How can I motivate a teen to have personal devotions?
Taking time each day to read the Bible, pray, and seek God is an important part of the Christian’s life. The Word of God and the Holy Spirit do a deep and lasting work in our hearts in this time, and the insights and encouragement we gain impact our words and actions throughout the day.
The teen years are a pivotal time in which to establish this discipline. As you encourage teens to have a daily quiet time with God, remember the two keys to motivation: the desire for gain and the fear of loss. Help the teen discern what he will gain through personal devotions and what he will miss out on if he doesn’t take time to seek God. Share from your own experience the value of spending time each day focusing on God through the Scriptures, prayer, and worship.
Demonstrate love and respect for God’s Word.
Share how the Bible impacts your life and changes your heart. Express your appreciation for God’s Word, and by your words and actions, set an example of reverence for the Scriptures. Encourage the teen to gain a Scriptural view of love for God’s Word by studying Psalm 119. This Psalm exalts various aspects of the Word of God, such as His precepts, statutes, commandments, judgments, testimonies, and law.
Provide needed resources.
Does the teen have a Bible? He should have a copy of his own so that he can easily access it and make notes in it if he chooses. Guide the teen to passages that relate to his needs for wisdom and growth. Discuss the importance of having an accurate, trustworthy translation of the Scriptures, such as the King James Version, English Standard Version, or New American Standard Version. Consider recommending additional devotional resources such as Bible studies or guides that can help the teen deepen his Biblical understanding.
Set a time and place for quiet times.
Without establishing a definite time and place for prayer and time with God, devotions usually get pushed out of the schedule. Encourage the teen to schedule a consistent time each day for his devotions. Suggest quiet places where he can get alone with God, a place where he can avoid distractions and interruptions.
Help him develop skills in prayer.
Spend time praying for and with the teen. Give him ideas for making prayer a priority in his life and for learning to pray for extended periods of time. Share Scriptural insights about prayer, read and study the prayers in the Bible, and recommend books on prayer, such as George Mueller’s Answers to Prayer.
Explain how to use study tools.
Teach the teen good Bible study skills, such as how to use cross-references, a concordance, Bible dictionaries, and lexicons. He should learn how to research the meanings of the Hebrew and Greek words in the original text. Introduce him to the Meditation Worksheet as a tool for working out and documenting his investment in Scriptural meditation. Encourage him to read through Psalms and Proverbs each month.
Discuss personal applications of Scripture.
Help the teen understand the principles of interpreting and applying the Word of God in his life. Talk about what you are learning in your devotions and how you are putting it into practice. Share the importance of the rhemas of Scripture, passages that the Holy Spirit brings to our attention for application in a specific, current situation.
Encourage him to keep a journal of insights and applications.
By writing out insights gained from Scripture, the teen can clarify and document his thoughts. This record of Biblical insights also can become a valuable “book of remembrance” that he will return to again and again as his understanding deepens and as he considers fresh applications of Biblical truths.
Recommend the discipline of accountability.
Accountability is one of the keys to successful spiritual disciplines. Challenge the teen to find an accountability partner who will help him develop faithfulness in having daily devotions. His partner should be a person he respects and trusts and someone with whom he can share what he is learning in God’s Word. They should set a time to meet or talk each week to discuss how things are going and what he is learning.
Follow the example of Jesus Christ.
One of a Christian’s greatest encouragements to take time for personal devotions is the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, who often spent time alone, praying and seeking the will of His Father. “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he [Jesus] went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). The Son of God valued His time alone with God.
As God’s children, we, too, should obey God’s instruction to seek Him and know Him. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. . . . Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4: 8, 10). As we draw near to God, we will know Him better, and as we know Him better, we will mature and learn more fully how to love Him, obey Him, and follow Him with our whole hearts.
This material is adapted from pages 14–15 of the Effective Counseling Course, Part Seven.