Q: So many Christians seem to be convinced of the power of the word of God. As an evangelical, I completely agree. But I seem to be missing the thirst that others (like you) seem to have to be soaked in the Scriptures. I just find it so hard to discipline myself to read the Bible, and even if I do have a quiet times, my motive is normally because it's something that good Christians should do, not because of a genuine desire to know God in the word. How I need grace! Have you ever experienced this? How can I be changed?
A: What a wonderful question! I appreciate your candor in asking this question, because I believe this can be a common situation for Christians. In fact, I would say it is a battle and for this specific reason: If we are truly regenerated and born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, then our spiritual Enemy cannot ever touch our salvation. We are secured by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross. But our spiritual Enemy does work hard to make us fruitless in our witness and walk. This is why our daily devotions are so important. They express our dependency upon God and strengthen us for the battle against Satan, our indwelling sin, and our flesh and all its idolatrous desires.
I think this is where we have to start. (And I do mean "we"--each Christian faces daily distractions and can even experience seasons of dryness in personal devotions. We can't rely on experience or emotion to keep us faithful.) If we don't recognize that we are in a spiritual battle, we will walk out the door each day unarmed. If we don't recognize how completely unprepared we are, we will attempt to live in our own strength. Both are futile. So it is an act of humility to start each day by asking God to reveal Himself to us as we read His word. In doing so, we are saying we need to be equipped for the daily battle and we need His grace to glorify Him.
I used to just pick up my Bible and start reading. Now I endeavor to pray before I start, asking God to protect my distracted mind, to shore up my feeble and often sleepy eyes, and to give me fresh insight from His Word. I also try to read with a purpose. I am currently reading through Corinthians with a commentary by D.A. Carson. I find that supplementing my Bible study with commentaries is tremendously helpful. I also mix up the spiritual disciplines by practicing personal worship (singing along to worship songs on my iPod), praying with prayer partners or going on prayer walks, fasting, retreating, and accountability and confession. These practices enhance my personal devotions.
I've mentioned before on this blog the single women's discipleship group that I participate in. In this group, we are accountable to each other for our quiet times. We are to write down each day what we've done and share that information with each other at the start of our meetings. We're not doing that to compare ourselves to each other, but to help each other in the common struggle. We can't expect to mature as Christians without this practice. Plus, it's can be a wonderfully motivating tool to know we will have to account for how we've spent the time that God has given us!
The most important thing to remember is that we don't have personal devotions because "that's what good Christians do." We have them because as children of God, we have the immense privilege of sitting before the feet of the Lord of the universe and hearing Him speak through His Word. The goal is to see it as a pleasure not a duty.
Finally, I can recommend some good resources to help "jump-start" your devotions. The first is a book published by Sovereign Grace Ministries titled Disciplines for Life. You can download the PDF files from our website, or purchase the book on our store. This will give you a good overview on why the spiritual discplines are so necessary to cultivate. Then there are a number of practical study resources. I like D. A. Carson's For the Love of God (volumes I & II) because he presents a daily reading plan and a short commentary on one or more of those passages. Charles Spurgeons' Morning and Evening is another good supplement. Though it is not based on a daily reading plan that gets you through the Bible in a year (as Carson's book does), it is still a wealth of wisdom on particular verses or passages.
I hope some of these suggestions will prove to be helpful to you. I would also encourage you to cultivate an accountability partner. Perhaps you could ask a more mature woman in your church to help you, which could be done in a variety of ways. She could call you each morning to encourage you to be in the Word, she could ask you each week how you're doing, she could go through a study with you and meet periodically to discuss it and pray with you--whatever works best for the two of you. Don't forget, we aren't alone, even as single women! God has put us in His Body and so there are people all around us that can be used by God to help us grow. Sometimes we just have to ask. And thank you for asking on here!