In the 1970’s and early 1980’s, there was an attempt to recover the dying daily discipline of meeting God as the first act of each new day. The valiant effort emphasized the importance of daily ‘quiet time’. The attempt was noble, but rigid and legalistic. Nothing was acceptable, according to those leading the campaign, short of a devotional time each morning, seven days a week. Of course, they were right – and they were wrong. God does not want a few moments at the beginning of every day, He wants the whole day. The purpose of a devotional life is to ‘check-in’ with heaven and live throughout the day in a spirit of prayer. Sadly, when people perceive such appeals to prayer as a duty, more than a delight, they fail. We are not constrained by law, but by love; not by ‘outghts’ and ‘shoulds,’ but by a ‘want-to;’ by then prayer becomes a delightful and transforming dynamic in ones life. As Tozer noted, neither conversion nor the nurture of faith can be “mechanical and spiritless.” He continues, “God is a person and, as such, can be cultivated as any person can.” It is the relational dynamic, this knowing God, this exchange of persons that matters – and that is no mere program or daily mandate. Discipline may anchor your prayer time, and principles may inform it, but you cannot relate to a principle – you relate to a person. Still, the covenant of discipline keeps the potential for delight alive.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer would often tell a couple on their wedding day, “…you are young and very much in love and you think that your love will sustain your marriage. It won’t. But your marriage can sustain your love!” Love flourishes in the context of covenant. And so with us, it is the covenant, the relationship, the ongoing connection with God, daily, that sustains our love. If we forget that prayer is about love – and we make it merely a work partnership, we have taken out its heart.
Christ calls us to follow Him – bearing an easy yoke. The role is by nature, a covenant, which if worn correctly, lightens our burden! There is mystery here. The light burden is possible only because of our rest in Him. The yoke calls us away from independence, to a partnership. It cancels individuality and autonomy. It aligns.
It was a common saying among the Christians of the primitive church, ‘The soul and the body make a man; the spirit and discipline make a Christian:’ implying that none could be real Christians without the help of Christian discipline. But if this be so, is it any wonder that we find so few Christians, for where is Christian discipline?
This blog is part of The Praying Church Handbook – Volume III – Pastor and the Congregation which can be purchased at alivepublications.org>
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 Gary Thomas, Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God, 14-15.
 Rolheiser, Sacred Fire, 209.