Devotions 101: What do you want to get out of your devotional time?
Truthfully, this is a little bit of a trick question.
This question is one that becomes a stumbling block for many Christians, too, I think. Sometimes we go into our devotional time thinking, “This is what I need today…. I need God to tell me [insert answer you’re looking for] and I need to feel great about myself when I’m done.” Is that a little extreme? Maybe, but you get what I’m saying.
Don’t get me wrong, the Word of God encourages us to:
Approach the throne boldly (Hebrews 4:16)
If any lacks wisdom, to ask (James 1:5)
Present our requests to the Lord (Philippians 4:6-7)
Seek healing through prayer (James 5:15-17)
In fact, in John 14, Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
We are encouraged to approach God in prayer and devotion with an expectant heart, specifically when we come desiring for our hearts to be aligned to His. John 14 doesn’t give us the go-ahead to treat Jesus like a genie-in-a-bottle; it is a reassurance that the Lord will honor a heart aligned to His. He longs to dwell with us; the Psalmist often writes of how the Lord delights in those who are His. I share all of that to say this:
We will most definitely get much out of our devotional life, but as a natural byproduct of genuinely seeking the Lord’s heart on the matters concerning our hearts each day. Note the Psalmist also writes:
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11)
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)
These Scriptures indicate a healthy motivation in spending time with the Lord in prayer and His Word, and it’s to know God, His ways, what honors Him and His heart.
Some of us show up to our devotional time with a list in our hearts of what and how God needs to speak to us that day to prove Himself faithful and true. And unless we experience epiphanies or leave that time with our hearts in the clouds, we feel a sense of disappointment or discouragement. Please know, I get needing God to speak loud and clear into a situation. But approaching our time with God this way is like dating someone simply for the benefits of having someone rather than for genuine connection and relationship; it’s like dating solely to get something out of it. That’s an empty, disappointing, fruitless relationship.
Our devotional life is intended to be much different than that. Listen, we know that God will show up. God will speak. God will be found by searching hearts. [Jeremiah 29:12-13). He promises us these things in His Word. This question I’ve asked really isn’t about God at all because we know His heart is genuinely for us and connecting with His creation, intimately. It’s about the posture of our heart.
This week, take notice of where your heart is as you begin your devotional time - whatever that may look like. When the question changes from “What do I need to get out of this today?” to “How can I know You better today?” things will change when it comes to your devotional life.
Our devotional life will be the most fruitful when our heart’s chief desire and intention is to get to know Him through His Word, and communicating with Him through prayer. It makes sense doesn’t it? Our hearts are naturally bent towards pursuing what we desire. When it’s knowing God’s heart we desire, what flows from that (the way God speaks, blesses us) becomes a natural byproduct.
If you have never established a consistent devotional life before, let this encourage you to begin one with a heart whose chief desire is simply, yet profoundly, to know the heart of our Heavenly Father and Savior better. When that is your motivation, consistency isn’t so challenging to achieve.
Something to Consider…
What has been the chief desire of your heart as you approach your time with God?
I encourage you to be brutally honest with yourself. No lasting change is achieved by painting a picture of ourselves and our intentions that isn’t accurate. The reassuring truth is that if you need the Lord to wake your heart up a little bit, He will. Be bold enough to ask.