The number of unfinished devotional books sitting on my shelf is higher than I’d like to admit. I like the idea of a daily devotional book—how it gives me scripture to read each day and a short reflection piece that helps me think through the verses—but I usually give up on them after a month or two.
After reading the daily scripture and devotional each morning, I find I can’t remember any of it by lunchtime. If I can’t retain what I read for a few hours, then why waste my time reading in the first place?
At first I blamed the devotional books. “It’s just not enough content.” “It lacks depth.” “It’s poorly written.” And while these are unfortunate truths for some devotional books, I recently realized my quick read-and-move-on routine may be part of the problem.
I decided I needed to develop a plan for getting the most out of any morning devotional. Once I became an active participant instead of just a passive reader, I began noticing personal spiritual growth and a deeper relationship with God. I know I’m not alone here, so I’ve adopted my plan into four simple but effective steps to help you with your devotional time.
4 Steps to Get the Most out of Your Daily Devotional Book
1. Choose a good devotional book.
While we can’t rely on a book to make us grow spiritually, it’s important to find a devotional with good theology and enough substance to get you thinking about the topic on your own. If possible, take time to go to your local bookstore and read 5-10 devotionals in a few different books until you find one you like. You can also use Amazon’s “peek inside” or “download sample” feature to perform a simple test online.
Here are a few of my favorites:
2. Pray before you read.
Before you start reading, pray and ask God to speak to you. Ask Him for revelation from scripture and discernment on how to apply what you learn to your life.
3. Take notes.
We retain information better when we physically write it down, so keep a notebook and pen with your devotional book.
Here are some note taking ideas:
- Copy the scripture for the day. Most devotional books start with 1-3 verses at the very beginning. Start by copying the verses word for word in your notebook.
- Record your thoughts. I often find the slowness of copying down the Bible verse helps me think of the passage in a new way. Other times, the devotional author says something I’ve never thought of before. Capturing your thoughts helps with retention.
- Write down application to your life. Try asking, “How will I live differently because of the truth I learned today?” Or, “What does this mean for my life today?”
- Some devotionals include reflection questions at the end. Instead of skimming past them like I used to do, actually take the time to write out your reflection.
*If you are a visual person, feel free to draw pictures instead of write out sentences. The notes are between you and God so you feel free to embrace the way he designed you.
4. Pray again.
Close with a prayer for response. Thank God for what you learned and ask for help if the day’s lesson brought to light anything you need to work on. A prayer for response is very personal, so take this as guidance and not a formula to follow. If you get easily distracted, try writing your prayer down in your notebook.
While these steps take longer to complete then my old routine, the results are far superior. If you struggle with retaining your daily devotional, then I encourage you to become more of an active participant in your spiritual growth. Start by trying out my simple steps, then make adjustments until you find what works for you.
I’d love to hear how it goes! Leave me a comment and tell me what devotional book you are reading these days and if any of these steps were helpful!