Check out these devotional practices to help guide your time in the Scriptures and in prayer.
Devotional practices to guide your study
What’s the point of personal devotions?
Sometimes, prioritizing personal devotions can be a challenge. So, why should you bother to do them?
Remembering our identity in Christ
Our God is all about keeping promises, and he promises that you belong to him. Spending time in God’s Word allows you to reflect on who you are: God’s child. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, you’re forgiven and free to live and serve where he has called you. It’s so easy to forget that our identity rests in Christ.
Especially in the midst of chaos, God invites us to draw near to him throughout the Scriptures, and David even calls God his “hiding place” in Psalm 32:7. Through Jesus, we hide ourselves in his work on the cross and the newness of life he claimed for us when he rose from the grave.
We see throughout the Old and New Testament that people share the value of leaning into God’s Word as a valuable daily practice.
God’s Word guides you.
“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” –Psalm 119:103-105
God’s Word is alive.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” –Hebrews 4:12
God’s Word prepares you for your vocation.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” –2 Timothy 3:16-17
Using Luther’s Catechism as a devotional tool
Martin Luther was well-known for his study of the Scriptures. Luther listened to the Scriptures, and diving into God’s Word is what showed him that true salvation is found in Christ alone.
Luther also taught something that Lutherans and other Christians still teach to this day: everything in the Bible points to Christ. No matter what portion you’re reading, all of the Scriptures are written to tell the Good News of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
A Simple Way to Pray
LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison translated Martin Luther’s tract A Simple Way to Pray. Martin Luther used a format that blends prayer and Scripture that has four parts: instruction, thanksgiving, confession, and prayer.
Here is how you can apply this framework to a Scripture text:
- What is this text teaching?
- What do I have to give thanks for?
- What do I need to confess?
- A general prayer that ties the previous points together
Our Church fathers, such as Augustine and Ambrose, used this practice, which became common in monastic communities of the middle ages. Rev. Dr. Harrison gives an example of how to use this devotional practice here.
Using the Lectio Divina as a devotional tool
Rev. Theodore J. Hopkins, Ph.D., is the Pre-Seminary Program Director at Concordia University Ann Arbor. He shared a Lutheran Christian perspective on the Lectio Divina:
“Lectio Divina is a holy and useful practice when it encourages the Christian to ‘read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest’ the Scriptures in view of the Bible as the Word of Christ. This isn’t a way for me to get be more ‘in touch’ with myself, like other practices would encourage, but it is a way by which God encounters me with his external word.”
Hopkins asserts that when you practice the Lectio Divina, you’re reading the Bible to know Jesus Christ and receive his word to confess your sins. You reflect on his promise of forgiveness, and you focus on living in faith and obedience to God.
Slowing down to remember God’s promises in Christ Jesus
The Montecassino Abbey describes the Lectio Divina this way: “This is a method of prayer, meditation, and communication with God. Rather than rushing through Scripture and written prayer, it aims to slow the prayer down, so that they may absorb the word and in doing so spend time with God. The rhythm of the Lectio Divina is a careful balance of action and reception, praying and listening to God.”
Concordia University Wisconsin’s Campus Pastor, Rev. Doug Bender, uses this tool with his students. “I love that my students are drawn in to engage Scripture and openly share with their peers. It’s proven itself to be a great pathway into deep Biblical reflection, as well as an opportunity to put words to how Scripture is interacting with our lives in the present,” Pastor Bender shared.
How to use the Lectio Divina
1.Meditate on a specific set of Scripture verses, praying along the way.
- Listen and look for a certain word or phrase that stands out to you
- Spend time in silence, reflecting on God’s Word
2. Reread Scripture, and consider the implications of God’s word/phrase for you.
- Is this a word of comfort, or a word of challenge?
- What is God telling you by this?
3. Reread Scripture, and resolve to repent.
- What is God inviting you to change in your thinking or doing?
- How might you turn and come closer to Him based on what God is telling you today?
Reading your Bible more doesn’t earn you bonus points with God; that’s not the point of personal devotions. But, spending time in God’s Word is an invitation to meditate on his promises sealed for you in Christ Jesus. Use this prayer as an invitation to the good gifts of our Lord:
“Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen” (Cranmer, Book of Common Prayer).
— Vanessa Lane is the Content Marketing Lead at Concordia University and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. When she's not at work, she can be found playing with her kids or watching NBA basketball with her husband.
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