"Life is busy and filled with distractions,” observes Joyce Myers, “It's so easy to get caught up in our cares, errands and worries that we lose sight of what matters most."1
Jesus said in Matthew 6:31-34,
"Therefore do not worry saying what shall we eat or what shall we drink or what should we wear ... but seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you...do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about its own things sufficient for the day is its own trouble."
A healthy devotional life will draw you closer to God and enable you to walk into the destiny which God has created for you in this world.
If we truly are going to focus on Christ as He suggests above, we must not let the cares of this world be a roadblock to heaven.
Did you know that you are not a mistake and you are not an accident? God says in Psalm 139:14 "You were fearfully and wonderfully created by God." You were created in His image to do great exploits on the earth. The best way I know to find out what your destiny and your purpose in life is is to get connected with the One who created all of this for you - Almighty God.
In comes "The 4 Keys to Life-Changing Devotional Times With God."
The revelation you will receive by having a healthy devotional life with God is the very core of the wisdom that you will need to enter into the purpose and destiny God has mapped out for your life. Additionally, a healthy devotional life will be the very foundation from which your life-balance & life-successful will be built upon.
"Your daily discipline determines your destiny!"
Key #1 - Put God First - in the morning (if you can)!
There's something to be said about starting your day in the presence of God so that the rest of your day will be much more successful. Chances are with people's busy schedules, if you put off your devotions until evening, they may not happen because we have so many obligations with work family church and community. Therefore, I always say the best start to the day is
to be with the one that's going to help make your day successful - so I want to start my day with a healthy devotional time. In fact, Proverbs 8:17 says in the King James version, "I love them that love me and those that seek me early shall find me." You know the old saying
"the early bird gets the worm," well those that seek God first are promised by Him that they will find Him. Isn't that awesome?
Even more incredible, God says in Hebrews 11:6 that "…he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him!" I've been rewarded in my life as I have walked with God and I now find that I cannot live without His presence - the ultimate reward of all. However, as a father of younger children myself, I recognize that if you're a busy parent of school-aged children (say a stay-at-home Mom or Dad or working Mom or Dad) , then success in the morning for you is getting everybody up & out - on time! Your devotional time might have to be real early before the house is up or after the kids are off to school or in the evening after all go to bed. I recognize this is a season of life that can make devotional time-blocking difficult, but God is a flexible God who will work with you as you seek after Him.
Key #2 - Prayer Walks
“And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” (Genesis 5:24)
Obviously one of the spiritual giants of the bible, Enoch, practiced this spiritual discipline and look what that got him! He was the first person to be raptured (Elijah was the next and the Church will be next, Hallelujah!) To this effect, prayer walking is a life-changing activity that was introduced to me when I was in seminary.
One very snowy, extremely cold Saturday in the winter of 2004 in Rochester, NY, we
had a Seminary Retreat Day on-campus. After a wonderful morning of worship and fellowship, the Dean of Northeastern Seminary, Brian Babcock, instructed us to grab our coats, hats, and gloves because he was going to teach us the discipline (and art) of outdoor prayer-walking. This event radically changed not only my devotional life, but changed my life forever!
Dean Babcock had us break off for 15-20 minutes, by ourselves, and just talk to God.
I must say this exercise at first was a little awkward & uncomfortable, but after I got over myself and just began looking around at the snow covered trees and ground, I found myself praising The Lord - automatically, organically even - without even forcing it. Fast forward 8 plus years to the date of this writing and I'm still prayer walking with God, every single day. Sometimes it's difficult because I stay in different cities for work and I have to be careful of my
surroundings, but I'll circle a hotel parking lot 20 times if I have to in order to safely walk with my Lord!
Additionally, there is something intimate and special about walking outside and talking to God - the Creator of it all! Prayer walking is a great devotional "exercise" (no pun intended, although the cardio is great too!) because it enables you to get closer to God by taking you out of your normal environment where there's lots of distractions. The prayer walk allows you to separate yourself unto God, especially if you go for a walk in a quiet area outside.
