If there ever was a statement that has too often described my Bible reading, devotional reading and prayer life it is this one, The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.” – (Proverbs 21:5). I know that I am not alone. I begin with good intentions, but without a plan, get distracted, preoccupied and my good intentions get sidetracked. It’s simple, if I don’t have a plan to succeed, I won’t. If I intend to grow to become more Christlike, if I even have a chance at remaining faithful in Bible reading, devotional reading, and prayer life, then I must plan for success. Following are some tips and resources to help you succeed.
Bible Reading – There is no way to become more like Jesus apart from the Scriptures. The Psalmist writes, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” – (Psalm 119:105). You are going to need to regularly read the Bible to grow. Reading the Bible haphazardly is not really helpful. The Bible wasn’t written that way and can become more frustrating than helpful when it is read in that way. If you have a good Study Bible, there is almost certainly a reading plan somewhere included. There are several websites with a variety of reading plans available. There are also a number of Bibles that are available which are designed to be read through in a year.
Devotional Reading – Devotional reading is helpful to give you a daily small biblical thought to think on throughout the day. Again, there are a number of fine devotionals published that can be purchased for your e-reader or hard bound. Chuck Swindoll, Charles Stanley, Tedd Tripp and others have published several devotionals for daily reading. Some ministries like InTouch, and Our Daily Bread have devotionals that can be sent directly to your mailbox. There are also multiple online devotionals that you can read daily at no cost. As with any writing, it is important to be cautious and careful and read it through your own biblical understanding. Finally, devotions are helpful but cannot be the totality of your spiritual nourishment. Challenge yourself by reading more substantive writings.
Prayer – Christian prayer is distinct. There is no greater model for prayer than Jesus Christ. I have personally found one of the most challenging areas to grow in and maintain is prayer. It wasn’t until recently that I heard a message from one of my Seminary Professors about how to keep a Prayer Journal that really transformed my prayer life. I begin a new section in the journal on Monday morning by writing a plan for prayer. The plan is just multiple sections that I will address in prayer for the week, but it helps keep me focused. I begin with a section on Praise and then move on to other sections. Often, there are items that get transferred from week to week, but when prayers are answered I make a note of that in the journal. Also, I have learned to pray the Scriptures. One writes that, “prayer is not the first word but is the second word, that it’s answering speech.” I try to not just read the Scriptures but to respond in prayer to what I have read. God has spoken through His Word now I respond in prayer. Finally, I have found that in order to maintain my prayer life I have to read books on prayer. These readings help me learn to pray, renew my understanding for the need to pray and to stoke my passion for prayer.
Spiritual Disciplines – Not only does spiritual growth not just happen, there are more spiritual disciplines than Bible Study and Prayer. In order to grow in your spiritual walk, you must expand your spiritual disciplines. It is absolutely vital that you are regularly under sound, biblical preaching and that you are under this preaching in the context of a local church, which is the biblical model. It’s a necessity to saturate your life with Scripture through memorization and meditation. Paul writes to his son in the faith, Timothy, “In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. 7 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8 for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance.” – (1 Timothy 4:6-9). Just as physical disciplines have some value, spiritual disciplines have an even greater benefit. There are multiple books that are helpful in learning and practicing spiritual disciplines. Donald Whitney’s book has become a classic, and Dave Earley’s and Rod Dempsey’s book is exceptional. Followers of Jesus Christ are to always be in the process of moving from a view of the world shaped by the world to one that is increasingly shaped by Scripture.
As the new year begins, it is a wonderful time to renew your commitment to spiritual growth. The resources and insights above should help you get started. Remember, on this journey you will have triumphs and setbacks. Keep going! Enlist the help of others to encourage you along the way.