While everyone develops their own particular way of doing devotionals, I would like to suggest one way that has worked for a lot of people.
First, I personally love reading a bit of the Old Testament and a bit of the New, because it broadens the contexts in which I see and experience Him, and so I feel that I am getting to know Him more completely. I do a simplified SOAP kind of thing with the passages: meaning that I read a short section, looking for “speed bumps.” Speed bumps are anything that stands out as interesting, odd, funny, whatever. I read a short section, because longer ones have too many things in them and I end up going wide, but not deep. Reading Scripture is the S in SOAP.
When I hit a speed bump, I start talking to God about it: “why did that person do that?” Or “why do You do or say that?” Or “that doesn’t seem like you?” etc. I ask God questions expecting that as I ponder the answers, some of the thoughts will be mine, but some – more and more over time – will be from Him. In other words, I know some of the thoughts I have will be my own, that’s fine, no problem. But, as I keep pondering and working through what I’m thinking about and asking Him questions all the way through, there are some thoughts, ideas, etc. that come to me that just seem to have something different about them. I explore those thoughts to see if they seem to be from the Lord. I know that they are likely to be from Him when they bring me understanding or revelation. It can be like an “aha” moment, or maybe just a word that seems to have His life in it for me.
If you like journaling you can write down your thoughts. For me, I just have a “conversation” with God about it in my head. Do note, I am not saying that God answers me with words and sentences as if I am speaking with Him. Rather, for me, He brings me understanding, revelation, something that just has His life in it. This Observation is the O in SOAP.
Applying to your life
When I get an understanding or revelation then I ask and ponder how that would be an Application to my life, which is the A in SOAP.
Pray about it
All of this is very relational between God and me. So, when I get an application I simply start to pray about all it, which is Prayer, the P and last thing in SOAP.
The first three steps, Scripture, Observation and Application take me about 10 minutes. The scripture I read comes from our web site: www.lakesamm.org – look on the lower menu bar and click the header named SOAP, then click on the day of the week which will take you to a web site that has the Old and New Testament passages on them.
Prayer takes me longer because once I pray about what He revealed in Scripture, I just move naturally into a longer time of talking/praying with Him.
What I do for prayer, I don’t think most people would think of as prayer. Most people tend to pray through a list of things they want to bring to God. I don’t do that until the very end. Instead, I just talk to Him, as I did in the SOAP. I have an image in my mind of two old friends just walking and talking. It doesn’t really matter what they are talking about, just that they are together, experiencing one another. That is how you really get to know someone, just hanging with them. That’s what I do in prayer, I hang with Him and talk about anything that comes to my mind and heart.
Just like I asked Him questions about the Word, I now ask Him questions, or make comments about things that are going on in my life. Just as it is in the SOAP, I bring things up to Him and He brings me thoughts that are not mine which causes me to think other things that I then bring back to Him.
If you pray in the Spirit, and we all should be doing that, this is an excellent time to do that too. Just pray in the Spirit expecting Him to bring you understanding of what is being prayed about, Rom 8:26-28 (and the verses that come before) and 1 Cor 14:15 (and the verses that come before and after). If you want to know more about that, ask God first and then, ask someone that you trust who prays in the Spirit and they will help you.
This relational prayer time can last well over 30 minutes. I think that it is tough to really get to a relational place in less than 15 minutes, just as it would be tough to get to a relational place with a friend in less than that. I get that you may feel rushed, but this will actually bring you so much peace that once you make it a habit you simply won’t feel right without having been with Him like this. It can’t really be done while you are doing something else, like showering or driving a car if there are stops and starts, etc. It takes concentrated, focused time, the more focused you are on Him the better.
At the very end, I have a list of things that I bring before Him. This takes about 5 minutes and is a short list of about seven things that I believe He wanted me to do.
By the way, I go for a walk when I pray because if I sit in a chair I tend to fall asleep.
In the end, if someone does this, they will have a “peace that surpasses” all the other noise, problems and things that are trying to get their attention. Plus, if something happens you tend to see where God is in it. And, if someone tries to do something that is not Him, they will just feel and know it quickly. It is as if someone that didn’t know a friend of yours that you knew very well, started to speak about that person and it wasn’t quite right. If that happened you would stand up and say, “Wait, that is not who that person is.”
That and much, much more is what will happen if you make a habit of doing devotionals. Try it for 40 days and just experience how much it will change everything. As always, if you need any help, don’t hesitate to go to friends whom you trust, and don’t ever hesitate to contact us, the Staff at Lake Samm.