We asked you to tell us how you read the Bible and pray, and your responses were wonderful. You offered ideas to help and examples to motivate all of us. Here are close to two dozen reader responses to our question.
To all who wrote we say thank you. You encourage all of us to take more seriously our time with God.
A classic resource other than the Bible that I use in my devotions is the hymnal. Scripture exhorts us many times to “sing to the Lord.” I like to include singing in my devotions. “In the morning I will sing of your love” (Psalm 59:16). I normally sing three or four songs. If I don’t know the tune, I will read the words aloud, slowly and expressively, with both the spirit and the understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15). Sometimes I will compose my own tune for a Psalm that I am reading. Singing, for me, adds a rich dimension to devotions. It helps me become “lost in wonder, love, and praise.”
Don DeWelt conducted a weekend emphasis on personal worship and prayer more than 20 years ago. I developed a deep conviction that my hit-and-miss devotional life had to change. I began then a pattern I’ve followed since.
I do my devotions in the morning—just as soon as I get up. I always do them at the dining room table. I begin with reading the Word of God, using some plan (The Daily Walk usually) that will guide me to read through the Bible each year. Then I spend time in prayer. I’ve used the idea I gained from DeWelt’s seminar—write my prayers. I don’t write everything I pray, but I do write most of my prayer thoughts. It keeps my mind focused on God and his power, even on those days I don’t feel much like praying.
My prayers begin with praise of God for some of his attributes or activities. Then I seek forgiveness for my sins, especially those brought to mind by the reading for the day, and seek strength for the day. I then petition God on behalf of six women who are meaningful people to me. That is followed by prayer for comfort for those who are grieving, petition for healing for those struggling with sickness and disease, and prayers for families with special stress and needs.
Following that, I pray for the salvation of specific family members and strength for others of the family. I follow that by praying for a group of friends and former students in their ministries. Then I pray for the seminary where I work and the church I attend. That is followed by prayers for specific people in the Sunday school class I teach. (I have different people for whom I pray on each day of the week.) Then I pray for some specific missionaries and their work.
All told, my devotional time lasts about half an hour—sometimes a bit less, sometimes more, depending on the length of the Bible reading for the day.
Johnson City, Tennessee
A Bible, a cup of coffee, and the kitchen or patio table are the objects I need for my daily devotional time. It is the first thing I do each day. Using a standard “through the Bible in a year” reading plan, I simply read the necessary passages for the day and try to digest them. After completing the reading, I adjourn to my computer where I “journal my prayers.” I have found that I can concentrate better when I write my morning prayers in journal form. My prayers are usually, but not always, organized around the ACTS model (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). All in all, the time spent is 15 to 30 minutes each day.
Sun City, Arizona
About 15 years ago one of our church members introduced us to the One Year Bible. I accepted the challenge to read through the Bible in a year—that year and every year since.
Two things have really helped me: have a plan and read ahead for those days when I might not have time. Every morning, if possible, I read the very first thing, then I meditate on what I have read, review prayer needs, and pray about them. I do not feel guilty if I read but don’t understand—I know I’ll have another opportunity next year if the Lord delays his return. The personal rewards have been wonderful in both knowledge of his Word and a personal relationship with my heavenly Father.
—Wayne L. Lofton
After years of reading the entire Bible each year, I realized that I needed to stop reading for volume and begin reading for content. On January 1, 2003, I began digesting the bread of life, crumb by crumb. Early in the evening I read a passage of Scripture, often using the titled portions used to delineate sections in the NIV. At that time, I pray for insight into what God is teaching in the passage. During the evening, I think about what I read. When I go to bed, I write a brief summary of the Scripture in a notebook, including what I’ve learned and how I can apply it to my life and experiences. I have found hidden gems in every passage, even among the long lists of “begats.”
I have found it advantageous to alternate Old Testament and New Testament books. At my current pace, it will take me approximately five years to complete the Bible. This study technique has resulted in life-changing treasures.
