verse to even a phrase. The key is quality over quantity. It is far better for you to read a small portion and understand and apply it rather than a whole chapter and walk away only to check a box and not dwell on what the scripture says.
Misconception #3: “My devotions aren’t like theirs.”
The misconception is that if my devotional time is not like another person’s then my devotional time was substandard to what it should be. It happens more than we would like to admit, I know that is true for me. I am sure you know what I am talking about. You see the Facebook or Instagram post with the Bible on a nice wooden table with the leather journal and the fountain pen with a simplistically deep sentence written in cursive and the post expresses such joy and satisfaction that was received from the posters personal encounter with God. You think to yourself, “Yep, mine wasn't like that this morning.” And we begin to think that our personal devotional time is labeled as “inferior" because it wasn’t like the post I saw on Instagram.
Solution to Misconception #3
Well, for starters, it just isn’t true. When we compare, we often lie to ourselves. The person who has posted pictures like that doesn’t have a perfect life. They may be a perfect photographer, but a perfect Christian, I think not. I am not intentionally bashing people who post things like that, I have probably posted a number myself. I am simply attempting to encourage you to not play the comparison game because it often leads to believing lies. An oak coffee table, a leather journal, a fountain pen, and a cool filter doesn’t determine someone's spirituality. The focus of personal devotions ought not to be the way it looks, it must be you communicating with God through the Word of God and the Spirit of God that dwells inside of the Christian.
Misconception #4: “My devotions must be early in the morning.”
As I cringe at the backlash from writing this misconception that I believe comes from many well-meaning people, but sadly discourages many others. It is true that the Psalmist David said, “early will I seek thee.” However, I think that this could mean one of a couple of things. First, David sought the Lord early which is to indicate preeminence of choices rather than time of day.
Second, if it did mean time of day, would it be out of the question to conclude that David is just simply explaining that for him, he was seeking God early in the day rather than a divine mandate upon all of God’s children to seek God in the morning? I think the whole concept of Psalm 63 expresses a desperate need for God and all of us would do well to live with such, but does it mandate that we awake in the wee hours of the morning? One point we all ought to agree on is that a personal time with God must be made a priority in your day, where to the best of your ability you focus wholly on God and give your undivided attention to Him.
Solution to Misconception #4
Choose a time where you can best give your attention and focus to God. For some, this may be in the evening, for others it may be in the morning and some maybe most benefitted by it at noon. It must be a time when you can give deliberate awareness to God and quietly listen to His direction as found in the word.
Practical helps to consider.
These practical helps are by no means meant to be exhaustive, but rather some tools that have helped me in my personal walk.
Some very basic conceptual tools that I use are observing truth, understanding truth, and applying truth.
Observing truth is to see what is objectively stated and true in the passage.
Understanding truth is putting together to whom things are said and why they are said and searching to figure out the passage as well as one can. It is really just figuring out the context before I try to apply it to myself.
Applying truth is to make changes in your thinking or lifestyle as a result of what has been seen in scripture.
A tool that discusses personal devotions in greater depth than I was able to in this article is the book Overcoming your Devotional Obstacles: 25 Keys to Having Memorable Devotions by John O’Malley. John has a deep concern to see people succeed in their Christian walk and writes with a such a kind and honest disposition that I am sure this book will be a help. If you would like an incredibly practical book on personal devotions with many tools then you ought to buy this book.
In the comment feed below, let me know how you do your personal devotions. What helps you connect with God? What are some helps that you could share?