Private devotions aren’t magic. We know that (for the most part).
But still, we can be tempted to think that if we just figure out the secret formula — the right mixture of Bible meditation and prayer — we will experience euphoric moments of rapturous communion with the Lord. And if that doesn’t happen, our formula must be wrong.
The danger of this misconception is that it can produce chronic disappointment and discouragement. Cynicism sets in and we give up or whip through them to alleviate guilt because devotions don’t seem to work for us.
Our longing for intimate communion with God is God-given. It’s a good thing to desire, ask for, and pursue. The Spirit does give us wonderful occasional tastes. And this longing will be satisfied to overflowing some day (Psalm 16:11).
But God has other purposes for us in the discipline of daily Bible meditation and prayer. Here are a few:
1. Soul Exercise (1 Corinthians 9:24): We exercise our bodies to increase strength, endurance, promote general health, and keep unnecessary weight off. Devotions are like exercise for our souls. They force our attention off of self-indulgent distractions and pursuits and on to God’s purposes and promises. If we neglect this exercise our souls will go to pot.
2. Soul Shaping (Romans 12:2): The body will generally take the shape of how we exercise it. Running shapes one way, weight training shapes another way. The same is true for the soul. It will conform to how we exercise (or don’t exercise) it. This is why changing your exercise routine can be helpful. Read through the Bible one year, camp in a book and memorize it another year, take a few months to meditate on and pray through texts related to an area of special concern, etc.
3. Bible Copiousness (Psalm 119:11): A thorough, repeated, soaking in the Bible over the course of years increases our overall Biblical knowledge, providing fuel for the fire of worship and increasing our ability to draw from all parts of the Bible in applying God’s wisdom to life.
4. Fight Training (Ephesians 6:10-17) makes us more skilled spiritual warriors.
5. Sight Training (2 Corinthians 5:7).
And “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
6. Delight Cultivation (Psalm 37:3-4): When a couple falls in love there are hormonal fireworks. But when married they must cultivate delight in one another. It is the consistent, persistent, faithful, intentional, affectionate pursuit of one another during better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health that cultivates a capacity for delight in each other far deeper and richer than the fireworks phase.
Similarly, devotions are one of the ways we cultivate delight in God. Many days it may seem mundane. But we will be surprised at the cumulative power they have to deepen our love for and awareness of him.
There are many more benefits. You could certainly add to this list. But the bottom line is this: don’t give up on daily devotions. Don’t whip through them. Don’t let them get crowded out by other demands.
Brick upon brick a building is built. Lesson upon lesson a degree is earned. Stroke upon stroke a painting is created. Your devotions may have seemed ordinary today, but God is making something extraordinary through it. Press on. Don’t short-change the process.