First, let me say that there is nothing wrong with doing devotions. There is nothing wrong with doing them daily. There is nothing wrong with doing them in the morning.
I am going to address what scripture says for the purpose of eliminating guilt regarding times we aren’t able to do it “just right.”
Just right, according to Christian culture, is first thing in the morning, every day.
I dealt with a lot of guilt regarding not doing it “just right” until I understood what scripture actually says.
I am not discouraging you from studying scripture, but I do want to free you from any guilt that you may have if you don’t do it the “right way.”
The purpose of this study is to compare what the Bible actually says to what our Christian culture says is right and wrong.
Some people are very legalistic about when and how devotions are supposed to be done.
For example, when I first started posting Bible studies in my Facebook group, certain members were very concerned –upset, actually– that I was doing my Bible studying in the evening.
They were adamant that we must do Bible study time in the morning.
It really irritated them that I was so blatantly ignoring what they thought was right and wrong by studying and posting in the evenings.
Because of my illness, mornings are very hard for me. It is much easier for me to study the Bible in the evening.
Does scripture actually say that we are supposed to study the Bible in the morning?
Where did that idea come from?
The idea that we should do morning devotions came from this passage: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)
If we look at this passage, we can see that it is simply recording something that happened. Just because something happened doesn’t mean we are commanded to do it.
Case in point: Jesus made a whip and chased people out of the temple. That does not mean that we are to do that also. Can you imagine me showing up at church with a whip and chasing people around, knocking over tables? I can see myself now. In handcuffs. Being hauled away to jail!
Some other time, we can discuss how the idea of following Jesus’ every action is taken to an extreme. When people say we are to follow in Jesus’ steps, they rarely mention that the verse which says that we should follow Jesus’ steps —1 Peter 2:21— is specifically talking about suffering like Jesus.
We can’t take an incident and make it into a command. That’s really bad Bible interpretation –but unfortunately too common.
There are also passages in Psalms which talk about praying in the morning or seeking God’s face in the morning (Psalm 5:3, Psalms 63:1, for example), but those verses aren’t commands either. They are merely telling what the Psalmist chose to do.
We cannot take verses which are not commands and make them into commands.
What does the scripture say about doing devotions daily?
In fact, the word “devotions” isn’t even mentioned in scripture.
“Daily devotions” is a human concept. While it can be a good concept, it can also be abused.
It is often used as a way to measure someone’s godliness when that may or may not be true.
Someone could be unable to do daily devotions, yet still be serious about their faith and growing in the Lord.
When we start judging someone’s spirituality based on their performance in areas not specified in scripture, we become legalistic and pharisaic.
Another false idea that I was taught in high school is this: we should tithe everything –even our time. So, if there are 24 hours in the day, you should be spending 2 hours and 40 minutes a day in the Bible or praying.
First of all, the math doesn’t work. It’s actually about 2 hours and 20 minutes, but 2 hours and 40 minutes was what I was taught.
Second, tithe is an Old Testament concept that specifically referred to money. There are no references to tithing a person’s time that I could find in scripture.
Third, I did almost 3 hours a day of bible study whenever I could and felt extreme guilt over not getting my “tithe time” in. Then, I got married and had children. “I’m sorry, Lord, I just don’t have 3 hours a day to do nothing but read my Bible, because I have babies!”
I realized that this was a very legalistic way to get people to study the Bible more. In hindsight, it seems manipulative, honestly.
We should study more because we want to, not because someone guilts us into it.
What does scripture say about studying scripture and having quiet time?
“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
Nothing is mentioned about how often or when we are to study.
We are to study as a way to know God better and so that we can better understand scripture, not to prove our devotion.
That’s not why I study, but I have seen it treated like that.
I was even told that devotions were to prove you were devoted. If you weren’t devoted to God, you wouldn’t do your daily devotions.
Honestly, not a lot is said about studying the Bible in scripture.
A natural outpouring of a growing relationship with Jesus would be a desire to know more about Him, more about what He wants us to do.
We shouldn’t have to be coerced into it. It should naturally occur as part of our walk in Christ.
In Old Testament times, the Jews were commanded to meditate on scripture. “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)
We are no longer under the Law, so this command and promise don’t apply to us.
However, I find the method of studying –meditating on scripture– very useful. Sometimes I’ll read a verse and ruminate on it for days, wrestle with the meaning, compare it to other scriptures, and eventually reach a conclusion on how I believe it applies to my life today.
One method is not superior to another. Frequency of study doesn’t matter as much as if you are actually learning and growing in Christ.
The idea of daily devotions is centuries old. I have read daily devotional books from back in the 1800s.
I tend to shy away from devotional books, because I noticed that I’m learning what the author thinks of scripture rather than thinking through scripture myself.
For me, I need to work through it myself to really grasp the concept. If I’m really stumped, I’ll go read commentaries about a passage or a biblical concept.
I’m glad not everyone’s that way (refusing to read devotionals) or no one would be reading my posts.
I’m very careful about who I study under –either in book form, online, or in real life. I have been exposed to so very many false doctrines that I’m leery of teachers –especially if they’re very popular.
In my experience, teachers who are immensely popular are usually tickling ears. Not every time, of course, but usually.
Unfortunately, our Christian culture is so lukewarm that preachers who teach the hard truths of scripture are rarely popular. People prefer watered down doctrine to the meat of the Bible.
If you choose to read devotional books, I recommend regularly comparing the teaching to scripture.
Don’t just trust what you read.
Don’t just trust what you read here either!
Compare what I say to scripture, too.
I hope this post eliminated any guilt you have about studying scripture in just the right way, at just the right time.
We should be living our whole lives every day for Him.
Everything we do should be to bring Him honor and glory. Our very lives should be a praise song to Him.
Doing devotions should be something that we do when we have questions or want to know more about Him, never something we do out of guilt or obligation.
It’s a good practice to be in the scriptures regularly, but, remember that there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!
Don’t worry if you can’t do it every day or in just the right way.
It’s far more important that you apply what you read to your life than that you get the 10 minutes of Bible time in so you can mark it off your to-do list.
Two days a week of meditation and honest application is far better than seven days a week of religious scripture reading that isn’t applied to your life.
No matter what, let’s not make rules where scripture doesn’t make them.
It’s fine, even commendable, if you set time aside for daily Bible reading.
Only, let’s not heap guilt on ourselves or others for breaking imaginary rules or expectations.