What can we do when our devotional times with God aren’t working?
All of us can remember times when our hunger for the Word of God was at a high. Every time we opened the Word of God we saw something new and relevant to our life. Our minds were poised to drink it all in and treasure it. We remember times when God seemed so real, that talking to Him was easy, and prayer was like having a daily conversation with a dear friend.
But what about when devotional times are hard, or dry or they seem like work? We often don’t talk about these times because we are embarrassed or ashamed of them. “Good Christians don’t have a hard time relating to God,” or so we think. “The faithful don’t struggle in prayer,” or so the lie has been told enough that we begin to believe it. But the simple fact of the matter is that all of us go through easy and hard times in every relationship which we have. Marital bliss isn’t always blissful. Friendships aren’t always smooth sailing and our walk with God isn’t always easy going and fruitful.
So, what are we to do when our devotional times with God aren’t working? What are we to do when reading the Word doesn’t seem to be enlivening our soul? What are we to do when praying seems routine and rote? Here are a few suggestions:
- Don’t believe the lie that you are the one far from God. Satan often discourages God’s people with the idea that if you are feeling far from God that it is your fault. You moved away, God didn’t. After examining your life for any known sin and finding that you are walking in faith and repentance, declare aloud that you will not believe these lies of Satan. God promises never to leave or forsake his people.
- Don’t give up, change it up. It is easy to think that if our time with God isn’t bearing fruit, then there’s no reason to keep trying. This betrays an idol in our life that productivity is more important than consistency. Every relationship goes through changes and as changes occur, we must respond to them in new ways. So, change up your prayer or devotional life. Do you always read the gospels? Then read a psalm. Do you always read the Bible? Then read a biography of a Christian saint. Do you always read biographies? Then read a systematic theology. Do you always read theologies? Then read some Christian fiction. God has a myriad of ways to teach his people and certainly the Bible should be the staple upon which we feed, but there are times when reading something outside the Bible can help to renew and refuel our devotional life. Personally, I have found that reading C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy has given me new insights and awestruck wonder at the magnificence of heaven and salvation and the battle for the human soul. These insights have given me a new hunger to approach the Living Word.
- If your prayer life is struggling, try a new way of praying. I am not one who journals, but when I feel like my prayers are bouncing off an impenetrable ceiling, I do one of two things. Either I start writing my prayers out in a little journal I keep for just such times (I pity the archaeologist who finds it someday and evaluates the soundness of my mind based on it) or I move from silent prayer in my mind to praying out loud. I turn on music and start crying out to God. I have heard of people who go walking and praying when they normally sit and pray. Others, who are normally spontaneous, pray from a list of concerns and vice versa. Shake it up. Make some changes for a while and then return back to the normal routine. As C.S. Lewis once said, “It is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates his presence to men.” Try a new process.
Finally, remember the truth that God is always working to conform our lives to the image of Christ. And since Christ had fellowship with his Father, so do we, even when we aren’t feeling it. The feelings may come and go, but the truth stands across the chasm and gap that our feelings are creating.