When I was growing up in Kentucky our preacher was brother P. C. McCord. His wife confided in my mother that he used a low “kneeling stool” to prevent the cracking of the skin on his knees because he spent so much time in prayer. Now that the arthritis in my back and legs has gotten worse, I have found that using a stool or thick cushion alleviates the pain and allows me to focus better and remain longer on my knees.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
For years, my approach to daily devotions has been:
1. Read straight through the Bible by reading about two pages per day. Each day I start at the beginning of the chapter on the left-hand page, where I left off the day before, and read through the right-hand page, stopping when that chapter ends, again on the next left-hand page. This usually covers about 3 chapters per day (many more, for instance, in most of Psalms). It takes more than two years to read through the Bible this way, and when I finish one version, I read a new one. After one or two other versions I usually return to the NIV (my favorite).
2. Following Bible reading I have prayer time and have found that breaking up my prayer list helps me to focus. On Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday I pray for one special group, while on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday I pray for another list. Monday is a special day of prayer for family needs although they are included each day. I also pray for urgent requests each day.
Starting the day, right after breakfast, with my devotions has worked best for me.
It started when I received a free, unsolicited copy of Oswald Chambers’s My Utmost for His Highest in the mail. I read it only on the weekend at first, but because so many of the devotions made me think, I started reading it daily. Then I received a copy of Our Daily Bread at a church function.
The devotionals are simple but powerful, so I subscribed. Then a friend gave me Streams in the Desert! At the time I felt I didn’t need any more reading to do in the morning, but it too has wrought changes in my heart. I underline or highlight passages in these devotionals and I write in the margins.
My paperback Utmost for His Highest is dog-eared, underlined, highlighted, written in and falling apart. But when I bought a leatherbound copy, I ended up giving it away. The free one shows my spiritual growth, and I treasure it.
After hearing Don Dewelt at the National Prayer Clinic in Grundy, Virginia, many years ago talk about the need for a regular devotion time, I determined to have a one-hour appointment with the Lord at 6:20 every morning. The first thing I do is read his Word aloud to him. This may be one or two chapters per day, as I read through the entire Bible. When I finish Revelation, I decide whether to start in Genesis or Matthew and begin again. After Bible reading, I prostrate myself before God in a time of praise and intercessory prayer. The amount of time varies depending upon what is on my heart, who is on our prayer list, and special circumstances. The remaining 15-30 minutes are spent in reading the Christian Standard and The Lookout. Sometimes this reading period will include a special series that our congregation may be studying (Purpose-Driven Life, for instance). I close each devotion time with a short prayer of supplication, usually asking God to help me put into action some of the things I have read or prayed about.
For many years, I would read a chapter of the Bible at night before going to bed. I continued this practice during my teaching years until 1979 when I decided to keep track of reading the Bible through in a year. By reading three chapters a day, I could finish in a year. I have used a chronological Bible, an NIV Bible, and now a Life Application Bible.
A prayer that I like includes five C’s: Creation, Christ, Church, Children, and Country. Also, I like the prayer of Jabez for praying for family and friends. Sometimes I use the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
I decided some time ago to read my Bible daily. Then I take one verse, each day, for special study. I write it down on looseleaf paper and add my thoughts and comments at the bottom. Then I file that sheet in a looseleaf binder for a record or future study.
My prayer time is when I wake up in the morning. Down on my knees at the side of my bed. That’s the best way to start a day, I believe. Of course that is not the only time I pray, but it is my special time.
I have used many different approaches to Bible reading over the years. Some years I have read the entire Bible through using a Bible reading guide that stipulates what chapters to read each day. One year I read through the Reese Chronological Bible. This year my Bible reading guide alternates from Old Testament to New Testament. Other years I have concentrated on particular books of the Bible and taken time to read them more slowly. In some instances I have read commentaries along with my daily reading. Another procedure I have followed is choosing a word or concept and writing down every time it appeared. Some examples have been: the Holy Spirit, kingdom of God, grace, questions asked by various people in the Bible.
