Faith · Reading

Why Read Devotionals?

Have you ever been cautioned to not read a daily devotional? This advice seems a little counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we, as Christians, be urging each other to gain daily encouragement from a trusted author, to make it a habit in our time spent with the Lord each day?

Over the years, though, I think I’ve more often been discouraged from reading devotionals than encouraged. The reason that is almost always given is this: The danger in reading a devotional is that it may take time away from (or completely replace) your Bible reading for the day. And the goal of daily Bible reading, even just a few verses, is one that every Christian should aspire to. “Daily time in the Word” means just that: in the Word itself.

I agree with that—when it comes to what you read, what you put inside your head and heart on a daily basis, the Bible itself is the most important thing. Many people struggle to read the Bible every day (I certainly did, for years), but there are many ways to do this even when your schedule is packed or you have small children or a demanding job. (See here for letting go of certain Bible reading expectations that might be making things harder for you.)

That said, though, I really love devotionals.

Why read devotionals?

  • Regarding the worry that reading devotionals can/will replace daily Bible reading … you can take steps to avoid that by reading the Bible alongside your devotional, or at a different time of day. The methods I’ve used for this are daily Scripture writing (which has me writing Bible passages every single day—this method has been working beautifully for me for years); reading a devotional in the morning and the Bible at night (or vice versa); or reading your Bible with the devotional. Many devotionals make this last option easier by including Bible verses or references to passages that support or complement each day’s reading.
  • A devotional shares trustworthy wisdom and experience in one convenient place. You can depend on it because you’ve chosen an author or editor who is a reliable source of spiritual guidance (see recommendations below). Every day, you can look forward to new insights and perspectives on things you may have never thought of, things that apply directly to your life at the time, or things that are outside your realm of experience but will surely apply to you at some point. Devotionals are generally written by those who have been thinking about or studying the Bible for many years, by those who have lived through life experiences that have tested their faith, and/or by those who have been Christians for a long time and are spiritually mature. All reasons to spend a few minutes each day and benefit from what God would have you learn from them.
  • Reading a devotional every day establishes a habit, a pattern for your days (mornings, evenings, baby’s naptime, lunch break, whenever) that you can look forward to as time for your own spiritual development and time with God. Yes, you ought to also be spending time with your Bible, and hopefully you are! But I’ll confess something: when I became a new Christian as an adult, reading the Bible every single day didn’t come easily to me (it did for my husband, but this isn’t true of everyone). Often my daily Bible reading consisted of verses included with whatever devotional I was reading at the time. Eventually I did read my Bible every day, but it took a long time before that was a regular habit, and I’m grateful for the devotionals that carried me through those early years. I think God put them in my life for a reason, and I thank him for it.
  • Here’s a tip you may want to incorporate into your daily devotional reading: There will be some “days” (entries) that will resonate with you more than others. Some days the reading will be so particularly helpful that you’ll want to refer back to it … so on the title page, the inside cover or wherever is convenient, jot down the date of the entry that is so meaningful to you. In the future, you’ll be able to pick up this devotional and easily find and reread the entries you found most helpful. I’ve recently begun putting a few words of explanation after each date so I can use it to search for readings on certain topics (loss, God’s sovereignty, prayer, heaven, humility, etc.).
Write the dates of the entries that are especially helpful to you inside the book so you can refer back to them later.

Devotional recommendations

Here’s a list of devotionals that I’ve read, ones I’ve heard good things about, ones I plan to read in the future, and books I’ve used as devotionals even though they technically aren’t.

