A Complement to Devotional Times

Much of spirituality within evangelical Christianity is centred around the renowned quiet time. This practice can work itself out in various ways in the lives of Christians, but, typically, most are encouraged that a few specific things be involved in the process:

  • Spend a little time in the Scripture, or possibly another devotional book like My Utmost For His Highest.
  • Possibly have a journal out to record certain things that you sense God highlight in the Scripture.
  • Spend time interacting with God through prayer, as well as many more are now emphasising the reality of not only speaking to God, but also hearing from Him.

Furthermore, most are encouraged to do this in the morning. But, thankfully, most realise that such a practice can be done at any time of the day since veil has been ripped and we have access into the holy of holies at all times through Christ’s blood. The night owls give a big hearty cheer!

While such a practice of quiet time, or devotional time, or whatever you want to call it, is usually quite instrumental in our own personal walk and growth in God, I would say that spiritual growth should not be completely summed up in such a practice.

Why? Well, let me share something that I believe will complement such devotional times, something that is on the heart of God.

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times in some articles over the last couple of weeks, I have slowly been reading through the Psalms. I’m not really trying to read one a day, though if I can, that would be great. I’m just reading through them, soaking up what God would highlight from these differing inspired songs.

Not too long ago it was time to read Psalm 16. This is quite a familiar psalm, at least for me, but probably for many a Christians. It’s filled with a few well-known verses even though it is a mere 11 verses long. One such passage is the Messianic promise found in verse 10:

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
Or let your holy one see corruption.

This is quoted by Peter in Acts 2:27 and by Paul in Acts 13:35.

The final verse of Psalm 16 is another memorable passage:

You make known to me the path of life:
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

And that might even be one of my most favourite Scriptures in all of the Bible. I am frequently reminded of its truth, and knowing such, I am tempted to share some thoughts on this verse. But I will restrain myself for now.

Yet, another passage my heart is drawn to, one that continually draws me into the heart of God, is embedded right in the middle of the psalm. Its verse 8:

I have set the LORD always before me;
Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Even more specifically, it’s the first half of the verse that really speaks to me. The intimate psalmist, David, makes a beautiful statement about his desire to always set Yahweh before Him. I have set the LORD always before me. Yes, I just want to set Him right before me, in my mind’s eye, in my heart of hearts, that I might be continually drawn into His grace and love and transforming power.

The reality of the first half of verse 8 becomes even more true when we consider the second half of the verse: Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

God is truly at our right hand, or even more, as new covenant believers, He dwells within us. This was the promise of Christ in John 14:17:

You know him [the Spirit], for he dwells with you and will be in you.

So, we might even say we have an even greater advantage than David did in setting the Lord always before us since He has taken up residence within us. The One I am looking to continually set my heart on actually lives within. Just close your eyes and ponder that for a moment.

Therefore, while having set aside devotional times with the Lord is beautiful, strengthening and upbuilding, it should not stop there. When the Bible is closed, the journal is put back on the shelf and we head out the door to whatever awaits us, there is a sense in which our fellowship with God is not to stop.

Most of us know this. Most of us agree with it. It’s just simply a matter of praxis, or walking out that which we confess.

Sure, no doubt that intimacy with the Lord is not as regularly available in the midst of other activities of the day. There is work, kids, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and oh so much more to distract us. But the fellowship is available. [For those who have 100% conquered Psalm 16:8, please reserve your comments for elsewhere.]

I suppose it’s quite like the relationship between a husband and wife, though I am aware this imagery gets used quite frequently. Within the couple’s home, very close intimacy is available that is not as regularly available ‘out there’. I don’t just mean sexual intimacy, but conversation, physically embracing one another, enjoying a movie together, etc.

But, once the husband and/or wife head out the door into life and all its various aspects, such intimacy is not as available. Yet, there is still opportunity for expressing the relationship. A phone call during the day, thinking about the other partner at specific moments, and even an text message in these days. Or, if the two are out and about together, there is the opportunity for holding hands and enjoying conversation, even on the go. But, again, they are not involved in the very intimate closeness as was available in their own home.

And, I see this very similar to our relationship with the Lord. And, knowing such passages as Revelation 19:7 and 21:2, which refer to the corporate body of Christ as a Bride, I know the comparison is true.

Therefore, while we should be encouraged, and even challenged, in our intimacy with God, our time of stillness before Him, we should not forget the availability of relationship with Him the other 23 and half hours of the day (even in our sleep).

I have set the LORD always before me;
Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

And, even this morning, I read Psalm 26 with the first half of verse 3 really catching my eye:

For your steadfast love is before my eyes.

What a way to keep the Lord always before us: by keeping His steadfast, covenant, committed love before us! There is no other love like this, for even Psalm 63:3 teaches us that God’s faithful love is better than life itself! What a way to draw us in to the heart of God even in the midst of emails, reports, deliveries, construction, and whatever else we are involved in.

With such musings above, many might be reminded of Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God. Though his Roman Catholic theology comes through, there is no doubt he was a man that wanted to know God, to simply love Him through the smallest of activities. But, in all reality, most of us do not have the opportunity of living in such a convent community. We have real life to get on with, and we want to be ‘out and about’ so we can be salt and light. Nevertheless, it is an inspiring and challenging account.

But, as I bring this article to a close, I am reminded of another contemplative Christian, one of the Quaker tradition – Thomas Kelly. In his little book entitled A Testament of Devotion, amongst the first words he pens are these:

‘Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return.’

Some might be tempted to red flag these words as sounding new age. But remember these are the words of a contemplative Quaker of the first half of the 1900’s. He is referring to an inner intimacy with the Lord.

Kelly goes on to encourage us:

‘There is a way of offering our mental life on more than one level at once. On one level we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of the external affairs. But deep within behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship and a gentle receptiveness to divine breathings.’

I think these are in line with the words of Psalm 16:8:

I have set the LORD always before me;
Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

So, let us keep drawing in through devotional, intimate time with the Lord. But let us also remember that the Eternal One awaits our affections throughout the day, even in the midst of our tedious work schedules. Hey, we might even start to become a little intimate Him as we are ‘out and about’.

Lord, draw us in.

One thought on “A Complement to Devotional Times

  1. Scott,

    Another great post as usual! As I was reading this, I was reminded of the story in Luke about Mary and Martha. Too many times, I act like Martha and not enough like Mary who was soaking in the presence of Jesus. Even my devotion time was done in the heart of Martha and not Mary (‘I need to make sure I read what’s on my daily checklist’).

    Thank you for this timely post!!!

    YBIC,
    Carl

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