“Devotion” is an interesting term in our Christian circles. It’s interesting because “devotional” could have several meanings. I have heard Christians use “devotion” or “devotional” to refer to their morning routine wherein they might read Scripture, pray, or even read a book on Christian living or theology. “Devotional” could also refer to a specific book that usually contains brief theological and practical writings for encouragement. “Devotion” could also refer to one’s zeal for religion. “Devotion” could even refer to one’s commitment to religious activities like church, Bible studies, Sunday Schools, etc. I’ve also heard the terms used in the context of something that is particularly encouraging—like an online article, a sermon, or a school assignment.
And so, when I think about the nature of my “devotional life,” I’ve tried not to limit it to any one of the examples above. Rather, ever since I read Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God back in 2013, I’ve tried to follow his lead when he writes, “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.” The principle is that all of life is (or rather, should be) “devotion” or “devotional.” B. B. Warfield takes this principle (though not from Brother Lawrence) and applies it to theological studies. He writes, “You are students of theology; and, just because you are students of theology, it is understood that you are religious men.” The implication, which Warfield makes clear in his little speech, is that theological studies are not ends in themselves. Rather, theological studies ought to terminate on seeking, knowing, loving, and sharing God.
When such studies, or any other facet of life, eliminate God from their equations, we might create false dichotomies that say “God only belongs in this area of my life, not that one (e.g., work, relationships, games, etc.), or we might view God as being more present in the reading and praying of Scripture than in our “ordinary” vocational occupations. If we do this, we could fail to recognize that there is no aspect of life in which God is not present. “’Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?’, declares the LORD. ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’, declares the LORD.” (Jer. 23:24)
And so, my encouragement to us all is that we would view our “devotional lives” as an ongoing existence in God’s presence. I guess you could say that a Christian’s “devotional life” is his life. And though there are clear activities in which we engage that may seem more “religious” (like prayer, reading Scripture, Christian fellowship, etc.), in all that we do, we do coram Deo (“in the presence of God”). Where can we go from his Spirit? Or where can we flee from his presence? If we ascend to heaven, his is there. If we make our beds in Sheol, he is there. If we take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there his hand shall lead us, and his right hand shall hold us. (Ps 139:7–10) May we continue to immerse ourselves in Scripture, prayer, and fellowship with the body of Christ, but let us not forget that, like Brother Lawerence, we can meet God in as great tranquility in our “ordinary” lives as if we were upon our knees before the throne of God himself.
- May the Lord grant our students devotion in their studies.
- May the Lord grant our students perseverance in devotion in their studies.
- May the Lord grant our staff and faculty devotion in their work, research, writing, and teaching.
- May the Lord grant our staff and faculty perseverance in devotion in their work, research, writing, and teaching.
Brother Lawrence,The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004).
Lawrence, The Practice, 22.
I’ve written about this principle on this blog. See here: https://bcsmn.edu/joined/.