My question, which I have always thought was a personal issue, is: How can i strive to read my devotions and pray more diligently? I always feel that it’s said so easily to read and pray but I find myself struggling to remember to do daily devotionals and pray and if I do remember I’m not completely focused on the devotional or in the scripture reading.
You ask a very good question, one which, as you hint at, is not limited to yourself. Here are some thoughts that may help you:
1. Spiritual duties are hard to do. They are duties, for we must do them. But they are spiritual, which means our flesh kicks back. It’s not easy. It takes work, effort, and grace. The battle begins in your own heart. Like the disciples, we would sooner sleep than watch and pray. The abundance of calls in Scripture for us to persevere in prayer, to pray without ceasing, and to watch in prayer point to our natural aversion to spiritual duties (1 Cor. 2:14; Matt. 26:40ff). So don’t be surprised if you find that you have to swim against the current when it comes to doing devotions diligently.
2. Remember also that we are creatures of habit. In your struggle, use this to your advantage by having set times for doing devotions and sticking to it (Dan. 6:10; Psalm 55:17). After a while, you’ll notice when you miss one. And remember that this works in reverse too: if you let it slide for too long, you’ll find it hard to break that pattern, and to start again.
3. To help you, seek dependence and freshness in reading your Bible. For a few moments as you open your Bible, pray specifically for the help of the Holy Spirit. Then read with this purpose: to find one fresh nugget of truth in the Scriptures. Pay close attention to the words. You may have read them a 100 times, but let each word speak. Once you find a word or phrase or verse that stands out, meditate on what it is saying to you. Interrogate the words. Ask questions like: “What does this say about me/mankind?”; “What is this saying about God?”; or “What does this text show me about Jesus Christ?”. A wise elder who is now in glory once said to me: “Remember that even one verse a day to meditate on is enough.”
4. For prayer: again, seek the help of the Holy Spirit. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26). Remember what Augustine said: “As I was praying for the Spirit, I began to pray by the Spirit.” He will help you, for he loves to hear true prayer.
It can be helpful to pray aloud (alone) to help keep you focused. Or to use a prayer list to work through in order to stay focused and guide you. But above all, remember that prayer is communion with God. It is speaking with God. It is unburdening your heart to Him. To tell Him all that is on your heart. To ask Him to help you, keep you from sin, and to lead you, in this life, and ultimately to glory. And remember that all prayer is in and through Jesus Christ. “For through him [Jesus Christ] we…have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Eph. 2:18). Without Him, prayer/communion with God would be impossible! How thankful we should be that He came and rose again, and is even now at the right hand of the Father, ever living to make intercession for us.
And don’t forget to put your phone in another room or on silent/airplane mode. Your phone is useful for many things (when used responsibly and under God), but it is a scourge for doing devotions! Always opt for using a paper Bible if you have one.
For further reading on prayer, read J.C. Ryle, A Call to Prayer.
Praying for God’s blessings in your life,
Pastor John Procee