Do your devotions ever become monotonous, dull, repetitive and painful? You are not alone. Something needs to change otherwise your prayer life and spiritual life in general can become a burden rather than a joy. This podcast addresses this issue.
EM Bounds said that “Prayer is the easiest and hardest of all things. It is the simplest and the most sublime, the weakest and the most powerful. Its results lie outside the range of human possibilities; they are limited only by the omnipotence of God.”
Spending time in personal devotions and will cultivate your heart toward the transcendent things of life. Is the world evangelizing you and altering your views of life, sex, work, clothing, etc. or will God’s word be evangelizing your heart? Weeds don’t need work to grow, they grow when you neglect your garden. Your soul is your garden. The world comes in like weeds, if you do not cultivate it, before you know it you will become indistinguishable from the world.
I try to make time daily, to bathe my mind with his Holy word. Our God is a consuming fire and his word is a lamp in our lives. Let that fire and light refine and purify our thoughts and desires daily.
Solitude is important. But change the way you have your quiet times. If you do not, you end up with monotony. Stuart Grassian, a board-certified psychiatrist and a former faculty member at Harvard Medical School, has interviewed hundreds of prisoners in solitary confinement. In one study, he found that roughly a third of solitary inmates were “actively psychotic and/or acutely suicidal.” Why? Because doing the same thing over and over will make us insane!
The human minds needs variety and diversity—this applies to our personal devotional and prayer times.
How we have our prayers and devotions matters. What I mean by “how” is not only the posture of our heart, but the posture of our bodies as well.
My children, AnaKaterina And Daniel are 6 and 7 now. One day when they were told to bow their heads to pray, my son said “Daddy AnaKaterina kept her eyes open when we prayed!”
I asked him “And how did you know she did not close her eyes”? He did not even attempt to answer as he realized he was doing what he complained she was.
Now on a deep level why bother to bow our heads and pray? It does not matter does it? In some sense it does not matter because God sees our hearts. But we are bodily beings and how our body behaves has a great impact on our psyche. If you stay in your pajamas all day when you work at home it will have an effect on your work.
How you dress when you come to church or to the beach says something about what you value or hold to be worthy of your attention, even on a subliminal basis.
“At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls”
To have effective devotions, you need to provide variety. Change the way you do things, when you do things and how you pray.
Let us consider the historical account of the burning bush incident of Moses in the book of Exodus chapter 3.
Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, renowned Orthodox Priest gives us this illustration:
And God says two things to Moses. First of all he says: “Remove your shoes” Shoes, are made of leather from the skin of dead animals. So spiritually shoes signify what is lifeless, dead. This way God’s command at the burning bush means strip off the deadness of boredom, of over familiarity. Free yourself from the trivial, the mechanical, and the repetitive.
Then God says a second thing to Moses: “The place on which you are standing is Holy ground.” Moses becomes intimately aware of the reality of the earth under his feet, and the feel of the blades of grass on his soles. It becomes a sacrament, a mean of communion with the living God. If we take off our shoes spiritually, then we see that the world around us as no longer dead matter, but living presence.
You may ask, what do I do if I don’t feel like praying? I want to be honest and not hypocritical!
What if a mother does not feel like changing the pampers of her infant, or a police officer not answering a 911 call? They should do it anyway. Feelings come and go like gas. Kick yourself in your spiritual butt and do it anyway. But in saying this I am not saying ignore your feelings, if you have these persistent feelings of despair, don’t ignore them, address them, but don’t given in to them like a slave. Your feelings are God’s gift to you to enjoy the world he made. To be mastered by them is to court your animal side, your beastly side. Only small children and animals blindly follow whatever they feel! If it were up to my children they would eat Gummy bears for breakfast and lunch and dinner day long. Because they are little and immature they don’t know how to master their feelings yet, many adults are in the same sinking boat daily.
Impulses, emotions, feelings are short term,
Logic, reason and thinking helps you get far— but that is not enough.
If you do what you want to do now, you end up doing and being what you don’t want to be in the future!
However, if you do what you don’t want to do now, you will do and become what you want to in the future.
If you need some real encouragement in this area I recommend you check my article “Fake it, sometimes It is the right thing to do.”
Here are some links to a great quite or devotional times:
See Justin Taylor’s wonderful summary of Christian Mysticism here
And this one
So in summary cultivate the garden of your spirit with variety!
Let me know what you think