There are times when, for whatever reason, our devotional life goes stale. Bible reading seems like a colossal chore, our prayers feel tepid and weak, and our love for God ebbs.
We feel like we are stuck in a spiritual rut; like we don’t have any soul traction, like we’re just spinning our spiritual wheels.
These times of staleness can be incredibly frustrating and discouraging. What am I doing wrong? Why does everything feel so … stiff?
Are you in a spiritual rut? Here are a few practical tips to breathe new life and vigor back into your devotional life.
Pray! Pray! Pray!
All the practical tips in the world won’t make a lick of difference unless God moves mightily on your heart. God cannot be controlled. He is not a personal genie who can be summoned on command. He cannot be summarized or contained in a neat formula. He is God, and He moves where He wishes when He wishes.
But, He promises to respond to our humble requests. He is a good Father who loves to give good gifts to His children. Jesus said:
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11:13)
God loves to give the Holy Spirit to us, but we have to ask! I love to give my children good things, but I want them to ask, and God is the same way. He loves to pour out blessings on those who humbly come to Him. He’s not a spiritual Scrooge, holding tight to the Spirit.
If your devotional life is in a rut, humbly confess your cold heart to God and ask Him to breathe white-hot affection back into you. Then believe that He’ll do it.
Read a book
Seeing the splendors of God through the undimmed eyes of another person can be tremendously helpful. One of the ways to see God through the eyes of someone else is to read a book.
Often times our view of God is cluttered and clogged by the circumstances of life. Reading a book allows us to stand on the shoulders of someone else and see over all the clutter. If your devotional life is dim and blurry, take a short break from your regular Bible reading and spend some time savoring a good book.
Read the Psalms
The Psalms are an intensely devotional section of Scripture. The authors of the Psalms experienced the highs and lows of life, and they met God in the midst of those highs and lows.
They experienced the faithfulness of God in the dry times and in the seasons of fruitfulness. David often cried out to God from the depths of dryness and despair. He appealed to God to come to him, to meet him, to lead him.
If your devotional life is lacking oomph, try spending some time in the Psalms. Pray the Psalms, believe the Psalms, engage the Psalms. The Psalms are, in many ways, God’s prayer book.
Start a Bible reading plan
Many times our devotions lack substance because we don’t appropriately plan them out. We meander from verse to verse, reading a bit here, a snatch there, yet never making any real progress through God’s Word. We treat Bible reading like a buffet where we sample a bit of everything.
If this describes your devotions, maybe you need a Bible reading plan to get you on track. The ESV Bible website has a bunch of different Bible reading plans to get you started. If your devotional life is lacking direction, try starting a Bible reading plan.
Abandon your plan
Some of us like plans a little bit too much. We like to make lists and then cross things off those lists. We like the feeling of progress, of moving forward, of gettin’ her done. We apply our love for plans to our Bible reading and thus read through the Bible every year like clockwork.
This is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. But there are times when we need to abandon our plan and simply slow down our Bible reading. To delight in and savor a chapter, or a section, or just one verse. If your devotional life is feeling too rigid and stiff, try abandoning your plan for a while.
Change up your methods
Most of us read the Bible. After all, the Bible is a book and books are meant to be read. I know, profound stuff here. No argument from me.
But remember, significant portions of the Scriptures were originally intended to be heard. The apostolic letters were read aloud in the churches. The Psalms were read aloud in the synagogues. Scripture was meant to be both read and heard. The ESV Bible site allows you to listen to the Bible instead of reading it. If your devotional life is feeling repetitive, try listening to God’s Word. Take notes as you listen.
Putting it together
Out of all these tips, the first is the most important. You can do all the right things and yet if God doesn’t work powerfully in your life nothing will happen.
However, I know that God wants your devotions to be meaningful. He wants you to have a vibrant, joyful devotional life. In light of that truth I would encourage you to prayerfully try these different suggestions.
Don’t be content with a mediocre spiritual life. Press into God. He wants to meet you.