So everyday in seminary one student gets the opportunity to give a quick devotional on whatever topic they want. I am having a hard time choosing a good devotional and am in need of some ideas.
While I could probably rattle off a dozen ideas for a seminary devotional for you, or enlist others to do so, this would not help you nearly so much as assisting you in being guided by the Spirit. The Lord knows you. The Lord knows the others in your seminary class (including the teacher). He knows when you will be asked to give devotionals, and who will be present on those days. And he knows the needs of all those people, and whose need you are best suited to fill. Rather than trusting in another person, no matter how much wiser they may appear, turn first to the Lord.
This can seem much more difficult, but it needn’t be as difficult as it may seem. I’d like to suggest a few simple steps to help you.
First, don’t wait until the last minute. Don’t even wait for the assignment (see D&C 88:83 and D&C 58:26-27). You already know you will be called on to give a devotional eventually, so start right away, so that you’re not rushed. Don’t work on it at times when you’re constantly watching the clock or distracted by other things. Choose a time when you can dedicate yourself to this purpose.
Next, pray. Pray before you start each effort related to this task, pray during, and pray after. Ask the Lord to open your mind to ideas, and trust that he will (see Moroni 10:5). Thank him for the opportunity, thank him for helping you to take time to work on it, and for guiding you as you do. Tell him you want to say what he would have you say. If thoughts come to you while praying, don’t dismiss them, even if they seem unusual. For example, you might remember having seen someone being intimidated; that memory might be the Lord’s way of telling you to speak on the topic of kindness or developing charity or humility.
After you pray, sit down with the tools you need (scriptures, manuals, magazines, and a way to record your thoughts). Record whatever topics come into your mind. This is not the time to rule things out, but to consider everything. Don’t be afraid to explore. Let your curiosity and interests serve you here. If you have no ideas right away, turn to the Topical Guide or Bible Dictionary and scan the headings. Open the scriptures to where you’ve been studying, or like to study, and read the chapter headings. What thoughts come to your mind? Record them – don’t worry about whether they’re the right ones, just note them. As you do this, you will eventually recognize one idea as the right one, or you will feel more strongly about some ideas than others. Focus on those. Look into them further. As you do this, you’ll find your mind increasingly focusing on a specific idea or aspect of a topic. This is one way the Spirit guides us – by helping us recognize something when we find it, or by leading us in a narrowing path rather than immediately telling us where that path leads.
By praying, starting even when you don’t know where to start, making notes, and continuing on, you are showing the Lord that you’re willing to work, that you’re ready to pay attention to his promptings, and that you won’t give up even when it’s hard (see D&C 9:5-9). This opens the door for the Spirit to come and lead you to what the Lord would have you say. Don’t worry if the topic you’re guided to seems like the same old thing or even a weird thing – just trust in the increasing focus the Lord is giving you, and pursue the path (see Proverbs 3:5-6). If you reach a point where it feels wrong, trust that and back up, or switch to another topic. Pray for additional guidance.
If the topic that keeps coming to mind seems boring, don’t dismiss it. Dig into it instead. Read everything you can find about it in the Bible Dictionary and Topical Guide. Pray about why the Lord keeps bringing this topic to your mind. Sometimes, the things we hear most often are things we’ve never really studied or pondered, but when we do, we discover a depth we never imagined.
And if it feels like a variety of topics would be acceptable, and that the Spirit isn’t giving you a specific enough answer, just choose one. It could be that the Lord finds all of them acceptable and trusts you because he knows you will do well (see D&C 80:3). Or it could be that he wants you to study a little more, and then additional guidance or inspiration will come.
I know that this may not be the answer you were hoping for regarding ideas for a seminary devotional, but I also know that you will be blessed far more by learning these principles than simply by being given a list of ideas to choose from. I pray that you will trust in the Lord, seek him early, and do the work he asks us to do. Then, with your heart and mind prepared to receive direction, he will guide you in your efforts until you find the right words to lift those who will hear your devotionals.