I was challenged when I was in upper elementary school to block out a period of time each day to read my Bible and spend time in prayer. I loved making lists and planning schedules and each time I did I would make sure that included in my schedule was a block for “My Devotions”.
During “my devotion” block of time, I would pull out my daily reading list that I had planned out, open my Bible and read the assigned Bible passage for the day. I would quickly spend a few minutes in prayer (which consisted of asking God to help me have a good day). I would close up my Bible, pull out the day’s “to-do” list and put a check next to the words: devotions, and another check next to the word: prayer. (It always felt so good to get two things checked off my list so early in my day.) I did that for years. There were times when I read the Bible and learned new things. However, most of the time it just felt really good to accomplish something – and feel like I was going to have a good day because I had given my first hours awake to the Lord in Bible reading and prayer.
Several years ago, the Holy Spirit began challenging me about this time I labeled as “My Devotions.” He began showing me where I had taken something that should have been precious and meaningful and had turned it into a legalistic, self gratifying, religious exercise. I started to see where I had turned “my devotions” into a time of religious work and not reverent worship.
Here are the areas where the Holy Spirit showed me where I was wrong:
1. The ‘Check –it- off- the -List’ mentality
By nature, I love making lists and watching the list get smaller as I accomplish things throughout my day. That is fine and well for housework and school goals; but when it comes to having a relationship with someone – the goal for interaction should be to spend time with that person – not to check it off our list so we can move onto the next thing. I would find it offensive if my husband did that to me in our marriage relationship; yet that was what I was doing to God every morning. I was more concerned with the check-mark on my list than the relationship I was supposed to be cultivating.
2. The ‘God- in- a- Box” Mentality
I did not read my Bible or pray outside of “my devotion” time. There were times that God would prompt me to sit down and read a passage or two; but I would argue it away. I reasoned that I had so much to do on that day’s list that I just didn’t have time to sit down and read more of my Bible – especially when I already had had “my devotions” earlier that morning! In essence, I was putting God in a box. I would get the Bible out and play with it for the designated amount of time in my schedule and then put it back when the time was up. “My devotions” was the time when I could think about God; but when the time was up – so were my thoughts of Him.
3. Frustration When I Didn’t get “My Devotion” Fix
Is there anything more carnal that a Mom that gets mad at her kids and loses her temper because they interrupted her during her “my devotion” time? The Holy Spirit brought great conviction about the attitudes of my heart when I was not able to finish my planned out “my devotion” time. (It is kind of hypocritical to be reading your Bible and fuming mad at your kids because they interrupted your time.) Yeah – major conviction on that one! There was also frustration if I was up late at night or in the middle of the night with a sick child. The thought line I had was, “hurry up and get to sleep – I have to get up early in the morning to have “my devotions”!. Somehow, I’m pretty sure God didn’t want me ministering to my children when they needed me most with a spirit of frustration because I was not going to get to have “my devotions” when I was scheduled to in the morning.
4. Guilt When I Didn’t Get to “My Devotions”
I cannot begin to tell you the guilt that I would have when I did not have “My Devotions”. Major guilt. I would confess it to God – (over and over again). Try the next day to do better, by getting up early for ‘my devotions’. I would even try getting up earlier than normal so I could get caught up on the reading from my planned out list. When the guilt got so bad I would just give up on the ‘me devotion’ time for a while. (No one likes to feel guilty all the time); but alas, that led to more guilty feelings. Yeah the cycle was not fun at all! “My Devotions” should have been a time of anticipation of getting to spend time with God; but when I was stuck on this cycle, it was dread. There were times “My Devotions” actually pulled me away from God; because in my mind He was disappointed that I had failed Him once again in being faithful to “My Devotions”.
5. Using “My Devotions” as a Good-Luck Charm
I remember one night crying to my husband and telling him how bad my day had been. The kids were all little (and when you have lots of little kids in the house - you have bad days…). As I was crying and lamenting to him about my ‘terrible, horrible, no good – VERY bad day’, I remember making this statement: “I don’t know what went wrong. I got up and had “my devotions” today! I thought that was supposed to help me not have days like this!”
The Holy Spirit began to show me that I was trusting in my work and effort (having “my devotions”) as the solution to bad days. That is self dependence (no matter how many verses I read from my reading plan that morning!). I was depending on my effort of getting up and reading my Bible, for such and such an amount of time, to give me strength for the good day I would have. (Of course it would be a good day because of the faithfulness I had made towards the Christian discipline of “My Devotions”). While this may sound ok – it indeed is not. The ONLY one that I can depend upon to get me through the day is Jesus Christ. No effort of my own is worthy of my dependence. There is no strength in me – even if I did read my Bible for 30 minutes and checked it off my list before the kids got out of bed. I was depending on “my devotions” and not on my God! There is a huge difference!
The very word devotion means worship done in private. Ever so slowly, the Holy Spirit showed me the error of my thinking. I needed to be spending time with God in devotion (worship) to Him, not in some religious good luck charm ritual. I started to see how much of a burden it had been to have “my devotions”. I stopped having “my devotions” and instead focused on living my days in devotion to the God who saved me. It completely changed my life!
I hope you will join me next Wed for Part Two: Moving from Devotions to Devotion.
Thanks for stopping by, I’m so glad you did.