What is devotional showing coffee cup

Most Christians search for the meaning of a devotional for at least three main reasons. First, some have heard the term but do not know what it means; they want to know what other Christians mean by a devotional. Second, others understand what a devotional means, but they want more—they crave a deeper meaning, deeper insight, and deeper revelation. Third, others know the general usage of the term but want to see if it is in the Bible and how it defines it. 

Whether you want a simple definition, a deeper meaning, or a Biblical perspective, this article is for you. As a Spirit-filled believer who practices regular devotions with the Lord and a minister writing daily devotions, I have put together key insights that will deepen your understanding of this crucial biblical concept.

Before proceeding, here are three similar articles that might be of interest to you:

Meanings Of The Term Devotional 

I classify the meanings of devotional or devotions into three major categories: dictionary, general Christian, and biblical. The premise of this division is the usage of these words in a specific context and the underlying concept they describe. However, please keep in mind these factors as we move forward in discussing the meanings of this term:

  • Usage: various distinct but related meanings are valid when used in context.
  • Not in the Bible: You will not find the term devotional per se in the Bible(at least most standard translations). However, the word describes a concept found all over the scriptures.
  • Multiple related words: The different terms, such as daily devotional, devotion, and bible devotions, can all refer to the same thing from a slightly different perspective.
  • Meanings change with time: The usage of words can change. The devotional nowadays differs from the meaning of the word 500 years ago because society has changed. 

Dictionary Meaning

The general meaning of the devotional or devotion is the standard dictionary definition of these terms. 

  • Devotional: used to describe something connected with religious worship. Hence, we can talk about devotional books or songs.
  • Devotion:  a noun used to describe religious worship or observances such as prayers or services.

Beyond these bare-bone dictionary definitions is the more specific religious sense of the term: how Christians use it. 

General Christian Meaning

Most believers know the devotional as a short inspirational piece of Christian writing for each day. By extension, it can also refer to any book with a collection of these brief devotionals for a period such as one year, month, or week.

Today, our digital world also allows using short audio or videos with inspiration from the scripture.  

Biblical Definition Of The Devotional 

The biblical meaning is arguably the most important. Although the term or its definition does not appear directly in the Biblical text, the Bible is replete with the principle and practice. In fact, the term devotional is a relatively new term to describe an old scriptural principle and practice. God’s people over the ages have called it different names, such as quiet time, time with God, meditation, and prayer time. For example, Isaac, sometimes about 1800 BC, went out one evening to have a devotional—just when he was about to see his beautiful bride for the first time!

“And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming.” (Genesis 24:63, ESV) 

In this context, the devotional is the time we set apart to fellowship with God in prayer and His Word, during which He nourishes, strengthens, and refreshes us.  It is the principle and practice of spending time with God in prayer and His Word.

The presence and power of God directly influence the hearts and lives of His people as they devote time to be with Him in His Word and prayer. I refer to this idea as the devotional effect. To learn more about this, please read “This is what happens during your devotional time with the Lord“. Furthermore, there are different parts of these effects to understand for a deeper, more enriching understanding of this concept.  

The brief 3-minutes video below vividly captures this meaning.

Essential Concepts Of The Devotional 

We will now review fundamental concepts in the definition of the devotional presented above: the essence, means, terminology issues, daily devotional, and devotional life.

The Essence 

The most crucial concept is the idea of the transforming effects of God’s presence and power in people’s hearts when they establish any direct contact with Him. This is the devotional effect mentioned above. 

The goal of our quiet time with the Lord is to get into (not that we are out of it) His presence and come out stronger, better, encouraged, built up, inspired, and deeper in our relationship with Him. This process is the treasure or gold of the devotional; it is a mystery accomplished by the Spirit of God.

God has given us different means to trigger this devotional effect.

The Means

Scriptures show us two primary means by which the Spirit of God produces the devotional effect on our hearts and lives: the knowledge of God’s Word entering our hearts and fellowship with God in prayer. 

Please note that I did not write meditation or Bible reading, but the knowledge of God. It is the knowledge of God entering our hearts during meditation or reading that produces this nourishing effect. Knowledge and fellowship form a duo that establishes the basis of including Bible reading and prayer in our devotions. They work together in a way comparable to the combined effects of nutrition and exercise to build muscles.

Food provides the basic building blocks for muscle growth. Exercise, however, functions differently. It does not offer building blocks for the muscle but engages the muscles in activities that stimulate growth and development. Knowledge is a building block of the human heart. Prayer promotes the development of our hearts using the building blocks already there, just as exercise stimulates muscle growth using nutrients supplied by food.

