I’ve committed with a few friends to reading the Bible cover to cover this year. I’ve never done this before but wonder if a nearly impossible goal is what I need to take devotions more seriously. I love a retreat day now and then with nothing but the Bible and will read a whole book or two in a day, punctuated by hikes on a friend’s farm. I drive a lot and sometimes cheat: the “Holy Bible” iPhone app helps because I can listen to a guy with a California surfer accent read The Message, or a guy with a British accent (who sounds like Richard Burton) read the KJV.
We are rooted and hid and formed in Christ, through his Word, to survive and hopefully even thrive in an otherwise tumultuous world. Who knows, we may even be called as courageous leaders to stand strong for the church and gospel and world God so loves.
I can read too much news and not timeless truth so I also set my web browser to Ann Voskamp’s blog, A Holy Experience. That way when I need to be on the computer, at least there is a buffer of beauty and goodness with which to begin.
There are lots of tips and tricks I have tried over the years. I’ve tried rising earlier to begin my day in God’s Word. I’ve spent time with God in deep prayer while climbing mountains. In those days, I covered 40 to 50 miles a week on solitary mountain trails, which resulted in a lot of time with God. I’ve listened to devotional material while I commuted to seminary through L.A. traffic, infusing that time with a greater purpose than just listening to the news or talk radio. But the truth is, I did none of those things if I did not do one thing first: ask God for an insatiable desire, a deep hunger, for his presence and his voice in my life. If I did not crave it, it would not happen.
You see, time is our most precious commodity. Unlike money, we never get it back. And we never get more. So the way we spend time tells us a lot about what we value. Whenever I was at my busiest, working three jobs while being a full-time grad student, I still found time to put in those 40 miles and I still found time to waste on Facebook. There have been years, too, that truthfully, I did not value time with God as much as I should have. And you could tell by my schedule. For this reason, I believe planning is essential (although secondary) to our requesting a holy desire to be with God, because our desires have a way of creeping into our schedules. We will make time for what truly matters to us.
I would also recommend reading Scripture, front to back, with a question in mind. Possible questions: What does God say about anger? What does it mean to be a strong leader? What does it mean to be a good parent? What kind of person should I become? One question may take a year.
Also, mine the Christian classics, many of which are free on Kindle or the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
From Faculty Conference 2012
The Well posed this question to a group of women faculty members and friends gathered at an InterVarsity faculty conference. Here is a compilation of their responses:
Margot: I love the morning for prayer. The time just flows. If I try to do it later in the day, it’s like riding a bucking horse. I would recommend Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence by Ruth Haley Barton and Real Presence: The Glory of Christ With Us and Within Us by Leanne Payne. I read both while I was on retreat at In the Stillness in New Brunswick.
Sharon: I felt that when I was in very busy times of life, God was very efficient and found me wherever he could. Sometimes late at night with a child who couldn’t sleep or early in the morning with an early riser. I recommend Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young for times when life is so busy that it seems impossible to set aside time for devotions. I’ve also appreciated Robert Mulholland’s The Deeper Journey: The Spirituality of Discovering Your True Self and Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation .
Nan: I like The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle and have used the pocket edition when traveling. A Simple Way to Pray by Martin Luther had a profound influence on my understanding of how to pray the Lord’s Prayer.
Katie: I’ve used devotional works of Andrew Murray. I’ve also found devotional materials online at Holy Pig.
Shirley: I’m not contemplative, I’m more pragmatic. I like a study and attend Bible Study Fellowship. I think we can be made to feel inferior if we are not into the current stream of spirituality. I have to do a group study with regular Bible Study and prayer.
Lisa: There are so many temperaments involved in spiritual discipline. We have to be so careful about normalizing what good spiritual practice is. I know it’s good to practice silence, but I had a sixteen-hour trip here and did not have one moment of silence, by my own choice. I must believe that God is with me and knows who I am and how I am made. I do find it very helpful to have an accountability partner; we meet maybe just once each month. I choose someone who is more radical about praying than I am. I’m not contemplative by nature but I’m drawn to contemplative people. I ask myself, who can I come together with to practice what I don’t do well?
Stephanie: I don’t try to separate my everyday life from my spiritual life. I bring everything in — take it all in and bring it before God. I want to take all of my life captive and make it obedient to God. So I pray about everything going on, even the grocery list. I read Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas on my Kindle, and finished it while I was playing the piano for a music gig. (Yes, I play the piano and read at the same time.) I found myself weeping at the end, while I continued to play. I found it a remarkable portrait of a family and very moving spiritually.
Julie: It really helps me to journal and at times the journaling turns into a prayer.
Deb: I found In the Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as Spiritual Practice by Bonnie J. Miller-McLamore very helpful. It is written by a woman who is an academic and a mother. She reminds us that God is here even when we do not have time to set aside for devotions.
Allison: I’m doing a year reading through the Bible. It’s a lot of reading and I find the best time to read is in the bathtub. I just bought a waterproof Bible. I also found A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller very helpful in understanding the metaphor of the shepherd and sheep.
Erin: I’ve appreciated using daily devotional guides based on the lectionary. There are several devotional guides available for this from the Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, and other Protestant traditions.
Other recommendations from the group:
Brother Lawrence, Practice of the Presence of God
Chesterton, G.K. Orthodoxy
Dillard, Annie, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
L’Engle, Madeleine Walking on Water
Lewis, C.S. The Weight of Glory , Letters to Malcolm Chiefly on Prayer
Nouwen, Henri The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming
Peterson, Eugene, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
Stibbs, Alan, Search the Scriptures: A Three-Year Daily Devotional Guide to the Whole Bible
Willard, Dallas, The Divine Conspiracy