We all know that diving into God’s word daily is good for us, don’t we? We agree that it’s the only way to grow spiritually. So why do so few Christians maintain the habit of a daily devotional?
Maybe a new devotional from Brisbane pastor, evangelist and radio host Matt Prater might entice you away from your screens first thing in the morning.
He’s the only person I can think of who could dream up a devotional that includes dad jokes and Christian pick-up lines (which are just as cheesy). So if you want a daily groan with your daily honing (sorry) in God’s word, maybe this book is for you. It’s called History Makers: Devotions, Downloads and Dad Jokes.
“The Bible says to let your light shine and don’t hide your light, so I’ve got to use that gift.” – Matt Prater
Matt explains his reasoning this way. First, as to the dad jokes, he can’t help himself – they just pour out of him.
“I’ve become well known for my dad jokes. It’s a spiritual gift of mine. I’m hilariously funny when it comes to dad jokes, whether it be in my sermons, whether it be on the radio, and particularly around the dinner table. They just flow out of me. And, you know, the Bible says to let your light shine and don’t hide your light, so I’ve got to use that gift and let it shine,” he says.
Asked for his favourite dad joke, he is quick off the mark: “Why doesn’t Jesus wear jewellery? Because he breaks every chain.” Boom, boom. As for his favourite Christian pick-up line, he says: “I’ve been reading the book of Numbers lately and I was wondering, ‘Can I have yours?’”
On the more serious side, he says his passion is to encourage Christians to “self-feed” on God’s word so that they can then feed others.
That’s because he noticed the powerful effect that daily devotions had on him when he became a pastor 17 years ago. They continue to give him fresh revelations, which he uses in his preaching.
“Until then, as a younger Christian, I would do them occasionally but I wasn’t very disciplined with my devotions. When I became a pastor, I started doing a Bible in a year reading where you read through three Old Testament chapters, one or two New Testament chapters and often there’s a Psalm in there,” he explains.
“I got into the habit of doing it every morning, getting up early, having a coffee, reading the Scriptures and then writing down whatever I feel God’s saying to me. And I found that it became the best thing for my Christian growth.”
Matt is concerned at what he sees as a famine of God’s word in these days of digital distraction.
“Many Christians are too distracted with their devices and the busyness of life; there’s a cult of busyness where we wear it as a badge of honour to be busy, but we need to come away, rest, spend time with God and let him fill us up so that we can then fill others up,” he says.
He understands how easy it is to check our Facebook and read our emails before anything else. Still, he rewards himself with a “nice hot coffee” as he sits down and leaves an empty chair opposite and imagines Jesus sitting in it.
“That helps me realise I’m not just doing it on my own. Jesus is there with me, the Holy Spirit’s there with me to guide me through the Scriptures,” he says.
“I’m not just doing it on my own. Jesus is there with me.” – Matt Prater
The 82 devotions in this book follow a journaling format in which the reader is invited to jot down responses according to the principle of SOAP – S for Scripture, O for observation, A for application and P for prayer.
“We all need soap every day to clean ourselves, so we’re soaking in God’s word every day to keep clean spiritually,” he says.
“I’ve left half a page after each devotion where people can write down what they feel God is saying to them and maybe how the devotion has impacted them.
“They say that it takes 28 days to form a habit, so my heart behind the book is that people will do the devotions every day, and then when they finish the book, they’ll do their own devotions from then on.
“I also hope they will get back to the lost art of writing. David wrote most of the Psalms. Paul wrote most of the epistles. The great leaders of the faith were writers. A lot of Christians have lost the art of writing. We might be good at texting and sending emails, but it’s good to write down what we feel God is saying to us.”
“We might be good at texting and sending emails, but it’s good to write down what we feel God is saying to us.” – Matt Prater
Because Matt’s New Hope Church is an inner-city church that sees its harvest field as the homeless shelters around it, some of his devotionals are focused on Scriptures about reaching the poor. Others are Scriptures about turning from your sin.
“The beauty of reading through the Bible every year is you go through the minor prophets. A lot of people don’t read the minor prophets. A lot of people just read the gospels or the epistles because they’re the easiest ones to understand. But I love reading through the minor prophets.”
Matt says he loves the challenge the minor prophets make to consider topics such as justice, repenting from sin and turning from idols.
“They have a lot of challenges for Israel, and we can appropriate those challenges to us in 2022,” he says
“One of the things I love about reading through the whole Scriptures is you get the whole counsel of God. You get to understand the Old Testament principles as well as the New Testament principles – of course, they all go hand in hand.”
“We need to sharpen our sword every morning and meditate on and memorise God’s word.” – Matt Prater
One of Matt’s favourite verses is Joshua 1:8: “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (NIV)
“We need to get back to that Christian meditation, where we meditate on God’s word, we dwell on God’s word,” says Matt.
“The New Age has stolen the word meditation and said that you’re meant to think about nothing, but we can actually meditate on Jesus and his word.
“Memorise Scripture as well. The Spirit is the only offensive weapon in the armour of God in Ephesians 6, and a lot of Christians have blunt swords. They don’t know how to use the sword of the Spirit, which is the only offensive weapon in the armour of God. We need to sharpen our swords every morning and meditate on and memorise God’s word. That’s the hope behind the book.”
Matt invites anyone who wants to buy a copy of his book also to sponsor one to give to someone who comes to the soup kitchen for the homeless at his church.
“We visit 44 homeless shelters every Friday, handing out meals. And there was one guy recently who bought 50 books and said, ‘Can you please hand them out to the people in the homeless shelters?’ So I’ve had the privilege of doing that in the last few weeks … because we’ve people living in these shelters who have come to Christ. A lot of them still don’t come to church. If I give them one of these, it will make an impact.”