I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. I spread out my hands to You; my soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah (Psalm 143:5–6—NKJV)

You have probably found that the felt significance of your daily devotions varies based upon a number of factors. The physical circumstances in which you find yourself, the cares that are weighing heavily upon your heart, the busy constraint of schedule, your chosen study in the Word, and the distractions which unceremoniously intrude into your quiet time all have a bearing on significance. What believer has not been subject to seasons of life, hardness of heart, dullness of hearing, or has not found himself working at odds with the lessons God has to teach him for that specific day? Don’t forget that your devotional habits can set you up for success or failure.

These problems lead the thinking Christian to ask God for principles which can help avoid barrenness in his devotional life. The psalmist, David, gives some timeless principles in Psalm 143 which are worthy of your consideration.

This is the last penitential psalm in the collection of psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, and 130). His two main requests are deliverance from his enemy and for guidance in the will of God. Though the specific, historical background cannot be divined, the content shows that David is expressing repentance for his personally-owned sinfulness. He is clearly cognizant of his personal unworthiness to approach God while he is also equally expressive of how highly he values the merciful and gracious character of God.

A quick reading of the chapter causes certain themes to become apparent. David is a sinner and needs to be delivered from his enemies so that he can knowingly do God’s will as a faithful servant. Sin is the great enemy of your soul. Its power must be defeated through a healthy prayer and devotional life so that you may knowingly do God’s will. It is never enough to simply know the will of God (verse 8), but you must also be taught to do it (verse 10) as an obedient servant.

Our verses outline the key ingredients for significant devotional time with God. Right away you notice the verbs remember, meditate, muse, spread, and longs. Also take note of the number of times the words hands, works, and You/Your appear. There is no doubt that significant devotions must be jealously guarded from distractions. Being in the presence of God must be your sole purpose and soul focus.

Take time to remember the days of old. Though the days of old (both scriptural and personal) are in the past, they were the present once for those who lived it and when you lived it. The fallen state of man has not changed nor has the prevailing sovereignty of God Almighty. Labor to put yourself into the “present” relevance of God’s Word.

Take time to converse with yourself (meditate) on the works of God. What does He accomplish? What is His full-hearted purpose? What has He worked in the past and continued to work in the present? What is He going to work?

Take time to pursue a deeper insight into the handiwork of God. Other uses of the verb “muse” in the Bible indicate a meditation that produces a thoughtful level of action. Meditating on God’s character always helps with an understanding of His workings.

Take time to wait upon God and place yourself at His disposal. The action of spreading the hands to God, as David describes, is one that shows complete dependence upon, confidence in, and attention to God.

Are you longing for God as a parched landscape seems to yearn for rain? Ask God to remove the spiritual barrenness and aimlessness from your life. Follow in the steps of the psalmist so that you may do the will of God only. Trust and obey.