Two truths and a lie:
Most Christians know it’s important for their relationship with Christ to practice “daily devotions” (e.g. bible reading and prayer).
Many struggle to do so.
Our constant struggle means we must be less spiritual, less worthy, less ________ (you fill in the blank) than our devotionally-adept brothers or sisters.
I’ve experienced / believed each of these at various times in my life, and I’ve heard and observed the same in the lives of countless Christians. What some experience as an invigorating spiritual discipline feels more or less like a spiritual “to do list” for others. And while some discipline is certainly required (just as it is with growth in any relationship, health goals, or skill development), as I see it a significant challenge is that we often only see one way of practicing “daily devotions” modelled or talked about (wake up early, grab a coffee/tea and your favourite chair in a quiet place in your home, read and pray). It’s a good rhythm that has blessed a lot of people, but when it doesn’t capture our hearts and minds – then what?
Over the last year or so I’ve been introduced to several new ways of communing with God in scripture and prayer that connect with how God has uniquely made each of us. Here are a few of them.
Scribe / Draw / Use Color
I was recently encouraged (and impressed) by the way artist Kamila Westerback from the Urban Abbey in Thunder Bay has taken to engaging scripture. First by writing out passages in an adapted version of insular script, which she describes as “a wonderful way to slow down and pay attention to the word.”
She has also taken to reading a Psalm (“as many times as it takes”) until an image begins to sink in, and then draws what stands out as a tattoo design.
Praying in Color is a variation on this for prayer for those who are “a visual or kinesthetic learner, a distractable or impatient soul, or a word-weary pray-er.” You don’t need to be a gifted artist to participate (that’s me!), and children can make it their own too.
For a season I listened to the Daily Audio Bible each morning while doing some stretches and core exercises. At other times I’ve listened to the Bible on CD while driving. Biblegateway also offers audio options for various bible translations on their website.
Our parent church in Port Alberni has been practicing Soaking Prayer for over 8 years, which provides opportunities to listen, read, write, dance, paint, pray and be prayed for in a context where worship music, art and scriptures projected on screens provide a setting to receive from and connect with God through a variety of means and senses.
I’ve been really blessed by several of the movies put out about Jesus’ life and ministry including The Gospel of John – 2005 (my favorite), The Miracle Maker (animated), and The Passion of the Christ (controversial, violent and draws from many outside sources. But as one critic noted “more than any recent director, Gibson captures the grand supernatural conflict which gives the death of Christ its meaning.”).
I must have also watched The Prince of Egypt a dozen times with my kids growing up, and still find it a helpful and engaging way to enter the story God calling and using Moses to free the Israelites from their captivity in Egypt.
Write / Journal
Our bishop Silas Ng has been helping people have Time with Abba (Father) through a variation of this process of reading, writing, reflecting and prayer.
Inspired by what Silas has been doing I have also taken up reading and writing out scripture passages this year (my chicken scratch, not Celtic script) in addition to initiating a prayer journal. The journal helps me focus my prayer time (I’m easily distracted) and keep a record of the ways Jesus responds (I could use the encouragement!).
Read with a Companion
Sometimes the challenge is that we just don’t understand what we’re reading or find it hard to “connect the dots” in a particular biblical book. How to Read the Bible Book by Book provides a helpful summary of each biblical book, the key themes and concerns being addressed, and breaks each into sections to help you understand the whole.
N.T. Wright’s For Everyone study guides are also a helpful companion for each book in the New Testament.
Bible Reading Plans
This may not be outside of the typical ‘daily devotions’ paradigm, but for those of us who are “list” people, having a reading plan that we can follow and check off can be a helpful and motivating way to get into the scriptures on a regular basis. Here are a couple of options:
5-Day Reading Plan: Read through the bible in one year by reading 5 days a week.
5x5x5 Reading Plan: Read through the New Testament in a year by reading 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
I’ve experienced a renewed devotional life in the last 4 months through engaging in bible reading and prayer in new ways as the Spirit has stirred my heart and led me to try new things. I plan to mix things up a bit more in 2017 as well so that it stays fresh and develops other areas of my relationship with Jesus, and I hope you will too!
Please share thoughtful, edifying comments – there’s already enough boorish negativity in the world.
P.S. We reserve the right to delete comments which are otherwise. ♥