The Pastor's Devotional Life

“We must remember that God will never drag us along the path of true-hearted discipleship. This would greatly lack the moral excellency which characterizes all the ways of God. He does not drag, but draws us along the path which leads to ineffable blessedness in Himself; and if we do see that it is for our real advantage to break through all the barriers of nature, in order to respond to Gods’ call, we forsake our own mercies. But alas! Our hearts little enter into this. We begin to calculate about the sacrifices, the hindrances, and the difficulties, instead of bounding along the path, in eagerness of soul, as knowing and loving the One whose call has sounded in our ears”  (C H Macintosh).

            Personal worship is often neglected in the pastor’s life.  There are many theories why that may be, the most common being that we are too busy and finding the time is difficult.  If you have any interaction with the average person in the business world, or a mom of young children, you will find that to be entirely false!  There are few professions that are more conducive for finding time for personal worship than the pastorate. In fact, I am convinced that the root of the problem is simply that we are not convinced we need it.  First, we are satisfied with the time spent in Scripture for preparation of sermons and Bible Studies. Indeed a perk of the job is that often during those times of study God speaks to us in ways that are very personal.  Going deeper many pastors struggle with a superiority problem where they believe the lie that our glorious calling and extensive education somehow make us more sanctified than others.  The truth is, the only difference between those called as pastors and anyone else is their unique calling.  We are not superior, we are not less sinful.  To quote Steve Brown, “we are pastors, because God could not trust us anywhere else.”  The pastor’s personal worship or devotional life is absolutely essential to a fruitful ministry!
            My personal devotions has been influenced by Tim Keller (Surprise, surprise!), therefore I have attached his “Devotional Plan.”  Here is my routine,

1)     Find a time the works - Blocking out a time on calendar is essential.  It needs to be a time where you are alert and not overly distracted.  Though David rose early in the morning, that doesn’t mean you need too.  Remember, he started his career as a shepherd, so he lived by the rising and the setting of the sun.
2)     Find a place that works – You need a place where you can be alone, and where distractions are kept to minimal.  Starbucks is not that place!  I do my best study in places where there is a lot going on around me, but it is a horrible place for a personal worship!  Getting beyond the distractions, I am not sure it would go over well if I started to sing, pace, or lay on the floor to pray!  You get my point!

3)     “Be Still and Know that I AM God.” – Take time to quiet your heart and mind.  Ask God to help you lay aside the many distractions and give you focus.  Confess any sins that are tugging at your heart.  Turn the sound off on your phone, I-Pad and computer, so you don’t hear texts or e-mails when they come in.  If you remember something important that needs to be done, make a record on a piece of paper and let it be.  Looking at an other device could distract you.

4)     Read Devotionally – This is not the time for academic study of Scripture.  Until you are fluent in Greek or Hebrew, just use your favorite translation.  Read slow and reflectively.  When your mind wanders, stop, go back and read again.  Let it sink in.  My pattern for Scripture reading for the last twenty years is that I read through the Psalms and Proverbs every month and then work through the rest of Scripture at a rate of 2 to 5 chapters a day.  I don’t recommend devotional books, but if you would like to use one, I would use Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening.  Any other devotionals can get us preacher types distracted by whether we agree with the author, or tempted to think we could right it better!

5)     Reflect – Once you are done reading, take time to reflect on what you have read.  Let the verses sink deep and be a means of grace for you.  Remember, don’t rush through this!

6)     Pray – There is no magical formula for a fruitful prayer life… it is hard work!  I like to prayer through the Lord’s Prayer as it keeps balance to my prayer life.  When I pray through the Lord’s Prayer, at “Our Father” I start with a season of praise and thanksgiving.  In addition, I make it a point to not skim through “forgive us our sins.” Confessing to God what He already knows, and basking in His grace is always refreshing.   I have also made it a habit to be sure to pray both morning and evening. 
Below is another suggestion from Tim Keller. This version comes from a transcribed version of an interview of Tim, by Bryan Chapel. [1]

“I try to do petition in the morning. I try to do repentance in the evening. So I try to pray in the morning and in the evening. In the evening I look back on what I did wrong and repent. But in the middle of the day I try to catch myself and I look for four kinds of emotions.
I always pray in the morning, “Lord make me happy enough in the grace of Jesus to avoid being proud, cold, scared, and hooked.” Now, by Proud I mean what you think, too self-congratulatory. And maybe disdainful of people who I don’t think have it together. Cold means I’m just too absorbed in my concerns to really be compassionate and gracious and warm and joyful to the people around me. Scared means I’m just obviously too anxious and worried. Hooked means…when you’re overworked, it means for me…eating. Eating things I shouldn’t eat just because it’s a way of keeping my energy up, and also because it’s a way of rewarding myself. Or looking at women more than once. So: proud, cold, scared, hooked.

Now, in the middle of the day I get it out and say, “Have I been proud, scared, cold, or hooked in the last 3-4 hours. And the answer usually is “Yeah.” And then I say, “How do I bring the Gospel to bear on that? How does the grace of God deal with it?” And you try to catch yourself in those feelings. So basically finding problem feelings and inordinate desires, catch them when they’re happening, try to deal with them with the Gospel right there.
I call that “Quick Strike” on my idols around noon, if I can remember it. And repentance at night and petition in the morning. So I try to get into God’s presence three times a day.”


[1] An audio version of the interview can be found at

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