Tips for Getting Out of a Devotional Rut

Tips for getting out of a devotional rut

Do you ever chafe at the routine things you have to do?

Some days I am irked at having to take a shower. I know, I know, people didn’t always bathe every day, and I don’t have to. But if I don’t, I won’t be able to stand myself before the day is over.

Then we unload and reload the same dishes in the dishwasher, wash the same clothes, buy the same groceries only to have them disappear.

Sometimes that sense of sameness can creep into my time with the Lord as well. I’ve mentioned before that I like to start with what we call “the Lord’s prayer” and expand my prayer time from there. But when I see those same words every day, it’s easy to run through them without even thinking.

We know reading God’s Word and talking with Him in prayer are precious privileges. What can we do when they seem just part of the day’s routine?

Here are some ideas:

Pray. Ask God to help you treasure time with Him and give you wisdom to keep it fresh.

Change the order of what you do. If you normally pray and then read, reverse the order. Or pray as you read, letting the Scripture prompt your prayers.

Change your time or location. If you normally have your quiet time in a comfy living room chair, try the kitchen table or the patio or the park.

Listen to the passage instead of reading or while reading. Some Bible apps have the ability to hear the passage read.

Go back to basics. Journals, markers, commentaries, etc., can all aid in Bible study. But sometimes we get more caught up in the aids than the Word itself. Just pick up the Bible sometimes and ask God to speak to you through it rather than looking at your time with God as a homework assignment to get through.

Use a study Bible or commentary. I don’t mean to contradict what I just said. But if you are used to just reading through a passage, then a study Bible can shed new light or bring in insights with background information or connection to other passages.

Use a different aid. If you use the same aids all the time, ask a trusted friend for recommendations of others.

Vary how much you read. If you usually read a chapter or two a day, try slowing down and digging all you can out of a few verses. Or, if you like to go slowly, try reading through a whole chapter or book. We benefit from both the larger overview reading and camping out in one place for a time.

Start with a hymn or psalm. Some people like to sing during their devotional time. But even just reading through the words of a hymn can spur our hearts to worship. And the psalms remind us God is interested in our hearts.

Read from a different translation. I see things I didn’t notice before when I read from a translation I am not used to. Or a familiar verse won’t sound familiar and I’ll question, “Is that what it really says,” prompting further study.

Have a Bible reading project. Some years ago, I heard someone say that Jesus never claimed to be God. I knew that wasn’t true, but I also knew He didn’t stand on a mountaintop and proclaim His identity to the world in a public way. So as I read through the gospels, I put a “C” by every verse where Jesus claimed something about Himself. That was such a rich study. It woke me up in my reading since I was looking for particular things. You could also go through the gospels and put a “P” by every verse which fulfills a prophecy from the Old Testament. Someday I’d like to note every verse which speaks about creation and what we learn from it.

Take a break from the book you are in. I like to read through a book of the Bible rather than hopping around at random. You get the context of the overall message that way and see how the individual points fit together. But some books, like Leviticus and Chronicles, can be a little dry. Take a break one day and read a few psalms or a short epistle like Philippians.

Build in a free day. The church we attended the last few years had a Bible reading plan that spanned five days of the week. We discussed the week’s reading on Sunday. Saturday was a catch-up day. Since I didn’t usually need to catch up, and I didn’t want to get ahead of where we were reading as a group, I used Saturdays to work through a different Bible study book or Christian nonfiction book. I benefit more from those kinds of books when I set aside time to dig in; I can’t just pick them up at random and read a few paragraphs like I can other books (at least I can’t get as much out of them that way). I’ve come to treasure my different routine on Saturdays. I read from Daily Light on the Daily Path every day, so I am getting something directly from God’s Word even if I don’t read a whole chapter.

Remind yourself of the benefits. It helps to get through routine tasks when I remind myself of their benefits. On occasional days I don’t make my bed, I am reminded that the room does look more neat when the largest item in it is neat. When the room is neat, I feel less cluttered mentally. I remind myself to be thankful that I can take a shower easily: in some eras and cultures, that wasn’t always possible. Though going to the grocery store is tiring, we’re blessed to have food readily available.

There are almost innumerable benefits to reading the Bible and praying. God’s Word sheds light, gives wisdom, peace, comfort, teaches us who and how great God is, and so much more.

Read and pray anyway, even if you don’t particularly feel like doing so. The worst thing we can do on those days is avoid the Bible and prayer or just give them short shrift. God’s Word revives us, so if we avoid it, we’re avoiding the very means God can use to enliven our hearts and renew our love for His Word. “Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction. I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me” (Psalm 119:92-93, KJV). One of our former pastors said that one of his best times of prayer happened when he had to start out confessing that he didn’t feel like praying.

Every meal is not a Thanksgiving feast, but every meal nourishes us. In the same way, some times with the Lord in His Word will be special and deeply meaningful. Other times may not feel that way, but they still nourish our souls and help us grow spiritually.

What have you found to help when your devotional time is in a rut?

