When I became a believer in Jesus, I was taught early on to have very regular daily personal devotions. It was a valuable discipline, which carries through to this day. However…
I have also learned that there is a balance of freedom and form in the life of worshipper.
This lesson came home to me most powerfully when we were about to have our first son. Babies have an odd habit of thoroughly disrupting anything resembling a schedule, and my wife was concerned about how the sleep/feeding cycles were going to impact her (very regular) schedule of Bible-reading and prayer. Turns out that God is perfectly capable of sustaining His people in the midst of unpredictability and relative chaos.
Most believers find benefit from a disciplined and regular schedule, and most believers also find, over time, that rigidity can be unproductive and a period of less-structured free-form devotions can be exactly what is needed. Liberating ourselves from the mentality that there is one “right” method to personal devotions is important in experiencing the freedom of grace, and giving God room to work in new ways.
Also, a word about fixed notions of the “right” time to have devotions. I am wired as a morning person, so the standard advice that one should have devotions first thing in the morning fits easily into my modus operandi. However, it is vital that we respect our internal makeup in these matters – some people feel nearly worthless in the morning but really come alive in the evening. For them, the oft-quoted maxim, “Be sure to see the face of God before you see the face of man,” while well-meaning, may lead to hopeless bondage. Instead, built your devotional schedule around your best times, and give yourself (and others!) flexibility. We are free to experiment, evolve, and discover what works best in our lives.
So, to sum up – don’t get locked in to one framework, and don’t bind others. God is big and powerful enough to accomodate our many styles and makeups. Embrace the necessity of discipline, enjoy the flexibility of freedom, and above all, walk in the liberty of grace.
How have you grown and changed in your devotional approach? Have you found a good balance of freedom and form, or are you still struggling to find a path of peace in personal worship?