It is a new year, and as the calendar changes, many people take a moment to examine their lifestyle and behaviors to see if changes are needed. Perhaps you have made some new commitments for the year ahead. Regardless, I thought this might be a chance to offer some suggestions and encouragements about the way we each approach our devotional lives. Maybe some of these practices will benefit your daily or weekly routine in the year ahead.
Prayer is probably the most common Christian practice. It is also a practice in which many of us wish we were more consistent. God’s people are reminded in 1 Thessalonians that they should “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Throughout scripture we see prayer as a way to draw closer to God, to allow God to take the burdens we carry, and to shape us to be more like Christ.
If that is not enough, current research has shown there are five scientifically supported benefits of prayer: improved self-control, resistance to anger, more quick to forgive, an increase in trust (more egalitarian), reduction in stress. (From Clay Routledge, Ph.D, Professor at South Dakota State University).
There are many ways to work prayer into your daily routine – every day in the shower or in the car, daily quiet time for prayer and reading Scripture, with family before bed or meals. No matter how or when you pray, it’s benefits on your daily life and sense of connectedness to God will be noticeable.
The practice of meditation has been a hot topic in the last few years. More and more business leaders and professionals are touting the benefits daily meditation brings to their lives. For some, meditation is time spent in quiet and stillness emptying the mind of all thoughts. This quiet allows our minds to re-center and gain focus amidst the busyness of our days and the barrage of constant information we face.
I might offer one small tweak on this classic practice of meditation if you choose to make use of it. Rather than meditating with the intent of emptying your mind and consciousness, why not instead meditate with intent? Psalm 119 says “O how I love Your Law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine.”
Choosing a psalm, a verse, or even just a word of scripture (Christ, Father, Forgiveness, Grace) allows the same positive benefits of traditional meditation while also tapping into the power of God’s Word and the Kingdom nature of the Gospel.
Luther had in mind with his small catechism that it might be a tool used by parents for helping their children grown in and take hold of their own faith. Christian discipleship and learning about Jesus was never something intended to just take place at Church. Rather, it is to be incorporated into every part of our lives that we might constantly grow in our relationship with God.
So how might parent’s encourage their kids to learn and take hold of their own faith? So many good things can happen right around the dinner table! Don’t shy away from having an open conversation with your kids about what it means to be part of a church community, to pray in Jesus name, or to live as God has called us. There are numerous guides that might help with this, but a good starting place is the Catechism. Working through the 10 commandments and what they mean, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism and Communion, can help our kids better understand why we worship the way we do and what it looks like to put our faith into practice. Certainly the conversation changes as kids grow, but even very young kids can follow along as a parent leads them in prayer, or as we talk with them about things we heard in church.
And often it turns out, that our kids are better at taking God’s word at face value than we are. The simple nature of a child’s faith can teach us much.
Read the Bible in a Year:
Maybe you have always wished to read through the entire Bible. This website (and there are others) can give you a plan for how to do it. https://www.backtothebible.org/one-year-reading-plans
If the entire Bible sounds like too great a challenge, how about just the Psalms? Many people find that the Psalms offer wonderful, poetic insight into day-to-day life and the Christians’ walk with God.