Whether you call it a quiet time, devotional, daily office, or any of a multitude of other names, the fact remains that at the core of discipleship is personal times of prayer and study. But how do we go about this? Where should we start? Are there some best practices? All of these are good questions which demand thoughtful answers. Over the next year, one of my projects on this blog is to delve into devotional habits and help all of us grow in their use and I pray effectiveness in our lives.
I’ll begin post #1 with what is perhaps the highest barrier to starting or maintaining a regular time of devotion…GUILT AND SHAME.
All too often, we know we need to do something, or maybe better put, we desire to do something and yet the lack of it in our lives prevents us from ever starting. I believe this is true for our devotional lives. I haven’t met anyone who would disagree that regular times of prayer and study would help them live a life more in tune with God. And yet, most do not practice it. Why? There is an expectation that it is too difficult, too time consuming, and/or a feeling of guilt about not doing it and allowed that to turn into shame that is addressed by not thinking about it or doing anything about it.
Let me share what turned all of that around for me. It is one small perspective shift that made all the difference.
GOD TRULY DESIRES TO SPEND TIME WITH ME. PERIOD…END OF DISCUSSION.
God is not sitting on high counting the days or weeks since you last prayed or read Scripture. God, in fact, is waiting patiently and expectantly for the next moment you do. God is more focused on the present than your past. I often say that when we come to God we find open arms of welcome and not a wagging finger of condemnation. And so it is with our devotional time. You, and I, have it in our heads that we’ve disappointed God by our lack of discipline; by our laziness; by our refusal to engage. What we have done in actuality is deprive ourselves instead of disappointed God.
And that has made all the difference for me. The guilt and shame melted away the minute I knew that God was excited about whatever I did devotionally and whenever I did it. Now if I miss a day, or have a bad week, I don’t beat myself up by saying I’ve disappointed God. Instead, I realize God is ready for me to return and will do so without judgment.
So, relax…God is more ready to hear you in prayer than you are to pray. More ready to listen to your requests than you are to make them. And more ready to meet you right where you are than you are to admit you are where you are.