A Scholar's Devotion

A Scholar’s Devotion with Ken Magnuson

Going through seminary, students are taught to study the Bible and uphold its doctrines about God while also being encouraged not to neglect their devotional times with God. Yet during my own devotional time I, and probably many others, often ask, “Is this approach the best way to grow spiritually, or is there a better way? What could I do differently? Should I incorporate my studies with my devotions?”  

Each week, I ask a different scholar two questions about how he or she spends time with the Lord and continues to love him with all their mind, strength, and heart. While no one method or style is “the only way,” we can draw on one another’s experiences. 

This week, I have asked Dr. Ken Magnuson if he would share his thoughts with us.

1. How do you spend your devotional time with the Lord, and how do you practically seek to deepen your love for Christ?

I don’t think there is any single “recipe,” e.g., I don’t think that everyone must arise before the sun to go and pray in a quiet place. I don’t think there is one pattern for everyone, or one pattern that each person should always follow. I do think that we should spend time each day in prayer and reading the Bible. The purpose is to seek God, to know Him and love Him more and more, and to seek to be conformed to Jesus.

  • Bible reading and meditation: We need to guard against reading without carefully considering what we are reading. We ought to memorize the Word and meditate on it on a regular basis. This is how it will begin to shape our thinking and perceptions as we go through our day, and how the Lord will bring it to bear on situations we face. It helps me to read books and passages over and over, perhaps focusing on one for a week or month at a time.
  • Prayer: we need to guard our prayer life as well, so we don’t just babble meaningless things, but seek the face of God, and seek to know His will. We ought to get in the habit of praying throughout the day.
  • Individual/Family/group time: I think we need to have time alone with the Lord through reading the Bible and prayer, and then also seek to read and pray together with our family or other groups. We ought to work on praying for and with people as we sense needs throughout the day or week, and not merely at appointed times.
  • Godly people: we can learn a lot from others, both formally and informally. Pay attention to people who clearly love the Lord and beyond hearing what they do, watch them; if possible, spend time with them.
  • Fellowship: this relates to the above, but it should be broadened out. Our fellowship with other believers should not just be chatting together or grabbing some food and then talking about mundane things. We can talk about mundane things, for sure, but it should also be geared towards encouraging one another in our faith and knowledge of God and His Word.
  • Devotional works: I like to read devotional works from modern and older sources. The best of them awaken our love for the Lord and—this is important—send us back to His word. So it doesn’t replace reading the Bible, but it can be a wonderful addition. I have enjoyed many of Piper’s works, Kellers’ devotions on the Psalms and the one on the Proverbs; Voices from the Past—Puritan Devotional Readings; and many others.
  • These and other things are ways to seek God’s face and His will, to know and love Him more and more.

Ken Magnuson is Professor of Christian Ethics, Chairman for Division of Worldview and Culture, and Director of The Commonweal Project on Faith, Work, and Human Flourishing. He has written chapters in Faith and Learning and Cultural Engagement. He is working on an Introduction to Christian Ethics. 

Thank you, Dr. Magnuson!
Twitter: @kenmagnuson

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