The Daily Devotional 

The devotional effect, as described above, can occur anywhere. It can transpire when you listen to a sermon in church or meditate in your quiet place. 

However, when we make spending time with God a daily occurrence at a specified time set aside for this purpose, we can appropriately call it a daily devotional or devotion. Moreover, every believer is not only encouraged but commanded by God to regularly read His Word and pray—the devotional is a divine command and expectation. It should be integral to your spiritual life.

The Devotional Life 

We use the term devotional life in a precise context in this article and our ministry.  The devotional life is the habit of devoting time to be with the Lord and the flourishing life that results from this practice.

There are two main ideas in this concept. 

  1. First, the devotional life is a habit of diligently and consistently spending time with God, which creates devotional effects on our lives. This habit requires consistency, devotion, and dedication. 
  2. Second, the devotional life describes the outward manifestations of the results of time with God. Our lives flourish as trees planted by rivers with effects on our spiritual lives, spiritual growth, and relationship with the Lord.

The devotional life is not merely reading a piece of daily devotional every day or reading a passage from the Bible. It is the knowledge of the Word received in the heart that produces the refreshing effect. As noted above, terminology then is important.

Terminology

God’s people over the centuries have used different names to describe the devotional concept. Various examples include quiet time, meditation, prayer, and Bible study. Each of these names focuses on an aspect of the devotional framework. For instance, meditation describes a specific element of the means of our time with God. It only captures some parts. Similarly, we cannot blindly equate prayer or Bible study with the devotional because they do not automatically lead to the devotional effect in themselves!

I prefer the term devotional as used in the context above. It captures both the means and the essence. Nevertheless, the terminology is not as important as the act itself. Furthermore, we should distinguish the devotional from Christian Devotional Meditation as described by Got Questions website, which is a form of Eastern mindfulness and mysticism.

Conclusion 

The term devotional today has several meanings, and it is essential to understand it in context. Beyond a mere lexical or religious meaning, the devotional is the principle and practice of spending time with God in prayer and His Word. It is not only a good thing to do, but God has consistently commanded us to feed on His Word and pray regularly.

I hope this article has given you a better understanding of the term and, even more importantly, inspired and encouraged you to start, improve or grow in your devotional life. If you have questions or need guidance,  please comment below or contact us directly.

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47 Comments

  1. Just had an interest in the two phrases David mentions namely; 1. At all times and 2. Continually

    This to me, signifies that my praises unto the Lord should be without an ending. I should surround myself with Gog’s praises, without ceasing.

    1. Hello Sam. Absolutely! David often uses those phrases and words to indicate praising God at all times. As always, the exact meaning lies in the specific verse you are looking at. They might mean something different in different verses. What specific verse(s) do you have in mind here?

  2. It’s an enlighten piece. It’s also very educating to learn the phrase does not come from the bible but universally used

  3. Amazing post. This post opened my eyes to the truth about daily devotion, I tried many ways of getting intimate with God but none of those ways seems to help. I hope the daily devotional here will really help me to be close to God.

    1. Hello Saliu. I am pleased to read your comment and know how this article has been a blessing to you. I will be sending a copy of our book on the devotional life to help you fully understand the devotional and grow in your intimacy with the Lord hmand have a rich spiritual life. You should receive that email soon. If you do not receive it yet within a day, please reach out to me here.

  4. Great post I pray that god open my spirit eyes to see in spirit realms. I been trying to get closer to god and relied on god for guides. PLEASE HELP

    1. Hello Zachary,
      Thanks for visiting and reaching out. Of course it is our pleasure to help you get closer to the Lord and become stronger in the faith. You will find volumes of articles on our website free to use on many subjects. A useful category of articles will be Spiritual Growth https://patrickoben.com/category/spiritual-growth/. I will send an ecopy of our Devotional Life Book to you FREE to get you started on a journey to intimacy with the Lord. I encourage you to read it carefully, put to work the knowledge there and reach out to me if any questions or difficulties. I have just prayed for you that the Lord will strengthen you and grace you grace to draw closer to Him. Blessings

  5. Sir I want to thank you for this teaching. I have always been looking for how to get closer to God in fellowship. But I have questions. How can someone conquer anxiety and heavyness of mind?( 2) Can a mind that’s troubled have a successful fellowship with God at time when the person seems cut off?please tell me the way out. Thank you sir. Hoping to hear from you.

