Pastor Note #51 — Here’s How I Do It: The Devotional Life of One Christian
Every so often people ask me about my devotional practices. I don’t think I’ve ever written about that before, but it strikes me a something that some folks might find helpful. I don’t share what follows as if to say that everyone should pattern their devotions after me. In fact, my own pattern of devotional practices tends to shift and change through the various seasons of my life. What I am doing at this time is quite different from what I have done in the past and will, no doubt, be different from what I do in the future. The details of how you go about incorporating a time of spiritual devotions in your life will shift and change over time in response to the needs of your soul at that time. But there are some fundamental elements that should always be part of your daily spiritual nourishment.
Prayer and Scripture are the foundational disciplines of any healthy Christian life. Whatever else you might include in your devotional life, Scripture and prayer must be the one constant, always. And yes, I think it should be daily. If you engage in a devotional life only when you are in the mood, you will gradually stop doing it altogether. Without a daily time of devoting your attention solely to interacting with God, your faith will drift until God has ceased to be a person with whom you are in a vital and lively relationship. He will gradually become just an idea that you occasionally think about. And that is not the Christian faith.
I start most every day with a half hour or so of brisk walking/a little running and prayer throughout. I try to focus a lot of that time on praise. The more I start by getting very focused on the character of God, the more clarity I have as I continue in prayer and Scripture.
As my mornings progress, I spend a good block of time reading the Bible. I vary how I read the Bible, but for quite a while now – months – I’ve been bathing in large blocks of Scripture – five, six, seven chapters at one sitting. It has been a lovely sort of immersion in Scripture – the Word of God flowing over me like a river. Close reading of small sections of Scripture is also very important, and I do that from time to time through the week.
But in this season, I’ve been spending more time swimming in big blocks of Scripture. God has been using this immersion in his Word
to impress upon me a big-picture, panoramic vision of his redeeming purposes for the world and for his people. It has been sustaining and invigorating in this season of my life. You don’t need to have a specially designed plan for this, but as it happens, I am using a reading plan. The one that I’m using is designed to take the reader through the whole Bible in two years, reading usually about two chapters a day, six days a week. The plan has the reader reading in the Old Testament for a few weeks then reading in the New Testament for about a week. That alternating between the testaments seems to help fend off the tendency many of us struggle with of getting bogged down in the depths of the Old Testament and giving up. It’s been working very well for me, though I decided early on that I wanted to go a little faster than the plan design. So, as I mentioned, I’m reading more than two chapters a day and expect to finish a complete reading of the Bible in about a year and a quarter. Then I may decide to turn around and do it all over again. Or I may decide on a different reading plan. We’ll see what God says when I get there.
Several times a week I burrow deeper in prayer using a prayer journal that I have been keeping for years (now a multi-volume collection). For me, the process of writing my prayer helps me to dig in deeper, to ask God questions, to listen to, write out, and reflect on what he says. It is a very interactive process of asking, listening, discerning, re-asking, refining, and submitting.
Also, several days a week, I spend time in devotional reading of other writers, from throughout the ages – ancient and contemporary – whose wisdom enriches me in my journey toward an ever more faithful discipleship to our Lord Jesus.
All of this is important first of all for my own walk of faith. But it is important for my calling as a pastor, because the most important tool of my trade, so to speak, is my intimacy with and experience of God. It is out of my communion and cooperation with the Spirit of God that all genuine and fruitful ministry comes. I nurture my own faith for my own sake and for the sake of those whom I serve.
©2013 Gary A. Chorpenning; all rights reserved.