3 Key Principles of Practicing Devotions
Have you ever been faced with this quandary, that even though you do your devotionals and pray every day, you’re still not gaining much of anything or feeling moved? Why is that, really? How can we get results from our daily devotionals? As long as we follow the three principles of practice below, we can improve what we get out of our spiritual life and we’ll grow in life more quickly.
- 1. Focus on Quieting Yourself Before God in Devotionals
- 2. Focus on Pondering God’s Words in Devotionals
- 3. Consider Practical Problems and Difficulties in Your Devotionals
1. Focus on Quieting Yourself Before God in Devotionals
Finding the right approach to devotionals is necessary for our spiritual life to bear fruit. First, we need to quiet ourselves before God. The more we do this, the easier it is to gain the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and illumination. If we can’t do that, then while reading God’s words we still have things like work, school, and family on our minds. Then we’re just going through the motions and appeasing God in our devotionals because we’re not solely focused on worshiping God and prayerfully reading His words. That makes it unlikely that we’ll receive any enlightenment from the Holy Spirit, even if we understand the literal meaning of God’s words.
God’s words say, “A normal spiritual life is a life lived before God. When praying, one can quiet one’s heart before God, and through prayer, one can seek the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, know God’s words, and understand God’s will. By eating and drinking of His words, people can gain a clearer and more thorough understanding of God’s current work. They can also gain a new path of practice, and will not cling to the old; what they practice will all be to achieve growth in life” (“Regarding a Normal Spiritual Life” in). “If you would have your heart truly at peace before God, then you must do the work of conscious cooperation. This is to say that every one of you must have a time for your devotions, a time when you put aside people, events, and things; settle your heart and quiet yourself before God. Everyone must keep individual devotional notes, recording their knowledge of God’s word and how their spirit is moved, regardless of whether they are profound or superficial; everyone must consciously quiet their heart before God. If you can dedicate one or two hours each day to true spiritual life, then your life that day will feel enriched and your heart will be bright and clear. If you live this kind of spiritual life every day, then your heart will be able to return more into God’s possession, your spirit will become stronger and stronger, your condition will constantly improve, you will become more capable of walking the path on which the Holy Spirit leads, and God will bestow increased blessings upon you. The purpose of your spiritual life is consciously to gain the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is not to observe rules or conduct religious rituals, but truly to act in concert with God, truly to discipline your body—this is what man should do, so you should do this with the utmost effort” (“A Normal Spiritual Life Leads People Onto the Right Track” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). We can see from God’s words that practicing quieting our heart before God is necessary for a good spiritual life. Before devotionals, we need to consciously get away from anything that could interrupt us, away from all the people, events, and things that could take our heart away from God. In general, our hearts are more at peace in the morning, before we’ve dealt with the countless little things that come up in our lives and at work. We can pray to God at this time, telling Him all about our difficulties and deficiencies; we can carefully read God’s words, pondering and seeking His will and a path of practice. The more we quiet ourselves before God this way, the more likely we are to gain the Holy Spirit’s work. This is a better way to get something out of our devotionals and our spiritual condition will continue to improve.
2. Focus on Pondering God’s Words in Devotionals
The second way to get more out of our devotionals is to have a focus on pondering God’s words. A lot of people read God’s words in their devotionals, but they’re not really considering them—they’re just skimming through them and are content to understand the surface-level meaning. However, they don’t gain any true understanding of God’s will or requirements. With this approach, no matter how much they read God’s words, they won’t understand the truth. We all know that God’s words are the truth, that they are an expression of His disposition and they reveal His very life. They are filled with God’s own will, so they’re not something that we can really understand just by giving them a moment’s thought. We have to prayerfully read and ponder them over and over with hearts of reverence and longing to gain enlightenment and illumination from the Holy Spirit—this is the only way to understand the truths in God’s words, to understand what they’re really telling us. God says, “Wholehearted devotion to the words of God primarily involves seeking the truth, seeking God’s intentions within His words, focusing on grasping the will of God, and understanding and obtaining more truth from God’s words. When reading His words, Peter was not focused on understanding doctrines, much less was he focused on obtaining theological knowledge; instead, he concentrated on comprehending the truth and grasping God’s will, as well as achieving an understanding of His disposition and His loveliness. Peter also attempted to understand the various corrupt states of man from God’s words, as well as man’s corrupt nature and actual shortcoming, thus meeting all aspects of God’s requirements of man in order to satisfy Him. Peter had so many correct practices that abided by the words of God; this was most in line with God’s will, and it was the best way a person could cooperate while experiencing God’s work” (“How to Walk the Path of Peter” in Talks of Christ of the Last Days). We can see here that when reading God’s words, we need to consider God’s purpose behind saying this, what God’s will is, what it can achieve within us, in what ways we’re rebellious or deficient, and how to practice the truth to resolve these problems. When we seek and ponder this way, we’ll have God’s enlightenment before we know it, allowing us to understand what God’s words are really saying, and what God’s purpose and intentions are. After that, when we act according to the requirements of God’s words, we’ll be able to gradually understand the truth and enter into reality. This will make it easier to reap a harvest from our devotionals.
