Christian duties such as Bible study, fasting, and prayer are often viewed as just another part of the Christian’s life. They are mere trivialities that, even when taken seriously, become time-sucking leeches to us. This is why even thinking about spending significant and intentional time in Bible study and prayer is exhausting.
In the fast food, fast banking, fast everything world we live in, efficiency is king. We want to get as much done as we possibly can, in as little time as we possibly can. And boy do we have a lot to do. Our jobs, families, and hobbies demand the majority of the hours that we have to give in a day. When it comes to our faith, our Christianity, our relationship with God, we view such duties as Bible study and prayer as just two more boxes to check off our to-do lists. When we view Bible study and prayer in this way, we will inevitably either drop them entirely or make them a minuscule part of our lives. Five minute devotion here. Two minute prayer there. Seriously, we just don’t have time for more. And what’s worse is that we use our justification as…well…justification. We justify our lack of Bible study and prayer with our justification. We argue that since our justification is not dependent on our works, but rather on Christ’s work, being overly concerned with works such as Bible study and prayer is unimportant at least, and legalistic at most.
If this is you, and recently this has been me, I want to encourage you (and myself) to drop the antinomian attitude and pick up your Bible. While justification must never be confused with sanctification, we must remember that true justification always leads to sanctification. If you are right with God, you will continue to grow in holiness and righteousness. I want to encourage you at the beginning of this week to resolve to open your Bible and read, and get on your knees and pray. It is through these delightful duties that the Christian grows in Christlikeness and learns how to glorify and enjoy God forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 2). If you need a satisfying quench from the hustle and bustle of your crazy busy life at work, home, and play, then look no further than those Christian duties you so easily push to the side as begrudging works.
The question then becomes “How do I get my heart and mind adjusted to be able to read and pray?” This is an honest question that my wife and I have each been struggling with. Do we want to resolve to pick our Bibles and get on our knees in prayer? Yes, absolutely! However, after a long day of classes and a long day of teaching, how do we even get in the proper mindset to carry out these Christian duties of grace? This question is important because it is important to be in the right state of mind and the right attitude of heart before entering into the presence of God through Bible study and prayer. The thought that has soothed my heart as I think about how to carry this out is the eternality of communion with God. Matters that far surpass the job you are about to go to, the size of your bank account, and the fight you just had with your spouse are at hand when you open your Bible and get on your knees in prayer. While everything you do in your day may be temporal, these Christian duties are not. The Word of God is eternal and so is the communion you enjoy with God through prayer.
These are major graces and duties set on an eternally glorious scale. Puritan John Flavel picked up on the uniqueness of what he calls the “duties” of Christianity like Bible study and prayer. If your mind and heart do not seem to be right when you think about opening your Bible today, let the words that follow correct your erroneous thoughts and attitudes as they have mine:
When you go to God in any duty, take your heart aside and say, ‘Oh my soul, I am now engaged in the greatest work that a creature was ever employed about; I am going into the awful presence of God upon business of everlasting moment. Oh my soul, leave trifling now; be composed, be watchful, be serious; this is no common work, it is soul-work; it is work for eternity; it is work which will bring forth fruit to life or death in the world to come.’ Pause awhile and consider your sins, your wants, your troubles; keep your thoughts awhile on these before your address yourself to duty. David first mused, and then spake with his tongue (Keeping the Heart: How to Maintain Your Love for God, pp. 75-76).