This week we look at the idea of devotional time. For many people devotional time congers up very specific practices like daily prayer time or those little books I have out for people at the holiday times. But devotional time is not that specific. It is anything that we do that shows our commitment to a faith in God. It should be daily and not just on Sundays. It should be time set aside from our every day responsibilities to connect with our maker. So in many ways this one of the harder spiritual practices in our busy 21st century world. Our schedules rarely have time for devotion so we need to be even more intentional in setting aside time for it. It is an important practice for our children and grandchildren to see us doing. So they can learn how to connect with God, others, and themselves. The world cannot be allowed to demand everything from us. It’s not healthy for anyone.
We cannot allow the world to take the place of God. So where do we find the time? My day starts at 6 AM (every day. There is no such thing as sleeping in anymore) I stumble out of bed. Fumble my way down the stairs trying to wake up. I make a bottle with Maddie’s vitamin in it. All the while she is already awake and demanding to be fed, jumping up and down in her crib. Then I feed her, change her diaper, change her clothes, grab anything she needs to take to school with her, let her brush her teeth while she turns the water on and off with delight. This brings us to 6:30 AM. Then it is downstairs time where I make my lunch, try to listen to the news, make Maddie’s breakfast, sit with her while she eats, clean her up when she’s done, change her diaper again, give her kisses and then Bill takes her to school. Now it is 7:30 AM. Then I have time to drink some coffee, eat breakfast, clean the kitchen up, change, walk the dog, make beds, and get out of the house to come to the church by 9 AM.
So I understand that not everyone has a spare moment in the morning for devotions. Then many of us have day time responsibilities and work capped off with a busy evening. My day doesn’t officially end in craziness most days until 8:30 or 9:00 PM and then I am plain exhausted. It is easy to forget about God in all that chaos. But it is essential to our well being that we set aside time for God; time to breath; time to connect and to seek a presence.
We were not meant to work nonstop. God gave us the Sabbath with the understanding that we need time to connect with him, each other, and ourselves. We also need to take the time to live into spiritual practices in our lives. Even Jesus needed time away from everyone to connect. In our scriptures, we see how the Psalmist took time to offer up offerings and prayer to God. He needed to connect to the holy as a way to guide him through some rough times. In the New Testament, Jesus cultivated and regularly worked on his connection to God.
He went into the desert, or was driven there depending on which version you read, on purpose. It was a devotional practice where he learned to depend on God even in the most challenging of circumstances. He fasted; he prayed; he spent time in solitude. All of these are spiritual practices that calm us, that help us to see God, that bring solace to our souls. These practices, these types of devotional times, are what remind us that we do not travel life alone and they help to build us up for tomorrow. These practices keep our minds on what the theologian J.I. Packer writes, “Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place on their own”.
So this week, begin to find a devotional time each day. Some time that you can dedicate to God and connecting with the holy inside of each of you. It doesn’t have to be an hour, a half hour, a day, or look like 40 days of fasting in a desert. It doesn’t have to include animal sacrifice as it had in the Psalms reading from this morning. We just need to set aside time. For me, I plan to find time each day after all the chaos of the day is done to sit in the quiet of the moment and to seek God in a moment of prayer. It’s just a few minutes nothing more is required of us. We could even double up that time with walking the dog, taking a shower, or driving or commuting to work. Just set aside 5 or 10 minutes away from the work of the day, time just for you and God.
In that time you just might find the conversation with God that you have been missing. You also might find that all those stresses from the day, the week, and the year begin to be put into their appropriate place as you realize beyond a doubt that you are loved, valued, and created by God for God’s purpose and everything else that weighs heavily upon our hearts takes less precedent than it did before. Devotional time is our way of inviting God into our lives. It is our way of inviting God to lead us when we are lost, to heal our wounds when the world has beaten us up, and to give us courage when life seems to be too much.
 J.I.Packer, 20th century Christian theologian.
(Based on Psalm 5 and Mark 1: 9-12, 16-20, 35-39)