What is a devotional?
That’s not easy to answer. A devotional can be many things. It can be a Bible reading plan. It can be a series of meditations. It can be a liturgical exercise. It can be a daily selection of verses, accompanied by a thoughtful essay.
We all understand a devotional in an experiential sense—who hasn’t sat through some early hours with a cup of coffee and an aging copy of My Utmost for His Highest?—but few can explain in a concise way what a devotional is. We certainly know what it is not.
- It’s not a doctrinal treatise.
- It’s not a Bible commentary.
- It’s not a theological textbook.
A devotional is not designed to change your mind; it’s meant to change your heart.
A clear understanding of God’s Word is very important. Study is essential. Few of us begin our spiritual journey with full knowledge, but as we study Scripture and sit under preaching, our knowledge base grows broader and our understanding grows deeper. Knowledge may be the first thing, but it is not everything. Knowledge must mature into virtue or it will spoil into vanity. Truth you know and do not practice is wasted truth. (click to tweet)
And that is what a devotional is for. More than what we ought to think, devotions show us how we ought to feel, so that our impulse decisions are as godly as our thoughtful ones.
It’s no wonder they do not come easily to the more pragmatic among us. We prefer to ignore our feelings, to treat them as vestigial. I harbored my own aversion to personal devotions until I became painfully aware of my need for them. I had a Romans 7:15 moment, like I’m sure we all have at some point. Actually, I had several of them in rapid succession. I realized that study was not quite enough. If I was going to grow into a spiritual father, like John describes in 1 John 2:14, I would need to do something more difficult than suppressing my emotions by force of will. I would need to bring my sinful heart, sometimes kicking and screaming, into a place of submission to the truth I had already learned. A daily devotional became one of the primary tools that I used to accomplish that.
Thankfully, the Faithlife app gave me access to several devotionals, all of them great, and many more were available to me through Logos, Faithlife’s parent company. These resources are available to you everywhere you go, so even if the devotional life is painfully convicting, at least it can be convenient.