Hitting pay dirt during your devotions

How to find the jewels you want in the Scriptures

Incline my heart to your testimonies,
    and not to selfish gain! – Psalm 119:36

Open my eyes, that I may behold
    wondrous things out of your law. – Psalm 119:18

Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name. – Psalm 86:11

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. – Psalm 90:14

Today I will get practical. I want to share a practice I picked up from John Piper’s book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture. I did a short review of the book and recommended you purchase it, and read it, and do it. You know, like Mary said, whatever he says, “Do it!”

We all know that we should pray before our devotional reading asking for God to “bless our reading time.”  Piper gives a particular prayer that has been part of his devotional life for some time. I have adopted it. It involves the four Scripture passages above. They are now taped inside the front cover of my Bible where I can conveniently refer to them and pray through them before beginning my devotional reading.

Let me do a little unpacking of what they mean to me and how I use them.

Incline my heart to your testimonies,
    and not to selfish gain! – Psalm 119:36

This request is designed to change my heart from one that has no lust for the Scriptures. It is for when I am spiritually dry. Actually, when prayed daily, it is designed to prevent spiritual dryness. Lord, keep my heart inclined to your word, let me lust after your word, Afterall, your words are the words of life that can be found nowhere else.

It is insightful that an inclination for selfish gain is juxtaposed to an inclination for God’s word. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” It appears that an inclination for selfish gain and a heart for God’s word are mutually exclusive. This prayer is dangerous for people who are money-motivated. But it is a good kind of dangerous. It will change your heart for the better. (Just an aside note, a desire for “gain” is not the same as “selfish gain.” Profit is always a good thing. It enables generous giving and support to the gospel and mercy ministry. Just don’t rationalize selfish gain in an attempt to convince yourself that you just want “gain” for kingdom purposes. We’ll address this further under Psalm 86:11.)

The key thought: Sovereign Lord, make my heart love your word and not love selfish gain.

Open my eyes, that I may behold
    wondrous things out of your law. – Psalm 119:18

This, I find, is an easy prayer to pray with great enthusiasm. There is nothing quite like seeing wondrous things in God’s word. This is seeing “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” in the Scriptures. Seeing truth for the first time, or having truth refreshed by the Holy Spirit, is a delight filled experience.

Careful, this can cause you to break out in a Happy Dance.

Here there is no downside. This is asking, “Lord, I want to see Jesus afresh today. Lord, show me something of Jesus I haven’t seen before.” This is God’s candy store. This is where we taste the sweetness of Jesus. “Open my eyes, Lord.”

Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name. – Psalm 86:11

This verse has three propositions. Teach me your way, O Lord; unite my heart to fear your name; and, that I may walk in your truth. The purpose of the two requests is that we may walk in the Lord’s truth. This is the “live it out” request. We need two things to live it out.

We need to know God’s ways. I am reminded that God showed his acts to Israel but his ways to Moses (Psalm 103:7). Moses got the inside track, not only did he see God acting on behalf of his people, but he was taught God’s ways, how he works, why he works. He had greater insight than just seeing God do things.

I am all for God’s power works showing up in our lives. I love to see God’s supernatural provision for people in need. I am reminded of an instance a hundred years or so ago when I was in Bible College. We needed $400. For our rent, if I remember correctly. Anyway, I was doing some serious praying about that. Like it was yesterday, I remember answering a knock at the door and seeing a friend who knew nothing about our need. He handed me a check for $400 and said the Lord told him to bring it to me.

More than these kinds of “acts of God,” we need to know his ways.

Secondly, we must have our hearts aligned with the fear of the Lord. “Unite my heart to fear your name.” Our hearts are so fickle and easily drawn away from the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We need to fear the Lord in our hearts. So, we ask God to unite our hearts to fear his name.

Above I mentioned rationalizing our heart motivations. It’s easy to do. Having our hearts united speaks, I believe, to true internal integrity, an honest heart. Honest with God and honest with ourselves. I think it is harder to be honest with ourselves than it is to be honest with God. God knows everything, so why fake it? We can easily be self-deceived. Thus, the deep need to have the Holy Spirit aid us in uniting our hearts to fear the Lord. Lord, don’t let us lie to ourselves.

Knowing God’s ways and fearing his name enable us to walk in his truth. This is a vital prayer for entering a meaningful devotional experience, the kind that will change you from the inside out.

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. – Psalm 90:14

Notice that this is the only one of these prayers that is plural, “Satisfy us,” not “satisfy me.” This Psalm was written as a corporate worship song of Israel so the “us” was originally intended to refer to Israel as a whole.

Everybody wants to live life doing a Happy Dance, rejoicing and being glad all our days. God wants that for us as well. This satisfaction with God’s steadfast love is independent of our circumstances. Satisfaction with God’s steadfast love produces in our hearts joy and gladness, what everybody wants.

Here is how I pray this prayer. “Lord, satisfy Karen (my wife) and me in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” But then I expand it to, “Lord, satisfy Karen and me and our children and their families in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” And I don’t stop there, “Lord, satisfy Karen and me, or kids and their families and our family at New Life Presbyterian Church (where we are members) in the morning with your steadfast love that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” Sometimes I take it one more step to pray for the church universal throughout the earth.

The Lord does want us to rejoice and be glad all our days, so pray for it. This is not a selfish prayer. It is a prayer that will glorify God. We glorify God by enjoying him forever.

For me, this private liturgy has been helpful. I am praying God’s word. How can you miss when you do that? What better preparation of our hearts to enter into God’s word and expect to hear from God?

Maybe that is a good topic to discuss at another time, do you expect to meet with God?

Do you have a regular approach you use to enter your devotional time? If so, I would love to hear about it. Tell us about it in the comments section below, if you would.