Thursday, November 12, 2009

What is a Devotional?

What is a Devotional?
By Judy Vandiver
© copyright 2009

We’ve been looking this week at devotional times with God and I suppose we should ask ourselves exactly what is meant by a devotional time. What does it encompass? What is it and what is it not?

The word devotion means to show our allegiance to something or someone. To devote yourself means to consecrate or make and declare something sacred. Therefore I take the word devotional to mean a time of declaring God as sacred and showing my allegiance to Him.

The length of a set-aside devotional time does not have to be long. In fact, the word devotional has come to also mean a short religious message. The key, however, is in the dedication. In Proverbs 23:16, God says, “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes observe and delight in my ways.” (Amplified Version) A paraphrase from The Message states that verse like this: “Dear child, I want your full attention; please do what I show you.”

To me, a devotional time can be reflecting on a Bible verse, singing a song of praise to God, or reflecting on the beauty of His world. It may include prayer. It may include reading from a book of short writings meant to be used for devotional time. It is a time of giving God our full attention.

We’ve already discussed this week how life demands so much of us and our time. While I remain devoted to God 24/7, my devotional time is a short period of my day that I set aside for Him and Him alone. That’s the reason it’s important for us to carefully choose the time and place of our devotions.

One thing I try to remind myself of, however, is what a devotional time is not. A devotional time is not Bible study. During devotional times, I try to absorb the presence of God. During times of Bible study, I try to absorb the knowledge of God. Paul wrote to Timothy, “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 competent, equipped for every good work.” Bible study, therefore, is the diligent application of learning the meaning behind the words of God.

I find that times of devotions and times of Bible study are very different. They both encompass God, who He is, what He says, but they serve two different purposes—learning about Him and knowing Him.

Some people like to read a short verse for a devotional time and contemplate on it. Some like to use a book of short writings by other Christians that give them spiritual insight into experiencing God. Some choose to read several verses of the Bible. Some use their devotional time to try to read through the Bible in a year. I’ve said it before on my blog and will repeat that God is not as interested in how fast you read your Bible as in how well you apply it. Whether it takes you a year or a lifetime to read your Bible, the important thing is to read it, ask God to help you understand it, and apply what it says.

Tomorrow we’ll take a quick look at a short devotional written by a guest blogger. This is the first devotional this person has written, and it’s a good example of how someone takes a moment where they find themselves and declares God as sacred. It shows how God sends us messages through everyday examples. It shows someone giving God the attention He deserves as He gives us His undivided attention. And that, my friends, is what devotions are about.

Personal Bible Study

1. Other than spiritual things, name something you feel devoted to or have ever felt devoted to?
2. What did being devoted to that thing or person entail? What did it really mean to you and why?
3. How did you demonstrate your devotion to that person or thing?
4. How does that compare with showing our devotion to God?
5. Memorize Proverbs 23:16 from The Message: “Dear child, I want your full attention; please do what I show you.”
© copyright 2009