God reveals everything we need to know about Himself in the Bible. Therefore, reading the Bible brings a deeper knowledge of God and how your life fits into His plan. These “devotionals” often involve reading a Bible passage and reflecting on it. For example, Our Daily Bread (odb.org) publishes several online and printed studies that take a short passage of Scripture and unpack its theme.
There are many ways to do devotionals however here are some tips to go deeper. Remember, your aim is to know God in a richer way.
SOAP it up!
SOAP is an acronym which stands for 'Scripture', 'Observation', 'Application' and 'Prayer'. If you are looking for a template to help structure your Bible devotional time, then SOAP is a good start. Remember, the aim is to get you to go deeper than simply reading a Bible passage. You want to explore it and extract the rich meaning that God has in that passage. You will need a notebook or online tool to record the following:
Scripture - The idea here is to focus your attention on the scripture. What was the most meaningful statement, verse or theme you read? Write it out in your own words as a summary. This will develop your ability to read a large section of Bible text and explain what the central theme is based on the wider context of that Bible book. For example, Psalm 8 is about praising God (v1 and v9) and the blessing of humanity’s position in creation (v4 to v6).
Observation - The idea here is to identify what is happening in the Bible text. What stands out to you in the reading: verses, themes, words, ideas, patterns? What was confusing? What did you find challenging? How does this passage fit into the wider context of that book and the Bible as a whole?
This will develop your ability to read the text in depth and ask questions of the text. For example, in Psalm 8 it starts (v1) and ends (v9) with “O LORD, our Lord.” This repetition is there for emphasis to bookend the Psalm. It also has all capitals ‘LORD’ which, if you look at some study notes, points to God’s personal divine name. Some translate this as “YHWH” or in English, “Jehovah”. This reveals a deeper side of the Creator: He has a covenant name used by His people.
Application - The idea here is to relate the scripture to life and the things around you. What does this scripture say about life right now: your thoughts, current events, church life, people, ministry, activities etc.? How does this scripture call you to respond? For example, in Psalm 8 it calls us to thank God for the fact that in this vast universe God has made us for a personal relationship with Him and given us responsibility to oversee His creation. This application of praise and responsibility can then form a prayer.
Prayer - The idea here is to write a short prayer on your reflections. What do you want to say to God? What is God saying to you?
The SOAP template is just one way to go deeper in your devotional times.
Reading a Bible passage or pre-written devotional (e.g. odb.org) works well. However, to take things to the next level and really move that head-knowledge to work in your heart and out through your hands then here is a great tip: As you read the Bible passage and meditate on it, why not develop a creative response. It could be a drawing based on an interpretation of the text. Some people make a scrapbook full of images, pictures, doodles and drawings based around their Bible readings. These personal creative pieces are anchored in the Bible text and can lead you to a richer application in your devotional time.
With so many devotionals simply reading, this tip can help link the intellectual aspects of the Bible reading with the emotional parts of the reading. Check out this example from a Salvation Army Pastor who created this devotional book based around Psalm 112. https://www.sarmy.org.au/en/Resources/Salvo-Publishing-Books/Salvo-Publishing-Books-A-G/Blessings-of-the-Righteous/
When you are doing your devotionals why not link it into real mission by subscribing to a favourite mission organization. The Bible has major themes, such as compassion, justice and sharing God’s love, that are reflected in many mission organizations. Reading and praying through their newsletters can help make the Scripture come alive. For example, Mission Aviation Fellowship https://maf.org.au/pray-with-us/ and Wycliffe Bible Translators https://wycliffe.org.au/pray/ have ways you can connect the Bible with regular prayer.
God is a God of relationships. The fact He speaks through the Bible proves this. The fact He sent Jesus into this world secures this relationship. This is a great encouragement for us to search after a deeper relationship with Him through regular devotionals of Bible reading and prayer.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover1.html