Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I just realized I never blogged about my Lent sacrifice, and after all this time it's going to seem anticlimactic, but ...

Instead of a sacrifice I made a resolution to have daily devotions -- focused time for reading either the Bible or some sort of devotional book, plus prayer. This was also my New Year's resolution (incorporating C.S. Lewis' "The Business of Heaven," which so far I highly recommend) but by Ash Wednesday I had already gotten slack about it.

Flannery O'Connor was Catholic and she wrote this about Catholics, but it applies to all Christians:

"Catholics who are not articulate about their love of the Bible are generally those who do not love it, since they read it as seldom as possible, and those who don’t read the Bible do not read it because of laziness or indifference or the fear that reading it will endanger their faith, not the Catholic faith, but faith itself."

I've never been great about doing devotions on my own. I've gone through phases, including some extended phases, of being in the habit since I was a teenager, but they never last. I like to read, but I don't really like to study, and my mind wanders like crazy when I try to pray for long periods of time. Being in a weekly Bible study/small group helps to some extent, but Flannery was right: What it boils down to is I'm often lazy and indifferent.

Studies with daily reading and homework sort of suit me in that they encourage discipline, but on the other hand, inevitably I get behind on them and wind up doing a week's worth of lessons on day 7, which defeats the purpose. Besides, most mass-marketed "devotional aids" drive me mad with their Sunday school questions and simplistic lessons. What's the point of a forgettable Bible study?

You people who have committed to and stuck with daily devotions for long periods of time -- what works for you? Seriously, I'm curious. Please comment.


Amanda said...

I think a lot of it is having variety. And forcing yourself to get in the habit. There are times that I have to force myself to do my devotions before I finish that last chapter in the mystery novel I am reading. But I would also feel really strange if I missed a day for some reason, so I just prioritize. One thing I have found that really helps me is to look up the literal translation of whatever verses I am reading. It's extraordinarily eye-opening! There's so many things in the Bible that have double meanings that you'd never catch if you didn't know the original word. Also, instead of "devotionals" per se, I read a chapter of a book/author I like instead, and look up corresponding scripture, etc, and I also journal about what I'm reading. But that really works for me just because I love to write like that. Sometimes I read books that are awful and I give up on them really soon but then I'll read one that I'm writing down so much in my journal that my arm hurts. And I try to do variety so I am reading different sections of the Bible, like I'll do a study on intercessory prayer, and then worship, and then spiritual gifts... even if I don't agree with the book I'm reading I love getting other viewpoints. Was this answer long enough for you? I'm sorry!!!
P.S. It also helps if you have someone to talk about what you studied. Stephen and I have never been ones for couples devotions but whenever one of us finds something really interesting we can talk about it. We resolved to do daily devotions in July 2007 and so far between us we have kept to it! I know people have stuck with it much longer than that, and I hope we can too.

Ally said...

I struggle with this too. I feel more convicted about it when I think about how I make working out an almost daily priority but not reading God's word. Oh, there's an can't work out until you do your daily devotional. I know it's bad to think we need an incentive like that, but whatever works works.

And if you want some Keller Bible studies, let me know. His are definitely not simplistic, and each part of each study could easily be spread out over a week.

Jessica said...

It is so awesome to find a person like yourself that is interested in truly studying the bible and understanding it.

What's worked for me personally is that I attend two religious meetings a week. One meeting, on Sundays, has a study of a particular bible based article (Last Sunday it was "Choose the best way of life") that is a paragraph by paragraph study with scripture citations and questions after each paragraph. I prepare ahead of time by reading the paragraphs, answering the questions, and looking up the scriptures. I make notations in the margins of my magazine of how the scripture supported the paragraph. It's an audience supported discussion so I get a lot out of it. I can even take part in the discussion so preparation is key.

Then the other group meeting I go to is on Thursdays. We have a 15 minute question and answer discussion of a book, (right now it's called Come be my Follower) and I prepare ahead of time like I described above. Then we are assigned each week a few chapters out of the bible to read ahead of time, then we discuss as a group. If you learned or liked something about a certain scripture, you raise your hand and talk about it.

The congregation has different ppl assigned each week to discuss a bible topic and show how you'd help someone learn about it. It's like a little skit.

So these congregation meetings keep me disciplined and regimented about my study of the bible. Sometimes it's hard to keep up, but it's totally worth it. I love learning and helping others learn about the bible!