AFTER A FEW MONTHS of enjoying noodles, rice, and seaweed while serving as an English teacher in Japan, I found myself craving some comfort food. At a restaurant I ordered the creamiest, richest dish I could think of—fettuccine Alfredo. As I relished each bite of the pasta slathered in cheesy white sauce, I began to feel full, incredibly happy, and amazingly satisfied. Psalm 63:5 says, “I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods” (NIV). God wants us to feel full, happy, and satisfied when we spend time with Him in the Word!
George Müller, a famous prayer warrior, shares one of his Bible study secrets in his pamphlet Soul Nourishment First: “The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon his precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching as it were into every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul.”
What if my devotional time has become stale, very brief, or nonexistent? Yes, even as a pastor’s wife, sometimes I have secretly fought the feeling that reading the Bible is like eating shredded wheat—good for me, but not that satisfying. That’s when I have to try a new approach. Here are 10 ideas to spice up your devotional time.
1. Go outside. When I try to read the Bible, it’s easy to get distracted by my cell phone, to-do list, kids, or even pets. Going outside takes care of that (especially if I leave my phone inside). Did you know that the brain engages better during the physical activity of walking?
2. Memorize Scripture. Make use of the moments while driving or even washing dishes. Try the Bible Memory App that uses typing as a help to memorization. Set a memorization goal with a friend. Also, reading a chapter aloud twice every morning and evening for a week makes memorization easier.
3. Read a GLOW tract. Why not read a GLOW tract or other piece of sharing literature? You can even highlight statements that are meaningful to you. Then create a two-sentence summary of what you’ve read and what it meant to you, and practice saying it aloud. When you have the opportunity to share with someone during your day, you’ll have something to say.
4. Have hymnal devotions. The Adventist hymnal is fertile ground for devotions. Choose a hymn and read or sing it. Then look up the biblical references the hymn uses in the index at the back of the book and take time to think about and meditate on each one.
5. Find joy in journaling. Elisabeth Elliot writes, “Copying the words [of a verse] into my journal helps me to obey them on the spot.”1 Although writing by hand has lost popularity these days, writing out Scripture helps me to focus on the words and to apply them. Imagine the joy of the faithful scribes who copied out the Scriptures by hand and how those words must have impacted their lives. In your quiet place, try writing a verse or reference to some verses at the top of a page and jotting down your thoughts
about those verses, or find some colored pencils and draw a picture of something that pops out at you. It’s between you and God and doesn’t need to be “good enough” for other eyes, but it will serve to remind you of a special moment with your Best Friend.
6. Go to the Gospels. Listening to or reading a story from the life of Jesus is like a shot of adrenaline for me. I seem to see the point easily and can apply the lessons to my life immediately. Ellen White said, “It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones.”2 Must you spend exactly an hour? Not necessarily, but the more we think about Jesus, the more wonderful He becomes to us. We may just find the experience so inspiring that we don’t want to stop.
7. Change it up. If you normally study the Bible before your prayer time, why not switch the order and pray first for a change? There’s no one correct way.3 Try this model: 15 minutes studying the Bible, 15 minutes reading another spiritual book, 15 minutes praying. Or take more time than you have before—if you’ve habitually carved out 15 minutes for Bible study and prayer, why not try 20? And if you’ve enjoyed 45 minutes regularly, why not give God an hour?
8. Consider audio. While many people like to read, you may sometimes prefer to listen to a Bible story or a free online sermon or podcast from AudioVerse.org, for example. Actually, Bible apps such as YouVersion or Blue Letter Bible let you listen to Scripture being read while giving you the chance to read along on your device and highlight or take notes electronically. They also offer useful Bible reading (or listening) plans.
9. Choose a verse of the day. During your time with Jesus, choose one verse for the day. It’s better to focus on one or two verses than to read chapters without thinking about them. When you carefully study a verse, picking it apart phrase by phrase, the passage sticks in your mind and becomes food for your soul during the day. To personalize what you read, put your name in the verse. For example: “Bless the Lord, O (your name here); and all that is within me, bless His holy name!” (Psalm 103:1).
10. Try inductive study. When someone finally showed me how to study the Bible indctively, I was awed that I could find spiritual food for myself every time I opened the Word! Amazingly, God speaks to me, just as He would speak to a preacher or anyone else. The first step is observation, or objective fact-gathering (What does the text say?). I read it extremely slowly, asking simple questions that begin with who, what, when, where, and why. Next comes interpretation(What does the text mean?). This is where I look at the author’s meaning and historical context, making connections with other passages in the Bible. Then comes application (What does this text mean to me?). Applications to my life begin to surface, and I ask God what He wants to tell me personally through that passage.
No matter what you read or listen to during your personal Bible study time, the key is to apply what you have learned. Simply ask, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” (Acts 9:6). Listen for God’s voice. “When every other voice is hushed, and in quietness we wait before Him, the silence of the soul makes more distinct the voice of God.”4 Then do what He tells you. “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5).
Psalm 25:5 says, “On You I wait all the day.” How do you keep the Lord with you all day? Here are some ideas. Before you leave that holy ground where God has spoken, look for a takeaway that can stay with you. Try writing the thought or verse on an index card to put on your desk at work or carry in your purse. Make a note on your phone, or e-mail or text it to yourself so you can remember it throughout the day. At lunchtime, take a moment to pray and review what you learned in the morning. Ask the kids at the dinner table if they can remember the thought from family worship.
How about telling someone your verse for the day or what you heard God say to you? When I first attended an Adventist college in the United States, I was happily astonished—young people were sharing at the breakfast table what they had learned during their devotions. You can also send a text or e-mail sharing something that impacted you or post it on social media.
IT DOES MATTER
You may wonder, “Does spending time in the Word really make a difference?” Yes, it really does. “Those who will put on the whole armor of God and devote some time every day to meditation and prayer and to the study of the Scriptures will be connected with heaven and will have a saving, transforming influence upon those around them.”5
Just like I had to be intentional to find that familiar, rich, satiating meal in Japan, we obtain the best results when we eagerly, expectantly take time to wait for God to meet with us in our devotions. God is willing, wanting, and waiting to fill us and satisfy our deepest longings. Thankfully, what He gives us is more lasting and nourishing than even the richest and most delicious fettuccine Alfredo.
1 Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart, p. 60.
2 The Desire of Ages, p. 83.
3 “The Bible should never be studied without prayer.” “The reading of the word of God prepares the mind for prayer.” Ellen White, Prayer, pp. 95, 31.
4 The Desire of Ages, p. 363.
5 Prayer, p. 157.