For example, we see that the Lord Jesus says: “Truly I say to you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). We can all understand the superficial meaning of this statement, that is,for us to be as pure and honest as little children and only by becoming honest people in accordance with God’s requirements can we be led by God into His kingdom. But issues such as the significance of being an , why God loves honest people, what expressions of dishonesty and deceit we possess and how we should practice being honest people, are issues that we should contemplate more deeply. For example, when we reflect on what expressions of deceit we possess, we will discover: When we are dealing with other people, we often cannot stop ourselves from lying or cheating in order to safeguard our own interests, reputation and status. When we expend ourselves for God, we may say in prayer that we wish to love God and satisfy God, but when our child gets sick, or either we ourselves or a family member loses job, we start complaining to God, so much so that we want to give up working and expending for the Lord; in this, we can see that we expend ourselves for God in a way that is tainted, and in a way whereby we make deals with God. We expend ourselves for God in order to profit from God, and not purely to satisfy God. These are just some examples of our expressions of deceit. From these expressions, we can see that we are not really honest people. Once we see clearly our own shortcomings and deficiencies, the resolve arises within us to thirst for the truth and we seek to practice God’s words more in our lives so that we can gradually become honest people. This is the result achieved by contemplating God’s words.
3. Consider Practical Problems and Difficulties in Your Devotionals
To achieve results in our spiritual life, we have to shoulder responsibility in eating and drinking God’s words, and we need to learn to link that to our actual state and seek the truth. This is very important. Just as God’s words say, “When you eat and drink the words of God, you must measure the reality of your own state against them. That is, when you discover your shortcomings in the course of your real experience, you must be capable of finding a path to practice, of turning your back on your incorrect motivations and notions. If you always strive for these things and pour your heart into achieving them, then you will have a path to follow, you will not feel empty, and thus you will be able to maintain a normal state. Only then will you be someone who carries a burden in your own life, who has faith” (“Practice (7)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
“Because you come before God bearing a burden, and because you always feel that you are lacking in so many ways, that there are many truths that you need to know, much reality that you need to experience, and that you should give every care to God’s will—these things are always on your mind. It is as if they are pressing down on you with a force that leaves you unable to breathe, and thus you feel heavy of heart (though you are not in a negative state). Only people such as this are qualified to accept the enlightenment of God’s words and to be moved by the Spirit of God” (“It Is Very Important to Establish a Normal Relationship With God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God expresses truths to address mankind’s shortcomings and needs, so when we read God’s words we need to seek the truth to resolve our actual problems. We need to look at our actual problems and difficulties in light of God’s words so that we can gain the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment. For example, if we find that, when we’re with brothers and sisters or cooperating with someone in our duty, we’re always displaying arrogance, clinging to our own opinions, having others listen to us, and maybe even lecturing and stifling others, we should give careful thought to this problem in our devotionals. Why are we always displaying this kind of corruption and can’t ever seem to change? Why can’t we escape the bonds of sin and stop sinning? And we often just can’t help but lie and deceive to maintain our own face and status—why is this? Why is it so hard to be an honest person? Our sins were forgiven by the Lord Jesus, so why are we constantly sinning? Can people like us, who are always sinning, really get into the kingdom of heaven? Ask these questions and more. Particularly now that a pandemic is ravaging the world and the disasters are upon us, we still haven’t welcomed the Lord’s return, so we’re bound to succumb to the disasters sooner or later. We can’t waste any time praying to the Lord and seeking what His will is now that the disasters have come. We need to fully ponder a few practical questions: Is it that the Lord has come back and appeared to work? Where does the Holy Spirit speak to the churches? How can we be the wise virgins to hear God’s voice and welcome the Lord when we hear thethat the Lord has returned? By bringing these practical questions into our devotionals and reading of God’s words, and seeking God’s actual will, we can more easily gain God’s enlightenment and guidance. This can resolve our problems and difficulties, giving us a path of practice. If we just mechanically read the Scriptures and pray, treating our devotionals as just another task, going through the motions, our spiritual lives will suffer and it will become nothing but a religious rite, a religious convention.
These are the three principles of practice that we have to grasp for our spiritual devotionals. As long as we apply these principles and practice them in our daily devotionals, we’ll gain more enlightenment from the Holy Spirit, we’ll see constant improvement in our spiritual lives, and we’ll gradually experience growth in life.
Editor’s Note: Have these three principles of practice for devotionals been helpful for you? If so, feel free to share them with more brothers and sisters so that more people find a better way to do their devotionals. If you find you have any other issues or questions in your belief, please get in touch with us via Messenger or WhatsApp, and we’ll be happy to discuss them with you.
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