As disciples of Jesus Christ, out of devotion to Him and the Father, we should have a disciplined walk. That discipline is filled with purpose, and that purpose includes being Christ-like. As a result, we devote specific times for prayer, study, corporate worship, and so on. Keep in mind that prayer is actually an ongoing activity that’s not limited to a certain time. Nonetheless, it boils down to putting first things first. That is to say, we give God our first fruits. He gets the best of us.
That discipline takes on habits, or as the Bible says, customs. For example, And He (Jesus) came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read (Luke 4:16).
Here’s something to consider: His customs or habits were based on the will of the Father.
Habits are our default patterns or routines, if you will. They help us maintain order. As long as they’re held with a proper perspective, they can be a good thing. Habits automatically carve out times of focused devotion. They have their own defenses in that they tend to resist anything that comes between us and our time with God. As long as it’s attached to devotion which is mindful of our relationship with Him, it is very good. “This is the time I get to spend with God.” We need to be wary of that phrase changing to “I have to spend time with God.” The difference is one is based on relationship, while the later one has now become a religious exercise.
Discipline rooted in devotion should regulate our habits.
True devotion operates by love, which means our discipline does as well. If our habits become traditions (of men), we will lose sight of love. At that point, habits become self-serving. If God Himself cannot interrupt your “normal time” without you getting frustrated or even angry, something shifted. Our relationship has to be both solid and fluid at the same time. We are firm in the faith, and as a result, God has the freedom to lead us when, where and how He desires, without our resistance. How does that look?
A simple example would be our time being interrupted by an unexpected visit by a friend. We should be able to greet him or her with love and affection, minus any resentment for “taking our time.” Especially, if he or she is in need. There are times the Father will break into our routine and send us out. He may want us to go talk with someone, and the best time to do that is during our devotional time. We have to stay open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Wouldn’t it be considered devotion if Jesus said, “Lets go have coffee with Joe,” and we obeyed His voice? It’s all part of the relationship. He wants us to love people well, and that’s something to which we should be devoted. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
It is important to guard our time with Him; yet, we should be careful not to fall into the trap of habits becoming dead works. If you should happen to miss your set time for an unforeseen reason (i.e. oversleep), don’t put yourself on a guilt trip.
Be careful not to equate your devotional time with some sort of badge of holiness.
There’s no such thing as being a “better Christian.” Jesus alone makes us holy. Going to church regularly is a good thing; but again, be wary of tradition. Don’t lose sight of worshipping God in spirit and in truth (see John 4:23-24). When we worship for the sake of worship, it’s no longer true worship. Please don’t misunderstand, that doesn’t necessarily mean we sleep in because we don’t feel like going. That’s where discipline comes into play. You know, deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Jesus (see Matthew 16:24). Conversely, there may be a time when you need to sleep in, and that is the Father’s desire for you that day. Don’t make yourself go when you’re supposed to stay home. That’s not being Spirit led, nor is it forsaking the fellowship of the believers when you obey. Jesus is our Sabbath! He is our rest; and we rest when we cease from doing our own works (see Hebrews 4:9-10). Deny yourself means you don’t insert yourself into the situation; it means surrendering to the will of God.
Devotion leads to discipline, and discipline leads to habit. But these three are rooted in our love for God!