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?
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