QUESTION: “Could you recommend some resources that would help me to get back on track with having a daily time of Scripture reading and prayer?”
ANSWER: I’m pleased to hear about your desire to get your devotional life back on track. It is the most important activity in your day!
First of all, I need to say that spending time in God’s Word and prayer is a discipline that is contrary to our sinful nature and a practice that Satan sees as extremely dangerous to his cause, so don’t expect it to come easily. There’s are some parallels to the relationship between physical exercise and physical health – in the same way, you often don’t see the immediate benefit of your spiritual exercise in the Word and prayer, but over time you see significant improvement in your spiritual strength and health. And don’t expect it to always be a joyful, uplifting experience. As a matter of fact, it may well be a dreadful experience as you encounter the holiness of God in His Word, or a deeply convicting experience as you are confronted with your sin, or disturbing experience as you see more clearly the fallen nature of others and the world in general. Looking upon the glory of Christ is His Word will elicit a multitude of responses in a regenerate heart!
I would recommend that you find a “sacred time” in your schedule and a “sacred space” in your home. Like any other discipline, time in God’s Word is hard to maintain if you are always changing the time of day for it. Find a block of time that won’t be intruded upon by your other responsibilities and activities and protect that time at all costs. Also, find a place in your home where you aren’t likely to be interrupted by family members (and I do understand how difficult this is for mothers of young children) or distracted by the phone, computer, TV, etc.
Everyone is somewhat different when it comes to developing and maintaining the discipline of being in God’s Word and prayer every day – what works well for me may not work well for you. But I think there are very few believers who can just pick up the Bible and start reading somewhere and stay consistent in doing it daily. I’ve always needed a guide for my time in the Word. When I was a relatively new believer I relied on the small devotional booklets that give you a passage to read, a couple of paragraphs explaining or illustrating it, and then a sentence or two of prayer to say. There are also books that you can buy that serve the same purpose, but you have to be careful to get an author that you trust (I can offer suggestions if you choose to go that route).
If you want to spend all of your devotional time reading Scripture itself, then you can find a variety of daily reading schedules that you can print off and stick into your Bible. You might even have a reading schedule printed in the back of your Bible already. Here is a site that gives you different options: www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/more.
There are three characteristics that I always look for in a devotional book or booklet:
- The author(s) must be doctrinally sound and trustworthy.
- It should ask me to spend more time reading God’s Word than the words of the author who’s explaining or illustrating it (I like daily readings that are at least ten verses long).
- The primary focus of the author’s writing should be to explain the passage (exposition). Only then should he illustrate or apply it to life (some authors just use the text as an excuse to tell stories or pontificate on right living).
The best daily Bible reading guide that I’ve found (and still use daily) is one put out by R.C. Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries, which is called “Tabletalk” (tabletalkmagazine.com ). It usually works through a book of the Bible verse by verse, and it has “For Further Study” Scripture passages at the bottom of each day’s page, which I use to spend more time in the Word in related passages. The explanations of the verses are very good, with more “meat” than the typical devotional booklet.
Another guide that I’ve found to be very helpful in daily devotions is the series of books called “Let’s Study” – www.wtsbooks.com/products/lets-study-ephesians-sinclair-ferguson . They are actually commentaries on different books of the Bible, but the chapters are pretty short and pretty easy reading. The authors are all very good and very sound in doctrine.
There are a number of web sites that offer daily Bible readings online or sent to your e-mail address, but I recommend spending a little bit of money and having a hard-copy devotional guide sent to your home or buying a book. It’s just way too easy to be distracted by a multitude of things (other e-mails, Facebook, instant messages, other web sites, etc.) while you’re sitting in front of your computer.