In Matthew Chapter 17 Jesus takes three of his disciples to a mountain where He is transfigured and, as Matthew Henry stated in his self-named commentary,
"...[Jesus] teaches [us] that privacy much befriends our communion with God. Those that would maintain intercourse with Heaven, must frequently withdraw from the converse and business of this world; and they will find themselves never less alone than when alone, for the Father is with them. (2.) Though a sublime place, elevated above things below. Note, Those that would have a transforming fellowship with God, must not only retire, but ascend; lift up their hearts, and seek things above. The call is, Come up hither, Revelation 4:1."
I especially like doing my prayer walks in a slightly dark sky when the stars are shining. This sets me right in the mood to look up and see how great and awesome God is. Another biblical figure who received a great reward while prayer walking was Isaac (a type of Christ in the Old Testament). In Genesis 24:63 you’ll see that Isaac practiced the spiritual exercise of prayer walking when he was praying about and waiting for his bride to come onto the scene – a very important thing to be meditating on I might add!
“And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels [were] coming.
Matthew Henry commented on this by saying:
“Isaac was well employed when he met Rebekah: He went out to meditate, or pray, in the field, at the even-tide, Genesis 24:62,63. Some think he expected the return of his servants about this time, and went out on purpose to meet them. But, it should seem, he went out on another errand, to take the advantage of a silent evening and a solitary field for meditation and prayer, those divine exercises by which we converse with God and our own hearts. Note, 1. Holy souls love retirement. It will do us good to be often left alone, walking alone and sitting alone; and, if we have the art of improving solitude, we shall find we are never less alone than when alone. 2. Meditation and prayer ought to be both our business and our delight when we are alone; while we have a God, a Christ, and a heaven, to acquaint ourselves with, and to secure our interest in, we need not want matter either for meditation or prayer, which, if they go together, will mutually befriend each other. 3. Our walks in the field are then truly pleasant when in them we apply ourselves to meditation and prayer. We there have a free and open prospect of the heavens above us and the earth around us, and the host and riches of both, by the view of which we should be led to the contemplation of the Maker and owner of all. "
Hey, you never know, one could get a spouse or even raptured while doing this. Oh, and don’t forget to pray or its just physical exercise!
Furthermore, prayer walking must be done in a safe, well-light area if you are doing it when it's dark outside, unless of course you live in the country and you walk on your own property that you feel is safe. Note : I always wear a reflective vest for prayer walking in the dark – no matter what. This is not only a safety measure for walking in the dark, in case a vehicle needs to see you, but also so that if you are prayer walking real early (say before 5 a.m.) others (including the authorities) will not think you are up to no good. Just saying.
Key # 3- Devotional Scripture Reading
“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”
In achieving life-changing devotional times with God, there is no substitute for meditating on the Word of God. The book of Hebrews says about the word of God, "[it] is active and alive and sharper than any two-edged sword...dividing the soul and the spirit and the bone and the marrow - and it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of your heart. In other words, God knows where you are spiritually, physically, and emotionally and by reading His Word, devotionally, He will meet you where you're at and fulfill your needs as only He can. When I say devotionally, I mean that you must read the Scriptures not to master it, but to let it master you. Put yourself in the stories of the Bible, soak in the words and let them be, as Psalm 119:105 encourages, “a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path,” guiding you every day!
In addition, as you read his holy word He will transform you into who He wants you to be. The Apostle Paul says in the book of Romans 12:2 "do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Also in Romans, Paul says that "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God." So Scripture reading is your umbilical (almost sounds like “biblical” doesn’t it) cord to heaven as well as a necessary ingredient that complements prayer. Scripture reading can be done through methodical reading through the Bible. There are reading plans that you can take advantage of. Reading through the Bible in one year is a great way to do it. Technology has come a long way to help us with Bible study. One example is a digital Bible called You Version that is an app you can get online or on your iPad, iPhone or any other app-driven device. I found the opening Joyce Meyers quote in a plan that I was doing on YouVersion while writing this blog. YouVersion has lots of different reading plans and as of the date of this writing, they are claiming that over 5 million reading and devotional plans have been completed! Who says Christianity is dead!