Read very recently and highly recommend:

New Morning Mercies, by Paul David Tripp

Truth for Life, by Alistair Begg (and there’s a second volume here)

Mom Heart Moments, by Sally Clarkson (for moms of all ages/stages)

Read long ago; loved them and plan to read again:

Streams in the Desert, by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman / L. B. Cowman

Women of the Bible, by Ann Spangler and Jean E. Syswerda (can be used as an entire Bible study)

My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers (classic edition or updated language edition)

Whispers of His Power, by Amy Carmichael (she has others, too)

Devotionals for Advent and Lent:

Watch for the Light, by various authors (Advent)

Bread and Wine, by various authors (Lent and Easter)

Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional, by Paul David Tripp

A Family Christmas, edited by Caroline Kennedy (not an Advent devotional but could be read as one; this is my favorite general Christmas anthology so I just have to mention it)

All Creation Waits, by Gayle Boss (Advent, with a unique focus on animals; I did not enjoy the Lent companion volume, Wild Hope, but I did like this one)

Haven’t read yet but would like to:

A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works

The Business of Heaven (also C. S. Lewis)

Walking with God Day by Day, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Morning and Evening, by Charles Spurgeon

The One Year Book of Hope, by Nancy Guthrie (for people who’ve experienced pain or loss)

God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life, by Timothy Keller (on Proverbs)

The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy Keller (on Psalms)

Through the Year with William Still (recommended by my husband)

Can’t exactly recommend, but God used it anyway:

Jesus Calling (I’m not going to wade into the controversy over this book—don’t worry, I’m aware of it!—but I will say that the year I read it, July 14 was one of the hardest days of my parenting life. When I read that day’s entry all those years ago, I cried tears of gratitude, and I remember it to this day.)

Abbreviated devotionals (not 365 days):

The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions (around 200 readings)

40 Favorite Hymns on the Christian Life, by Leland Ryken (he has several others, as well)

In the Lord I Take Refuge: 150 Daily Devotions through the Psalms, by Dane Ortlund

A Lamp Unto My Feet and Keep a Quiet Heart, by Elisabeth Elliot (she has other books of short readings, too)

Not devotionals, but can be used as daily readings:

From the Library of C. S. Lewis: Selections from Writers Who Influenced His Spiritual Journey

The 100 Most Important Events in Christian History

I hope this list is helpful, and I’d love to hear about your favorite devotionals, too. I’m always looking to add to my list!

2 thoughts on “Why Read Devotionals?

  1. Thank you for putting this post together on reading devotionals.
    I began a daily devotional time in 1993. Most days I keep up with the readings from both the devotional books and reading through the Bible. Plus, I read through all the Bible Study Fellowship material for adult questions and notes, and for the teaching material I have as a Children’s Leader.
    This year one of the books I am reading is the Truth for Life. Last year I read New Morning Mercies.
    In 1993, I began reading through (and for several years) Streams in the Desert. I also began reading the Our Daily Bread which I still use each year.
    Currently I read: Our Daily Bread, Truth for Life, InTouch magazine by Charles Stanley, and the Book of Common Prayer 2019 edition.
    In the past I’d read the whole Bible according to how they are arranged in the Bible. I’ve read it Genesis to Revelation, and I’ve read the books out of order. I’m currently reading the Bible in the plan the Book of Common Prayer has it arranged.
    Several years ago, I began choosing a NT book to read through 12 times in mostly 12 different translations. This year the book is Hebrews. I finished this discipline last month.
    Reading the Bible literally is a discipline. It is easy for people to talk themselves out of it because people are busy, and many people do not like to read period. Sometimes it seems like such a huge challenge that they shy away from even reading small portions of Scripture. And one of the things I hear most often is they don’t always understand what they read.
    There is a book titled Daily Light. It literally is Scripture arranged to read each day, morning and evening (small pages), that are often topical in nature. This is an excellent way to read the Bible, but it looks like it is less intimidating to a person who doesn’t read much.


    1. Thanks for your thoughts on this, Annette. I’ve heard of Our Daily Bread but haven’t read it, and I also haven’t read the Book of Common Prayer, but have wanted to. When I first became a Christian I read The Upper Room, which may be similar to Our Daily Bread? I also love your idea of reading one book in 12 different translations. I’m definitely a “let’s see what other translations say” kind of Bible reader!

      Liked by 1 person

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