Like many others I have found it hard to have a consistent and meaningful prayer life. I currently have a notebook with lists of things I pray for each day. My list is divided between prayers of praise, prayers of thanksgiving for both material and spiritual blessings, confession of sin, and requests and intercessions. I also walk about two miles most mornings and use that for meaningful times of conversation with God.
I like to do my Bible reading and praying early in the morning. When I was in the ministry full time I usually did this in my study. Now I have a study in my home.
I try to read from the Bible each evening and absorb God’s Word as I sleep. I usually read through the Psalms once or twice per year, seeking to understand the heart of God, and also read and study the other books on a rotating basis. I frequently read from a modern translation or paraphrase. Since I travel to work by express bus I try to spend time praying during the 30-40 minute morning commute. I live in Colorado and can see the Rocky Mountains during the ride, and this reminds me to praise God for his creation. Through reading Christian periodicals and books I have learned to develop prayer guides I maintain in a spiral notebook. I have a section for prayers concerning my personal growth and direction; a section for each family member; a section for my church; and a fourth section for people who have indirectly expressed a need, and for things I have learned about in the news.
Reading the Bible through in a year has become a high priority for me. Most years I use a Bible reading schedule with an Old Testament and New Testament portion each day, but currently I read from The One Year Bible. I was a missionary for years, so I also read the Old Testament once a year in my second language. This is part of my before-breakfast routine. The English Bible can be read aloud without rushing in less than 76 hours—or about 12 minutes per day for a year. My prayer time is varied, both in length and approach in my quiet times. I often write my prayers in a journal, and less often I use a four-point method attributed to Martin Luther. While reading one or two verses of Scripture I write to the Lord what comes to mind to (1) praise him, (2) thank him, (3) confess to him, and (4) petition him.
The first hour of every morning is my quiet Bible study time.
I start by reading the Bible, using an outline that helps me read it through in a year.
Then I read from the Devotions quarterly from Standard Publishing and pray the printed prayer and finish by adding my personal prayer.
Next, I read an article from The Lookout followed by an article from Christian Standard.
I feel a void in my life if I miss this time.
Being an early riser and exerciser, I read my Bible first thing in the morning for about 20 minutes. This year I am reading through the One Year Chronological Bible. After a brief prayer time consisting of our church’s prayer list of individuals, I hit the road for one hour running or bicycling, or both, during which I pray. I have a prayer list memorized for each of six days of the week (I rest from it on Sunday) and spend the exercise time going through the prayer list.
Lady Lake, Florida
Early in the morning, I sit down with a Bible, a blank sheet of paper, and seven questions.
(1) What are You saying, Lord? I translate a few verses and write them down. One week I read from the Old Testament; the next week I read from the New. Translating forces me to pay attention to each word and to think carefully about the message. Then I record my insights from this passage. How does this affect my life?
(2) What must I confess? Sometimes the passage calls on me to confess my failings. Other times I confess (give witness to) something about God.
(3) What must I do? How should I respond to this message from the Lord?
(4) For what shall I praise You? What does this passage tell me about the Lord’s character? I pause to praise; sometimes I quietly sing a song to the Lord.
(5) For what shall I thank You? I write down what the Lord did yesterday, or what has he been doing over a period of time, for which I am grateful.
(6) For what shall I pray? What needs in my life and church do I want to bring to the Lord?
(7) For whom shall I pray? I’m usually on this list, but this is primarily intercession for others. The communion with the Lord from this time drags me out of bed even when I’m tired.
