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An Heroic Ministry
Verse of the day
YWI - working with...
YWI is pleased to work in association with
Fuller Youth Institute, US
Sophia Network, UK
MEETING AIM: To show the potential of a personal daily devotional time, plan it imaginatively, and start to live it out. Planning takes time, and so we’ve allocated over an hour for this session. You might prefer to spread the content over two weeks - certainly this allows group members a week to mull over their original ideas, and perhaps improve them considerably! On the other hand, it’s important to apply this thinking while it’s fresh in people’s minds, and so it can be strategic to do it at once and then put it straight into practice.
REALITY CHECK (7 mins)
Divide into small groups; give each some pens and a large piece of paper. Explain that each group is going to copy a detailed drawing, and that the best copy will win a prize. Snag: they won’t see the drawing for very long.
Show them the target picture (any complex, intricate pen and ink drawing including lots of detail). After ten seconds conceal it again and tell them to start drawing - promising another ten-second peep in a minute’s time.
After five minutes, and five ‘peeps’, judge which group has produced the best copy.
Say: in this exercise, it’s vital to keep going back to the original. Otherwise your mind gets confused; you forget what’s really there, and start imagining features of the drawing that don’t exist! Only by regularly returning to the source do you stay focused properly.
It’s the same in life! Read out Psalm 119:97-102. Unless we stay focused on God’s Word, returning constantly to God’s presence, we can’t gain the insight and understanding we need. In drawing the picture, it probably helped that you knew there would be a regular once-a-minute peep; you could plan around it. Similarly, we need to build into our lives regular ‘reality checks’ when we spend time with God.
JESUS BY NIGHT (10 mins)
Even Jesus, God’s Son, needed this! In groups, spend five minutes doing some Bible study. Then compare results:
Mt 14:22-23 Jesus must have been exhausted at the end of the day. Why? What did he do anyway?
Mk 1:35 Jesus was in one of his busiest, most popular periods here. What did he do anyway?
Lk 6:12 Jesus had a big decision to make here. What was it? How did he make it?
Jn 17:25 What were the results of all these times of prayer in Jesus’ life?
What does all this teach us about our own times of personal prayer?
WHAT DO I TALK ABOUT? (8 mins)
Say: praying through the night might seem a bit daunting! But God doesn’t expect your devotional times to be as impressive as Jesus’! What should you do with them, though?
Give each small group this list of possible activities. Ask them to grade each as ‘must do’, ‘could do’, ‘might do’ or ‘definitely never’ activities for a devotional time. After some minutes check results and discuss together: which are the vital, central things that must be there if we’re going to meet properly with God?
Praying for ourselves and friends
Praying for the world
Singing favourite worship songs
Thinking back over the past day
Reading a chapter of a Christian book
Drawing a picture as an act of worship
Relaxing and doing deep breathing exercises
Catching up on homework
Learning Hebrew grammar
Confessing anything wrong in our lives
Saying thank you for God’s goodness
Learning a new verse
Planning what to do for the rest of the day
List what you think is absolutely essential. Say: if you had only seven minutes, how much time would you allocate to each essential?
THE KILLER THREE (10 mins)
Now ask each small group to compare their experiences of devotional times so far, and work out which are the three main reasons they sometimes aren’t very satisfying. Is it because it’s hard to concentrate? Lack of privacy? Too much rush? Not enough to pray about?
Write all the suggested problems on an OHP or flipchart. Discuss what you might do to overcome these things. Summarize by writing up six survival rules for great devotionals, and explaining them briefly:
Keep it short (it isn’t necessarily ‘spiritual’ to keep it going for a longer time!)
Keep it biblical (however you do it, weave God’s Word into it somewhere)
Keep it happy (George Muller once said, ‘The sole purpose of the morning watch is to make your soul happy in the Lord’ - whatever your approach, it must be something that inspires you and gets you thrilled about serving God)
Keep it varied (don’t get into a rut - keep changing style)
Keep it natural (do things that suit your personality and outlook - don’t be unnaturally solemn or earnest. Do it at a time which suits your lifestyle - not necessarily first thing in the morning, or last thing at night!)
Keep it challenging (don’t make it so easy for yourself that no personal discipline is called for!)
DEVOTIONAL TOOLKIT (10 mins)
Give each small group a box containing twelve items. Explain: some of these things might help you plan a different, more unusual devotional. Use your imagination - how could they help you? (The items are: a CD player, a mobile phone, a diary or journal, pocket-sized cards with people’s names written on them, a world atlas, a WWJD bracelet, some post-it notes, photographs of friends, a polystyrene cup, a pack of highlighters, a street map of the area, and a song book.) After five minutes share ideas and add to the flip chart any that sound particularly creative.
Challenge them to think of other things that might be useful (a laptop? A ball of string? a PDA?).
TWO WEEKS WITH JESUS (15 mins)
Now ask each group to work together on constructing a day-by-day plan for personal devotionals for the next two weeks. Each plan must...
...take only ten minutes a day
...focus on Psalm 23 (or any other accessible passage of your choice)
...include all of the elements you agreed were vital
...incorporate at least three different approaches
...have a more interesting name than ‘Daily Devotional’
After ten minutes, compare results. Keep a record of the best suggestions and blend them together where possible.
WRAP UP (5 mins)
Challenge the group to ‘road test’ the devotional ‘curriculum’ they’ve just invented - then after two weeks, compare notes and see if it’s helped them deepen their relationship with God. Decide when you will start and how you will circulate details and instructions to everyone.
Then pray together, asking God to meet with you powerfully as you experiment together in ways of encountering and worshipping him.
John Allan is a regular contributor to Youthwork International.