The Discipline of Devotion
Reading through Disciplines of a Godly Man for the seventh time still finds me with pen and highlighter in hand to mark sound, helpful, and convicting counsel from R. Kent Hughes. Since its publication in 1991, Disciplines remains one of my first choices for personal, one-to-one growth. Every time I work through the book alongside another brother I am personally helped immensely. It is destined, in my opinion (which has zero influence to the publisher), to be a classic that will remain for future generations of men.
Chapter 7 is entitled Discipline of Devotion, which addresses the devotional life of the Christian man. Hughes introduces the topic by writing, “As we begin, there are some necessary caveats. First, one’s prayer and devotional life cannot be reduced to a few simple rules. These areas of spiritual experience are far too dynamic and personal for simplistic reduction. We must also be cautioned against imagining from the outline we are using (meditation, confession, adoration, submission, petition) that there is a prescribed order for devotion, for there is not and never has been.”
Meditation, according to Hughes, includes listening and muttering.
Listening: Meditation begins with the devotional exercise of listening to the Word. In reference to Psalm 40:7-8, he writes, “The words of Scripture are not merely to be read but to be heard. They are meant to go to the heart! The importance of having our ears dug open [literal meaning of the Hebrew in Psalm 40:6] comes to us from the lips of Jesus: “He who has an ear, let him hear” (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).”
Muttering: “When the Psalmist speaks of meditating on the Law of God day and night (Psalm 1:2), he uses a word which means ‘to mutter.’ Meditation is intrinsically verbal. This means the Psalmist memorized God’s Word—for one cannot continually mutter the Scripture without memorizing it, and vice versa. Personally applied, this tells us that along with our systematic reading of the Bible, we ought to select especially meaningful segments to reverently mutter over.”
Devotion is impossible if we are overloaded with guilt
Spontaneous Confession: “If we put off admitting our sins to God, confession may need to come first in our devotional time.” Psalm 139:23-24 is a frequent prayer of mine, as is Psalm 51.
Systematic Confession: “While understanding that confession should happen spontaneously, our discipline of devotion ought to involve systematic confession.” Jesus taught us the regularity of confession in what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).
The discipline of devotion should culminate in sublime adoration and worship.
Reverence: “Reverence must always characterize our approach to God and is especially needed today in our flip-channel evangelical culture.” See Revelation 4:11; 5:9-13).
Contemplation: “At the very heart of adoration is contemplation. Numerous Psalms call us to contemplate God as seen in His creation. They never suggest that God is in His creation, but that His excellencies can be seen in His created works.” Consider Psalm 29 and 19.
Worship: “The height of devotion is reached when reverence and contemplation produce passionate worship, which in turn breaks forth in thanksgiving and praise in word and song.” Look at Psalms 146-150, hallelujah Psalms.
Submission: Does adoration lead to anything else? Yes—the presentation of our bodies—our entire lives—in an ultimate act of worship. This is how Isaiah capped his great experience with God: ‘Here am I. Send me!’ (Isaiah 6:8). Similarly, after the great Apostle Paul sings in worshipful doxology—‘For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen’ (Romans 11:36), he immediately calls us to submission (Romans 12:1).”
The final element of the discipline of devotion recommended by Hughes is petition, which will be considered next week.
[Amazon has Disciplines in paperback and E-book formats.]