Like many people, the New Year has brought with it a renewed desire in me to spend meaningful time with God each day. Throughout different seasons of my life, this has looked different but has always involved meditating on God’s Word and spending time in prayer.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is in this area is knowing where to start. Here are a few resources that I’ve found helpful over the years.
Bible Reading Plan
For me, having a systematic way to read through the Bible has been important. I find myself often distracted/tempted to check e-mail or social media if I use my phone or computer, so having a hard copy of a plan has been helpful to me. Others I know really benefit from using a device. The Crossing offers several great options in this department both on the App as Dave showed on Sunday and on the website (with printable options available.)
One thing I’ve had to caution myself against is treating a Bible reading plan like a checklist to get through or a measuring stick I use to beat myself with if/when I fail. It’s not about getting through God’s Word, but getting God’s Word through me. Having a plan is a helpful tool, but not when the tool becomes the end goal itself. Something is always better than nothing and falling behind is no reason to give up.
I’ve also found that stopping to ask myself or journal through a few simple questions like the ones listed below has also been helpful way to make sure I’m actually processing what I’m reading.
- What does this passage say about who God is?
- What does this passage say about man/me?
- How should knowing/understanding this change how I live today? (How I treat others?, How I work?, How I spend my free time?, How I speak?, etc…)
While not a replacement for God’s Word, I’ve found having a short Gospel-centered daily devotional to read quite helpful. Many have provided insight into things I would have otherwise missed. Here are a few of my favorites.
Everyday Prayers by Scotty Smith
I’m not sure if any other resource has helped me to learn how to pray scripture quite like this book. Filled with 365 short, one-page prayers for each day of the year, Smith’s words are based on a short passage listed at the beginning. I’ve appreciated how his words encourage adoration, thanksgiving, confession, and requests/supplication and have helped my prayers to include all these aspects as well. I also appreciate that this book was born out of a season of personal dryness. Struggling with his own relationship with God while working in fulltime ministry, Smith began writing these prayers as a way to preach the Gospel to his own heart.
Valley of Vision
Another book that has helped cultivate and shape my personal prayer life, these Puritan prayers have helped me escape my modern day echo chamber, see the weight and depth of my sin for what it is, praise the God who is sovereign over all times and places, rejoice more deeply in the beauty of the Gospel, and long for heaven. The poetic beauty of the words are a lot like praying Psalms or old hymns. They have also challenged me to pray hard things that perhaps I might be reluctant to otherwise.
If thou shouldst give me choice to live in pleasure and keep my sins,
or to have them burnt away with trial,
give me sanctified affliction (p. 77).
That I would flee to no other refuge,
wash in no other fountain,
build on no other foundation,
receive from no other fullness,
rest in no other relief…
Let me not be at my own disposal, but rejoice that I am under the care of one
who is too wise to err,
too kind to injure,
too tender to crush (p. 23).
New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp
This collection of 365 one page devotionals address a variety of Gospel truths based around a passage of scripture. I’ve often appreciated the thesis statement he makes in italics at the beginning along with his suggestion of passages for further encouragement on the day’s topic.
Pierced by the Word and Life as a Vapor by John Piper
These collections of short two to four page devotionals have caused me to grow in my love for God’s Word, appreciate the brevity of my life and ponder my daily actions in light of eternity, and consider a wide range of topics related to faith that I likely would have otherwise ignored.
Whiter than Snow by Paul David Trip
This multi-genre collection contains 52 meditations on sin, mercy, and repentance the words of Psalm 51. This volume taught me a lot about slowing down, savoring, and meditating on the same set of verses slowly. It has also helped me to understand the weight of my sin and the depths of God’s grace offered through Christ in a way that few things have. I often use this book during Lent—the season that helps prepare us to celebrate Easter.
Elisabeth Elliot has been one of my favorite authors for a long time. This collection of short devotionals originally found in a collection of her newsletters have encouraged my heart in multiple seasons of life.