    1. Hello Ishima. I am glad to know you find this article helpful. The secret to overcoming anxiety is learning to keep our minds on God. You are correct. Anxiety and a troubled mind will block you from having practical daily fellowship with God. An anxious mind is like noise and loud speakers in your heart that will prevent you from hearing God. I have written extensively on anxiety and the mind. This is a link to the different devotionals. I encourage you to read them carefully. https://patrickoben.com/tag/worry/

      This is an important verse to think of.
      Meditation on the Word of God would be a great way to train your mind to be kept on God.

      “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”
      ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭26:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

      Blessings

      1. Thank you sir for the prompt reply. I also thank you for the material you sent along to help me of which I have started digesting.
        Sir you said meditation is pondering and muttering the word of God. My question is; how long will it take to get the word we are meditating on to get from our head into our heart and how do we know when the word is registered in our hearts? Thank you sir.
        Hoping to hear from you about this because this meditation is something am just learning to do.

        1. Good to know the Lord has put a desire in your heart to meditate on the Word. Word from your head to the heart simply means the time it takes for your heart to be established on the Word: you have a deep understanding of it, you have fully believed and accepted it and it has begun to control the way you live. You can tell it depends on you to begin with. We all start from different places and states. Generally, it will take weeks to months of constant meditation to see a glorious change of your life. Heart change takes time but when it happens you will be so happy and thankful that you payed the little price of spending time in the Word.

  6. i prayed to the LORD to send me help and He led me to your site last week, please i will love to have the devotional. thank you for letting God use you to teach as clearly as you do.

    1. Nancy, thank you for sharing those encouraging words with me. Indeed that is what the Lord has commanded us to do here and it is our desire and pleasure to do so. I will send your free PDF copy to your email. Blessings

  7. sir i want to thank u for piece of wisdom…t being a blessing to m..sir i will b glad if i can get the full pdf material of d devotional book.. thank u sir.

  8. This is insightful and helpful. Pls, I will like to have the devotional book. Here’s my email address…..

    Thank you

    1. I just sent a free copy to you and removed your email so that it does not appear public on the site and be used by spammers. The Lord cause you to have an intimate and deep relationship with Him as you hunger to draw near.

  9. God bless you Sir for this eye opening. I have been struggling with my daily devotions,guess this piece answered a lot of questions.God bless you Sir.

  10. Thank you Pst Oben for the profound teaching on daily devotionals.I now understand the importance of quality daily devotionals and not a routine reading of a short piece of material to inspire us daily You definitely opened my eyes regarding this May God bless you.

    Keneilwe Khosa

    1. Praise the Lord indeed. Glad to learn that His Word shared here has been such a blessing to you. Thank you for sharing with me. The Lord fills that desire for Him He has put in your heart and cause you to know a greater dimension of intimacy and fellowship with Him. Blessings

        1. I have sent a copy to your email. May the Lord cause you to know His presence, power and glory like never before as you desire to know Him and draw close to Him.

          1. Good morning. This is so insightful for me. Thank you very much to you and the Spirit of God that led me to this page. GOD BLESS YOU! Please email me the copy.

  11. Excellent, Thankyou! I look forward to receiving my gifts and getting your book and staying connected. I woke up early this morning with God speaking to me, “joy unspeakable and full of glory”. I know when He does that I have to search for the reason and He led me to you. God is so extremely cool, I love when He does this! 😀

    I have a spirit of joy and it sustains me through all things. It saddens my heart when I see others who don’t; therefore, I want to be an encouragement to others to open up their understanding and inspire them to receive this amazing, as you said, “gemstone”, from God. Thanks again! God’s blessings to you and yours, Joan❤️☝🏽

    1. Praise the Lord for that Joan! I am so glad to read of the joyful experience you are having with the Lord there. Yes, keep that joy burning and spread it! You will find multiple devotionals on joy in this link https://patrickoben.com/tag/joy/
      Please let me know if you do not receive your free gift for any reason and will make sure I get it over to you!
      Blessings

  12. Thank you so much.! I wish I could get your response in PDF, so I could read it as many times as needed. I am going to email this to myself. As I pray about it, I will most likely refrence it. I really wish I could hear God with my ears. Anyways thank you for helping. Be blessed. If you could send me the devotional life book PDF, it would be greatly appreciated.

  13. I am not in anyway trying to say devotionals are bad. I have been very blessed by them. I just wanted insight on this huge respinsibility of rightly dividing Gods word. If I offended in anyway, it was not intended. I was just looking for guidance.