Scripture reading is vitally important if you're a growing believer in Christ. Also, if you are new to the faith you’ll want to start with the book of John in the New Testament. It was specifically written to prove Christ is, was, and always will be God. Discipline yourself to read several Chapters a day. A good way to do this is to read some out of the Old Testament, some out of the Psalms/Proverbs/Ecclesiastes, and some out of the New Testament. Again, as mentioned above, you can also follow a set plan provided by a format like YouVersion or a 365-day Bible. For a new believer, this will get you started-off on the right foot! For a mature believer, please pray about where and how God wants you diving into His word.
Another huge boost in devotional reading is to use commentaries or study bibles. Currently I am doing my daily devotional reading with Matthew Henry's Commentary - I have this also in app form on my iPad. Although it was written in the 1700's by Mr. Henry, it is still one of the most revelatory and comprehensive pieces of Bible commentary work ever written in the History of the Church! I’ve read many and none come close to it in this writers opinion.
A nice supplemental way to get more Scripture "in you" is to have an audio
recording of the Bible in the car as your driving. As a sales trainer, I set up an audio book program for our sales force because many of them have lots of drive time to feed themselves positively with great business and motivational authors. The program is a hit, and as of this writing we have, on average, a book a month going out to each of our sales reps. I call it"turning windshield and downtime into personal and professional development time." There are days I switch from the personal development audio books to listening to YouVersions Bible on audio in my car and definitely at night on my night stand.
Step # 4 – Journaling
“Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.
Journaling can capture the thoughts you have during your devotional time. God promises to meet you as you seek Him and revelation is the key to living a healthy devotional life. Journaling is the outlet you use to capture what God is speaking to you during your prayer walking, Scripture reading and other types of communication streams (like dreams). When God speaks to you, which for the devotional-life seeker should be a constant flow, journaling is a great devotional "marker" and I refer back to my previous Journal entries frequently. Thank goodness this was the practice of all of the penman in the Bible or else we’d have no Bible.
From time to time, I will pull out my journals from well over a decade ago and reminded myself of the great and awesome things God did throughout my life. I love revisiting revelations He gave me through dreams and different words I received from my scripture reading as well as prophetic words that others gave me in the church to encourage me. Consequently, I have a complete set of journals that I continue to write in - day after day. I challenge myself to journal every day which doesn't always happen. Success for me in the discipline of journaling is 3 to 4 times a week and even then I typically only write a 1-page journal entry. I always date the top of the entry and if i have nothing to report on what God is telling me, then i just start pouring out to God. I believe a written prayer has a special place in heaven that compliments the spoken prayer.
Also, writing your thoughts is a "mental garbage release mechanism." Psychologists have always said to get your thoughts on paper as it releases them out of your head for clearer thinking - especially negative thoughts. As recreational writer, I've studied great authors who have said that one of their disciplines is to make sure they write (something - anything) everyday! Physically writing on a pad of paper has a much stronger creative and therapeutic effect on your soul than typing.
Furthermore, it is a spiritual journal that you write to (or about) God which describes all He is
doing in your life. Some of my journal entries are very "diary-ish" because they may not be addressing God, but in the course of writing my feelings down, I inevitably end up addressing God because it's such h a holy exercise.
In summary, when you put God first each day by prayer and/or prayer walking, reading Scripture, and journaling, you have set yourself up to hear from heaven in a powerful way. The distractions of this age can be a strong grip that can keep us from exercising these spiritual disciplines. However, making them a priority and a habit is your best line of defense. Best wishes as you seek to position yourself for God's awesome transforming grace.
1. Myers, Joyce. Promises for Your Everyday Life – a Daily Devotional. You Version app: You Version.com, 2012.
2. Ford, Lisa. The Craft of Research, 2nd Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago
3. Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry Commentary. Matthew Henry app found in App Store, 2012.