It is so healthy to have good devotional routines. Maybe you have benefited from the same morning routine for years … get the coffee, read your Bible, spend time in prayer, etc. If you love the rhythm and wouldn’t change any of it, then please ignore this post with my blessing!
Sometimes it can be healthy to freshen things up, and that doesn’t have to wait until the 1st of January. Why? Because it doesn’t have to be an annual commitment. What matters is your personal walk with Jesus, not your success or failure in maintaining a specific habit. If an element of your rhythm grows stale, talk to him about it and make adjustments.
Here are some ideas that might be helpful:
1. Separate devotional Bible reading from devotional Bible study. You will benefit from both, but combining them is not always the easiest. We can end up going too slow for reading, but too fast for meaningful study. Maybe the reading part can pick up the pace, while the study part allows you to dwell in a book you are motivated to study for a while. (And once the grass looks greener for feeding in another Bible book, move over and study in that pasture for a while.)
2. Dust off the memory muscle. It wasn’t too long ago that we used to store phone numbers in our own memory, but the combination of internet and smart phone has effectively retired the memory muscle for too many of us. Why not pick a chapter, or even a book of the Bible, and enjoy committing it to memory (it allows for meditation throughout the day, as well as spillover benefits for preaching, etc.) One thing I have found helpful is to write out and then review using just the first letter of each word. (Eg. John 3:16: F G s l t w t h g h o a o S, etc.)
3. Print and mark a complete Bible book, or section. We aren’t restricted to holding a bound Bible and wrestling with whether to underline in it or not. It is not unrealistic to copy and paste the text of a Bible book, adjust format to give us the space we need, and then mark it up in great detail – get to know every detail, every repeated term, identify the flow of thought, note every significant detail observed or noted from commentaries, etc. I remember visiting a friend’s house who had the entire Gospel of John, marked up, and lining the wall of his bathroom!
4. Foreign language Bible reading for biblical fluency. Maybe you have studied an original language, but only use it at the sporadic puzzle solving level (where you look at the text and hunt for subject, verb, and then create an English language rough interlinear…and then don’t use the language again for a while). Or maybe you haven’t studied Hebrew or Greek, but can get by on holiday in French or Spanish. Perhaps you would enjoy taking a few minutes each day with the Bible in that language (French, or Greek, or whatever). Make it your goal to be able to read a section fluently – familiar with the vocabulary and grammar enough to read it through without auto-translating into English in your head. Instead pondering the meaning, enjoying the rhythm of the language, and relating to God rather than wrestling with a lexicon. This would take a little bit of work, but it can be devotional and relational in a surprisingly short amount of time.
This list could go on forever, we could mention journaling, or prayer walks, or adding in reading with a helpful Puritan, or finding a companion for regular devotional teaming up, etc., but those are my top four refreshment suggestions today. What have you found genuinely helpful to help make the morning read the Bible and pray time more meaningful relationally?