    1. Penny, thank you for visiting and asking the question. You did not offend at all. On the contrary, your question is a heartfelt honest uncertainty you have and willing to look for an answer. It certainly will be my pleasure to walk you through this. First, praise the Lord for the desire in your heart to share God’s Word.It is a wonderful blessing and privilege to share His precious Word with others. Let me share a few thoughts with you to respond to some of the concerns you raised.
      First, the word “devotional”. It is not in the Bible. It is a term used to describe a clear and well established Biblical truth which is time taking to spend on God’s Word daily. This is the central TRUTH in the devotional habit. The Devotional is the Word of God as food for the spirit each day. It is our Daily Bread from heaven. This is what the devotional life, the daily devotional, the devotional habit or if you prefer sacred time, quiet a time, etc with God. The key is not the piece of writing but the time we spend in God’s Word daily to feed your spirit. I have extensively discussed this in the Book the Devotional Life where I begin by first explaining what the devotional really is. It is NOT reading a piece of devotional writing every day. This is what many believers have come to think about it because it has become so popular. In fact one of the things I insisted in the book is that WE MUST NOT MAKE OUR DEVOTIONAL LIFE BECOMES ONE OF just reading a devotional writing each day. The key is not the devotional writing but the Word of God you are feeding on.

      Next, the devotional writing itself. Is it biblical? The piece of devotional writing is not different from a sermon or message preached in Church on a Sunday morning. The difference is that one is spoken and the other is written. A devotional writing is simply a short spoken sermon! Teaching or preaching the Word, or dividing it as you mentioned is simply explaining, expounding or breaking down the Bible verses to help others understand. This is the entire ministry of preaching and teaching which are crucial for the Body of Christ. A devotional writing is simply an expounding of a Bible verse, just as teaching or preaching does, in a short format for easy digestion. This is not only biblical but if only God’s children could get the Word into their hearts broken down as many times as possible! Jesus said to Peter “feed my sheep” three times in John 21:15-16. You do not feed the sheep by just reading the Bible verses to them. You feed them by breaking down the Word to them to understand and be able to apply.The devotional is meant to a short piece of spiritual food. I pray God would multiply a million times and give more Shepherds that will feed His sheep with quality spiritual food even through devotionals!

      Just as preaching and teaching vary in quality, so devotionals vary in quality. There are some preachings that are purely human thinking or full of stories to “inspire people”. If it is not the Word, people will get inspired, excited but will never be changed or empowered. The same is true of devotionals. Whether is is by devotional writing, audio, teachings or preaching on the pulpit, if you can get the Word of God to His sheep, please do so.

      The devotional is not everything in itself. You cannot grow to spiritual maturity through the devotional Bible study method.
      There is just a lot I could say about this and would suggest you read the Devotional life book. If for some reason you cannot get a copy for yourself, please let me know and I will send a free PDF copy to you. It will be an excellent read for you to get you well grounded on what the devotional is and also what it is not and how to proceed with any devotional ministry the Lord is directing you to. Remain the blessing Penny. Patrick

  14. I am considering publishing devotionals. They have been easy for me to write. The problem is I do not want to distort Gods words with what I felt inspired me to write. I guess I am struggling with…is this biblical or something man come up with. He says the path to heaven is narrow and to hell wide. People accept devotionals, but are they Gods will. Are we to encourage in this way? Revelations at the end talks about adding or taking away from the book. I sure dont want to get this wrong! At my end…I want to hear well done my good and faithful servent….not I never new you…or worse yet you confused my people by entangling your words with mine. Help! Can amyone point me to something in scripture that says this is biblical. I think there good and God inspired…but could I ony be deceiving myself.

    1. Good morning, thanks so much for the article, I woke up around 2am this morning with this in my spirit,”the Angel of His Presence “. The Holy Spirit led me to my phone and I came across your post,i went through the article on the Angel of His Presence and the daily devotional e-book, Sir, honestly, this is what i have been longing for in my spirit, i have gotten the answer! May the Holy Spirit continually to give you more higher knowledge, insights, understanding, etc. You are really a blessing to me this morning. Sir i will be glad if i can get the daily devotional pdf

      1. Hello Kenneth. So glad the articles were a blessing to you. It will be my pleasure and joy to see the Spirit ignite a new fire in your heart for His presence and power as you hunger for His Word. I will send a FREE copy of the Devotional life book to your email. Please get back to me if you have any questions as you read it through.

  15. There are times to be sober and a serious, but family devotion doesn’t have to be one of those times! In fact, a child’s delight in God and his word begins with parents delight in God and his word.

    If you focus on the wonders of who God is, what he has done for you, and what he says in his word, your delight will spill over into your children. Turn on a child to those delights, and you may start him or her on a lifetime of joy in the Lord.

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