Your testimonies are my delight and counselors. Psalm 119:24

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

37 thoughts on “Tips for Getting Out of a Devotional Rut

  1. I do often feel like reading my Bible is in a rut — and I hate that! I like your suggestions a lot and have done many of them. Oftentimes after reading through the Bible (and making it through the OT), my first thought is “I’m not doing that again!” Not that I’m proud of it. For me, those prophets are just tough. I do like alternating long/short readings, using commentaries, praying, etc. At our current church they’re encouraging attendees to read through the Bible in 90 days to get a “big picture.” I admire that but it was a bigger commitment than I thought I could currently make. At the moment I’m reading through an “illustrated” Bible with lots of cultural features, Holy Land photos, etc. I told myself I’d read some each day and just let my pace vary. I think it’s been a bit over 2 years at this point but I’m learning some new things which I enjoy.

    • I like to vary my pace, too. Our previous church had a reading plan of a chapter a day five days a week. That was pretty manageable. But there are short and long chapters, and some that are densely packed. I like being able to speed up or slow down as I feel led.

      The version with cultural references sounds really good. That’s often the aspect I know the least about.

  2. Thank you for this! I was looking for some ideas to change things up and came to your blog to search for a post that you might have written and here it was the first one!! This was so encouraging and gave me some good ideas.

  3. Good tips here, Barbara. I’ve currently suspended my daily Bible reading plan so I can read a Lenten devotional I’m following. It’s been refreshing to make a slight change, even if only for 40 days. 🙂

    • I’ve done that, too, for Advent. I get more out of Christmas and Easter when I either read the Scriptures focusing on them or read a book about them in the weeks beforehand.

  4. Barbara your post has good encouragement with many ideas. It has always helped me to read & study the Bible when I am in a group that will discuss it. I have participated in Precept Bible studies for many years.

  5. These are great tips, Barbara. I had not through of switching up my reading and prayer time, but I could see how that could add a spark if one was lacking. I also love the idea of having a Bible reading project. Underlining every time a name or description of God appears was life-changing for me when I undertook this project a few years ago.

    • That does sound like a great project. I knew of one woman who made a notebook about characteristics of God as she found them in her reading. She ended up forming them into a book.

  6. All valuable suggestions! Since I use YouVersion for my daily readings, I usually have my own reading plans that are private, and I very often have one that I’m reading through with other people. Seeing someone else’s comment of what they got from that day’s reading is helpful, as is having that bit of accountability. I also really like reading from different translations and then discovering why the wordings are different. I love your suggestion of the “project” – looking for something specific in the reading. I may try that one next!

  7. You have listed so many helpful suggestions. I have read through the Bible 7 days a week for many years, although far from perfectly. There were many times when I fell behind and had to catch up. But this past year or so, I was sensing that I needed a change. I have been listening to the Old Testament instead of reading it and I’m surprised at what a blessing it has been. Some days I listen to multiple chapters often while I’m doing other things (like putting on my makeup, a task I get tired of!) and other days just one or two or not at all. My goal has been to also read a psalm or two and the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds to the date. On days that I have more time, I am digging deeper into a book of the New Testament. Giving myself more flexibility and permission to read a much smaller amount on some days has been a refreshing change.

    • I was on a pretty stringent Bible reading plan as a teenager. I think that really helped to ground me spiritually, especially as I hadn’t grown up in a home that taught the Bible. But I have found that making changes, reading in one area more slowly and deeply or others as more of an overview, really helped me get more out of them.

  8. So good, Barb! I am so glad you mentioned that thought about the shower, now I don’t feel so alone in my ambivalence to take one at times!!

    But I really do appreciate that you helped us recognize we DO fall into devotional ruts, it’s normal, and some great ideas for getting out.

    When I get in a rut, I like changing my routine up by listening to scripture, vary how much I read, or turn a passage into a personal prayer. Ultimately, I do it anyway, and am always glad I did!

  9. I can totally relate to getting tired of things that need to be done daily. You have so many helpful tips here!

  10. Barbara, I love your ideas for keeping our Bible reading time fresh. So many great thoughts! I’ve had times where I pray and ask the Lord to help me not look at that daily time with Him as another item on my long to-do list. When I sit down, I ask God to help me be fully present with Him as I spend time in His word, in prayer, and in meditating on His truths.

  11. I agree, it’s good to mix things up from time to time. It is easy to get stuck in a rut otherwise. I’ve recently taken a break from the plan I’ve been using (and always found helpful) to use a Bible journal. It has the Bible text on one side of the book and space to journal on the other and it has made me slow down and read smaller chunks of the Bible but process them more deeply, which is helpful at the moment. It’s also a different translation of the Bible from the one I usually use so this helps me to look at in a fresh way.

  12. Yes, We do so often fall into ‘ruts’ in life especially when we have chronic health conditions!
    And prayer & devotional times can be one of those ruts. Thanks Barb for the suggestions.
    Blessings, Jennifer

  13. This is such an encouraging post, honest, too. I’ve struggled with keeping my devotions fresh and welcoming and now just come to the Lord as I am. I try to see this time as an invitation from the Lover of my soul instead of some sort of checklist. When all is said and done, He knows how much I love Him …

  14. Pingback: Saturday Snippets (March 11) – Chalmers' Blog

  15. Thanks for the tips, I remember during service last week at the teen’s church, my teenagers shared their experience of how they were 2weeks in and 3 Months out because Bible study was becoming dull and not just there. I remember sharing some of these tips and asking them to come to give back feedback. I look forward to their input because these are great tips you shared. God bless you, Harper.

  16. Pingback: Worthy Words (March 21) | Jana Carlson

  17. Pingback: March Reflections | Stray Thoughts

I love hearing from you. I've had to turn on comment moderation. Comments will appear here after I see and approve them.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.