Mark 1:35 is one of my most beloved passages of Scripture concerning our Lord Jesus. It says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he got up, went out, and made his way to a deserted place, and there he was praying.” I love the verse because of the way in which it encourages me. Knowing that Jesus had a daily devotional time compels me to have one myself. If my Lord needed down time with the Heavenly Father, I’m sure I need such time as well. The problem is that life’s demands sometimes squeeze my priorities. I’m often tempted to get on with the day’s business without taking care of the most necessary business — private prayer and worship. Consider two keys for having a powerful devotional time.
If we want to spend time with God, we must make time for God. Many hold personal devotions as an aspired value, but the value never becomes actualized in their life. They know little of private prayer. They’ve never read through the Bible in its entirety, and they don’t know what it is like to have God speak to them through His Word. They can’t point to major life decisions or significant occasions in which the Lord used personal worship to guide them. Such emptiness is often all a result of a lack of priority. Because such people haven’t prioritized Bible reading and prayer, they have missed out on the blessing of God. Too often modern believers are too busy about a multitude of things. All the while, they claim they don’t have time for God. Jesus told His disciples, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Our Lord uttered those words when discussing the way in which pagan people often crazily seek after material goods. Instead of busying their lives with materialistic pursuits, His disciples needed to prioritize personal worship. The lesson can be applied to us. If we want to have the power and provision that comes from personal worship, we need to make such worship a priority. Have you set aside a time for private devotions?
Personal reflection is another requirement for a quality devotional time. Many believers fall into the trap of spending time with God in the morning while giving little thought to Him throughout the rest of the day. I call this “the God in the box routine.” In this condition, Christians isolate their spiritual life to a special reserved “quiet time.” During a specified hour, they read the Bible and devotional materials. They even pray through a prayer list. Once the reserved time is complete, however, they go on with business as usual. Reasoning that they have completed their spiritual duty for the day, they approach the rest of their day with little regard for God.
The remedy for this condition involves a commitment to pondering the truth of God on a continual basis. The Psalmist did this. He confessed, “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice” (Psalm 55:17). Transformational worship involves more than scheduled times of prayer and Bible reading. It also involves spontaneous outbursts of praise and intercession.
Scripture memory is a key to succeeding in this area. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, He was able to withstand because He readily recalled Scripture from His spiritual arsenal (Matthew 4:4, 6, and 10). The Psalmist knew of the importance of Bible memorization. He sang, “I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Scripture and prayer shouldn’t be relegated to the prayer closet alone. We should carry the truth of God in our hearts throughout the day. When we are scared, hurt, insecure, resentful, or weak, we should reflect on heavenly realities. When we are glad, happy, joyful, and peaceful, we should return thanks to our Heavenly Father. This is the essence of true godliness — a constant frame of mind that oriented with the will and ways of God (Psalm 10:4 and Isaiah 26:3). If you want to experience the power of God in your life, get in the habit of taking spiritual timeouts throughout the day for the purpose of pondering the truth of God.
Dr. Patrick Latham