As some of you know, I've been busily writing small group curriculum for my church with a group of very talented people. Besides the usual lesson + discussion material, we are also adding daily devotional and weekly accountability topics. During our last meeting this raised an intriguing question- what is the difference between a devotional, "quiet time", and personal study. The worry was people committing to the daily material if they are already dedicated to a personal study.
So what do you think, what is the difference between these three acts of personal worship?
We concluded that you can tell a lot by the name. A quiet time is just that- a time to withdraw to a quiet place (Luke 5:16) dedicating that time to God. There is no script, no manual for what this looks like. I know some people who write poems during this time. Some will hide away in a prayer closet to be free from distractions. Others will sing praises to God. The goal here is a quiet, secluded recharge of your soul. In physical terms, think of rest. (My newest blogger-buddy, Rick Dawson has a great series on this very thing that is worth checking out)
A devotional likewise is self-explanatory. This is not necessarily a time, but rather a topic this is "devoted" to the Lord. Devotionals are short and simple by nature. You can buy daily or weekly devotionals at any Christian bookstore. You can even get daily Bible verse/deep thought calendars. The goal of the devotional to feed your soul; water the soil, if you will.
Which brings us to personal study. There is not a one-size-fits-all description. Some prefer depth, others breadth. Some people will do a word-study on a particular issue of need (purity, boldness, the promises of God). Still others will dig into the original Greek or Hebrew of a specific passage. This is not necessarily daily, but it can be. But it requires more significant time and focus than the other two. This is like eating a full meal, versus drinking milk. Or rather than just watering the soil, this is applying fertilizer.
It is important to note these distinctions. When I was a "baby Christian" I was taught how to have a catch-all quiet time: spend x number of minutes in Bible study (a chapter a day in the Gospels was always recommended as a good place to start) plus y number of minutes in prayer, usually following the "ACTS" outline.
And that was it.
More depth of study (referencing the nobility of the Bereans) and instructions on prayer (considering Jesus' own personal instruction to his disciples) were talked about and implicitly encouraged, but we were expected to figure these things out and mature on our own.
This hurt me spiritually. I soon outgrew the basics of the quiet time and started delving more into personal study. But in doing so, I lost out in my devotional and prayer life. While I've recovered to some degree the discipline of devotion (thank you daily devotionals from YouVersion!) I still struggle with growing in my prayer life as I mentioned in my sermon last week.
But I now see that just like I can't eat the same thing every day for lunch (even though I do), I cannot feed myself spiritually the same way all the time and still walk away satisfied. My meal plan needs diversification and it needs a balanced diet.
What about you? What method of personal worship do you prefer or trend to most? Is there one area you particularly struggle in?