Building good habits
In our constant pursuit to come closer to God, we are always on the lookout for tips to help us develop better habits and become more disciplined with our time with God. I came across an article by Holly Vicente Robaina in which she passes along tips from her sister Angela. I hope these are helpful for your own journey. Angela had some great tips on how she formed her good habit. Here are eight of them.
Schedule a devotional “appointment.” Write a specific time and location on your calendar or in your planner. You might choose a time that corresponds with another daily activity: after you get up in the morning, right after school, or immediately after dinner. Try to avoid putting devotions off until the end of the day. “If I wait until bedtime, I usually end up skipping it because I fall asleep,” Angela says.
Choose your tools. Some basics include: 1) A Bible. Biblegateway.com offers 16 versions for you to compare, from that classic King James Version to modern versions like The Message. Or, consider using a student or study Bible—many contain reading plans and practical ways to apply Scripture to everyday situations. 2) A devotional book. Some are specifically for students. Many have a “thought for the day” and questions to help you relate the verses you’ve read to your own life. 3) A journal. Use it to record your favorite verses and reflections on Scripture, or write a poem or letter to God.
Start with prayer. Ask God to keep you focused and to help you understand what you’re about to read. “Sometimes, my mind just starts to drift. I tell God I’ve set aside this time especially for him, and that I choose to focus on him,” Angela says.
Use your Bible. Even if you use a devotional book with verses printed in it, read the passages in your Bible anyway. “Prove it to yourself that it’s really there,” Angela suggests. “It helps you to think of that verse as part of God’s Word, and not as just an excerpt from some random book.” Plus, you might spot another meaningful verse that wasn’t included in the devotion.
Read it until you get it. First, read verse by verse — read each verse several times until you understand what it is saying, then move on to the next one. Then, go back and read the entire passage, putting its meaning all together. Even if you’re familiar with a passage, try to read it like you’ve never seen it before—don’t skim. God might give you an understanding of something you’ve never noticed before.
Don’t just read the Bible — do what it says (James 1:22). Make a list of personal traits (patience, kindness) or spiritual goals (witnessing, prayer) you’d like to work on. Each week, choose one from your list. Using a concordance, biblegateway.com or a devotional book, find verses about that topic. Then, try to find ways to apply what you read.
Make a commitment. On a piece of paper, write: “I commit to read my Bible every day for the next month.” Sign your name and tape the paper in your bedroom where you can see it.
Don’t give up. Let’s face it: There will be days when you skip devotions. Just try to keep it a high priority and do it whenever you can. “God is not going to abandon you if you don’t do a devotion one day—he knows what our schedules are like, and he knows our hearts,” Angela says. “Any time that you spend with God, he can use it to teach you and to grow your faith.”