Hello,This is a very timely insight by Greg Koukl as our church is going to do a series on prayer. I'm a little nervous anytime our church decides to do a series. Especially if it distracts us from the Gospel and the person and works of Jesus Christ. I know that it is strange that I would be hesitant about the subject of prayer. I mean, who could ever question or have an issue with that? But, yet I am afraid of having it become another requirement or burden placed upon us. I'm afraid we will be compelled to add more prayer time to our day. And we will be told that we need to do a better job of praying and having quiet time. Then I will feel the heavy burden and I will feel frustrated because I continue to fail as I strive to be more Godly in my prayer life. However, when I hear the Gospel being preached I feel compelled to pray as I am grateful for all that Christ has done for us. I'm no longer driven by guilt but by gratitude and in light of all that, I love it when the worship service ends with a benediction which is a "good word". And since we have heard that we are forgiven we can go out and share this blessing with those around us and it keeps the things of life in perspective.
I know that nourishing our relationship with God is an important part of cultivating sensible faith. But one way of pursuing that—having a daily "quiet time"—has always been difficult for me. Maybe it's been hard for you, too.
First, I've never done well with the ritual because I could never be consistent. The fact that I'm not really an early morning person combined with a chaotic schedule both seem to sabotage my best intentions.
Second, I don't think you have to have "daily devotions" to be a good Christian. It's become somewhat of an Evangelical sacrament, a source of blessing for many, but also a source of guilt for others who don't (or can't) keep the regimen.
Yes, the Bible says we should pray, study, and meditate—no question there—but it doesn't demand a particular time or pattern. There are a number of ways to satisfy that requirement. Jesus, David, and others often started their days with prayer, but that doesn't mean it's the best pattern for you and I.
Third, I've long suspected the effort is somewhat misdirected. Quiet times are encouraged as a way to "get closer to God," meant to accomplish a subjective goal (generate emotional closeness), not an objective one (gain spiritual understanding).
It's not that such a goal is wrong as much as it's wrong-headed. Feeling close to God, it seems to me, is much like the pursuit of happiness. It's gained not as a goal in itself, but as the outcome of pursuing some other goal. To get something for yourself, you have to focus on someone else: God, in this case.
So I have a recommendation. Instead of trying (unsuccessfully) to have devotions every morning, I have devotion. That is, I take five to ten minutes early in the day to focus on God—not to get something from Him, but to actively devote myself to Him for the day. After I sing a hymn or two, I use a biblical prayer (I'll share it with you in next week's Insight) as a guide to express my dedication to the Lord.
Devotion (in the sense I'm using the word) is different from "devotions." My goal isn't to squeeze a sense of well-being out of the encounter, but to focus entirely on Him, worshipping Him, thanking Him and devoting myself to His purposes for the day. The focus is entirely on God, not on my feelings, surrendering myself to the Father, no matter how I feel nor what befalls me. It's fairly brief by design, but still very meaningful.
My moments of devotion may develop into a longer prayer time, but they don't have to. Instead, no matter what my schedule is, I can start each day devoted to Christ, then anticipate time for regular prayer and supplication later in the day by scheduling it or squeezing it in using the methods I discussed in the last email. And remember to look for next week's Insight where I will share a biblical prayer as a model.
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