The Posture of the Prideful Man
Two weeks ago, fellow author Ed Braswell wrote a great article on why we fail at family devotions (if you have not yet read it, I urge you to do so by clicking here). The reasons (excuses might be a better word) laid out in the article not only resonate with most of us, but they confront our heart attitudes behind those justifications. That circumstances in the Christian life necessitate such an article (and not just one, but thousands of articles in Christian media) reveals much about the state of our spiritual well-being.
Devotions are more than a checkbox on the Christian’s daily agenda. Devotions are an opportunity to set aside specific time to build your relationship with God. It is about learning from Him through His Word. For myself, I am not so concerned about whether or not someone has completed a ‘formal time’ of devotion for the day, but that they are spending time in God’s Word.
Time in God’s Word is an important task that necessitates the designation of ‘priority’ in our daily walks as children of God. With all of this in mind, I want to build off of Pastor Ed Braswell’s article and suggest another reason why our devotional times, whether it be as an individual or as a family, often fail. In evaluating my own life, I have come to the conclusion: Sometimes our devotional life deteriorates is because we neglect to make our time for God a time with God.
We live in a culture that values independence and self-reliance that is rooted in pride. They are worldview values that can easily carry over into our spiritual walk. The mindset is that we are self-sufficient and self-sustaining, therefore there is little need for someone else to teach us. We have taken our devotional time and made it about trying to teach ourselves, and thus it becomes stagnant.
We remember though, that the Lord Jesus Christ made a promise that one day a helper, the Holy Spirit, would come to teach and remind us all that Christ had taught (John 14:26). That promise comes in the middle of an exhortation to keep Christ’s commands and stand firm in Him when He is no longer physically present upon this earth. We need the help and cannot do it on our own strength alone. If we could, there would be no need for a helper to come.
Who is this helper though? He is of course the Holy Spirit as the passage outlines. However, we must understand something deeper. He is God. The Holy Spirit is part of the trinity, coequal and consubstantial with God the Father and God the Son (cf. Matthew 28:19; Acts 5:3-4; 28:25-26; and 2 Corinthians 13:14). Here we have an incredible point! The teachings are gotten directly from the source, so in the case of Scripture, who better to learn the Word of God from then from God?
A devotional time is God unveiling the truth for us. It is an unveiling of Himself to us. Further, He exposes who we are. As creator, He is the expert and knows more about us than we know about ourselves. Finally, He displays our relationship to Him. The devotional time should elicit a response from us. As we see who God is, who we are, and who we are in relationship to Him, our knees should drop in submission, our heads should fall in remorse while our mouths open in repentance as our love for God deepens.
How is it then, that we bridge that gap? How do we transform our devotional time from a time for God to a time with God? The answer is simple and succinct, the action is demanding and daring. Prayer. It’s an easy word with an easy meaning. However, it stipulates action that leads to transformation.
The Posture of the Wise Man
John writes in his first epistle, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie – just as it has taught you, abide in him” (1 John 2:27). He is warning about false teachers and being on guard and with that background John writes there is no need for anyone to teach us. We need God to teach us. This does not mean we have an excuse to forsake teaching times at church or from others, as God has chosen to use those vessels to convey truth. The point here is that the foundation of truth is taught to us through the Holy Spirit, which is the anointing that John makes reference to.
Devotions are meant to seek understanding (knowledge) in order to put it into practice (wisdom). Both wisdom and knowledge begin with the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10). Thus, our pursuit of truth begins with a reverence and holy fear of our Lord. It is a reverence that recognizes we are not self-sustained, but must be God-sustained. So, like James, we see our lack of godly wisdom and understanding, so we ask God for it . . . in other words, we pray to God to be our guide and teacher (cf. James 1:5).
The Posture of the Praying Man
Our times of devotion neglect times of prayer. Prayer is essential to the Christian life, particularly to our times of devotion, and reminds us of three things:
- God: Prayer reminds us of who God is.
- Ourselves: Prayer also reminds us of who we are without God and our need to trust Him for our lives.
- Others: Prayer also reminds us of others and, while trusting God for their lives, reminds us of the need to care for God’s people with the love of Christ.
Thus, prayer in itself is a time of learning for God to teach us, because in it we learn about God and God’s people and His sovereign reign of divine judgment and divine mercy over them. It is through specific prayer, that God grants wisdom to us for specific circumstances. Prayer then must be part of our devotions because it builds our relationship with God and with others.
Prayer is an acknowledgement of our need to rely upon God. It denies the self-sufficiency and individualism that defines today’s culture and instead places all that we are at His feet. It is a point of submission to Him to touch our hearts and minds for life transformation.
Finally, prayer is also an opportunity to ask God to teach us during our devotion time, thus transforming it. A time in God’s word becomes lead by God rather than lead by self. Instead of the devotional time being another begrudging ‘to-do’ item in the long list of do’s and don’ts, it becomes time with God in which we are blessed by His presence.
Prayer petitions God to be our teacher. Prayer petitions God to be our Savior. Prayer petitions God to be our God.