What do you take daily? It may or may not include medication, or medicine, or nutritional supplements, or vitamins, or anything that might fit into one of the boxes pictured here. But what are those things that you spend time with every day? Which meals do you never miss? What shows are you sure to catch? Which news broadcast is “yours”? How long does it take you to work new things into your regimen – specifically, when someone who is an authority in an area tells you to?
I try to be prompt to follow my doctor’s advice. That pill box in the picture is mine. It’s my Sunday, actually. Each week I load it up, along with its six siblings (which I have never referred to them as, before) with my diabetes medication. Now, I know – and my doctor knows – that just taking one pill one time will not make a difference for my diabetes. But he has me convinced that if I take the specific medication he has given me at those particular times of day he has recommended – and if I do it every day – it will make a difference. I have blood glucose readings that confirm this.
Now, how foolish would I have to be to ignore his advice (I’m already not 100% consistent, even when I mean to be!)?
The old story has been passed around so many times that I have no idea if it is true or not. Frankly, it makes no difference because anyone reading it knows that what it relates is a true condition. The one man complains that he’s gone to church for years and listened to countless sermons and that he honestly can’t remember any one of them and why did he waste so much time. The other man relates that he and his wife have been married for years and that she has cooked him countless meals and that he honestly can’t remember any one of them specifically – but that the cumulative benefit, of eating regular meals, is that he is still alive.
In some ways, I’m this guy. I know that taking my medication is going to have this cumulative benefit. Let’s look at that a little more, today. The story of the two men takes, as its immediate application, Sunday worship attendance. It is an integral part of any Christian’s life, and of the viability of the vitality of their relationship with Jesus. There are things that corporate worship does for Christians that solitary times of worship do not. Christians need each other in ways that they don’t always realize. But I want to extend that application, today.
The Witness Cloud is about encouraging people to make regular times of prayer throughout the day, every day, a part of their lives. In fact, to make regular times of prayer the most regular part of their lives. Perhaps you’ve dabbled with a devotional time; perhaps you’ve “tried” (“do or do not, there is no “try”) to set up a spiritual discipline of meditative prayer or study. I want to encourage you to keep at it.
I’m not concerned whether you’re setting aside 7, 4, 3, 2, or 1 block of time each day to be your special time with the Lord. I’m concerned that you’re succeeding in doing so. Because I know that the cumulative effect of doing so is transformative. You might scoff at that – what could be transformative in that? The answer is elusive, because it isn’t the reading and it isn’t the praying; it isn’t the quiet and it isn’t the meditation; it isn’t the mind turned heavenward or the heart turned away from the world’s vanities. None of these transform lives, in themselves. But Jesus, who graciously gives every good and perfect gift… well, Jesus transforms.
Throughout history, people have found that one of the prime choices that Jesus makes with regards to the venue that He does this transformative work in, is those times daily, and regularly, set apart for Him. As we come to dwell with Him, He comes to dwell with us. So my prescription for you is to guard the time you set aside for prayer and study and meditation – let nothing keep you from it. That may mean Morn-Noon-Eve-Bed doses for you. It may mean more frequent doses. It may mean less frequent. None of us is called to another level of devotion to Jesus than He has granted us grace for.
John Cassian put the words in the mouth of Abba Moses, that if our goal is God’s Kingdom then our purpose in all we do must be purity of heart. If our hearts will be pure, they must be transformed. St. Paul put it like this in Ephesians 4, that we must put off our old self (corruption) and be renewed in the attitude of our minds, and put on the new life (righteousness). If our hearts will be pure, we must receive this renewal. Jesus brings this transformation; Jesus brings this renewal. He is the way, and there is no other.
But he is no tame lion, as C. S. Lewis reminds us. We cannot control the time or place in which He will move in us – and yet, though you don’t see stars every 24-hour period, you are far more likely to see them if you go outside at night, rather than in the daylight. This is why we set aside time(s) in the day and devote them to Jesus. Because it puts us in the right place that when He does move amongst us, we are ready to receive.
You may still have doubts about the cumulative, or transformative, or renewing benefits of setting aside time daily for prayer and Scripture study. You may wonder if this is the kind of thing that Jesus really inhabits. There were some men who once asked Jesus where he was staying/living – He told them to come and see for themselves.
I echo His words to you, today.