After hearing Tim Coop share his “prayer walk” circle years ago, I adopted it as my standard for morning prayer. Sometimes I do it as I walk, sometimes as I swim, sometimes in a nearby gym where I walk around praying. I use this brief outline: First I acknowledge God in his fullness with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and ask him to purge me so I can better worship him. Then I think of 10 specific things I can thank and praise God for. I follow this with confessing at least 10 ways I am inadequate in following him. I intercede then for at least 10 people or groups. Then I petition God for what he wants me to do during the day and make my mental to-do list. I close with Ephesians 6:14-17 and mentally put on the armor of God for my day’s warfare. At home I have Bible reading, with the goal of reading through the Bible each year, and using a different version each year. My wife and I have developed a pattern of prayer that we use each week as we pray and say grace for meals. Sundays for Bible translation; Mondays for missions in Europe and Asia; Tuesdays for ministries to the handicapped and mentally ill; Wednesdays for ministries to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking peoples; Thursday for family; Friday for Africa; and Saturday for Korea.
I try to start each day talking with God before I get out of bed; I praise him and ask his help for the day. In the afternoon or evening, depending on our schedule, I use Standard Publishing’s 365 Devotions to guide my Bible reading and meditation time. Then I spend about 20 minutes praying for the people and concerns I have on my prayer list. Long ago at a Christian Endeavor activity I promised the Lord I would spend at least 15 minutes a day in prayer and Bible reading. Most days I spend about a half hour.
Sun City West, Arizona
By the 1960s I had established the habit of reading the Bible through each year. I used 3-by-6-inch looseleaf paper for a bookmark. I noted insights and questions on my bookmark. And I have kept them. They made good sermon material on occasion.
About 15 years ago, my wife and I started doing our Bible reading and prayer time together. We take turns reading aloud and praying. We read new translations as they are published. Early morning is our rule; but we occasionally read at other times.
Our prayer journal consists of special needs known to us through our church, family, and friends. We also are on the mailing list of several missions, children’s homes, Christian schools, and evangelistic associations. We read newsletters’ prayer requests and pray for their special needs, one item each day.
We highly recommend that a couple do this together. Almost every day we find ourselves discussing some passage, something we see in a new light or never took notice of before.
—Adrian and Evelyn Burd
I was finally able to read the Bible through when I began using The One Year Bible. Here are several reasons why.
1. It’s all in one book, a reading a day. (I especially like studies with the month/day given, rather than trying to guess if today is day 254 or 255.)
2. Each day’s reading contains a portion from the Old Testament, the New Testament, a Psalm, and reading from Proverbs. (When I get bogged down in Numbers, the rest of the reading keeps my attention!)
3. The readings are somewhat varied in length, but usually take 10-15 minutes. When I get behind, I read that day’s Scripture and I make up the missed reading by doing an extra reading or two as I can.
—Ella May Roemer
When I get up in the morning it is expedient for my schedule to use an exercise bicycle. I find this is a good time for Scripture memorization. I usually work through a book at a time, taking about 20 verses on a sheet of paper. I go over and over—and over—the verses until I can say the whole sheet by memory. Then I start on the next 20 verses. It may take weeks for me to memorize the 20 verses.
While I am shaving, etc. I have a mental list of family, church leaders, and friends that I uphold in intercessory prayer. During breakfast I use a daily devotional, reading it with the associated Scripture.
I have about a 45-minute drive to work, and I enjoy listening to Christian instructional tapes and sermon tapes. This is much better than the radio. I go to work early to avoid some of the traffic, so I have some time available before work. I have been using this time for reading the Bible in a “through the Bible in a year” type program.
In the past I tried to have daily devotions—Bible reading and prayer—in the morning before leaving for work, but with little satisfaction. Instead of staying focused on God, I was distracted by concerns about work and family members. Finally about a year ago I prayed in desperation, “Lord, help me. I can’t pray because of the unwanted thoughts that keep intruding—I can’t even remember the Scriptures I just read!” His answer came to me several days later: Write. So I began to write my prayers and have filled a stack of of spiral theme books. By writing my words instead of speaking or thinking them, I stay focused and have time to shape my thoughts. Many days the pages are tear stained as I pour out my heart to God. Writing my prayers has brought me closer to him and has changed what was a duty to an eagerly anticipated time of communion and joy.