My wife and I were at our favorite Christian Bookstore. It was the closest to our home. The company no longer exists, and the store is closed now. This was about ten years ago. My wife found a bargain bin with a sign stating that all items in the bin were $5. Always looking for a bargain, she dove into the bin. She came up for air and turned to me with a book in her hand, Praying for My Wife, 100 Daily Devotions for Husbands. It credited no author and the credited publisher was the Christian bookstore itself.
My wife held up the book as a joke. She expected me to say something sarcastic and throw the book back into the bin. I was a Bible reader. I never read devotionals. It was a sure bet in my wife’s mind that I would not take the book.
I surprised her. I placed the book under my arm with my other selections. My wife frowned at me, thinking that if I read the book once through, she would be surprised. Yet, my track record was that if I started a book, I would finish it. Present count, I have read over 1800 books in the past 20 years.
I taught a Sunday school class. That was our main reason for being at the bookstore. My class was the Video College of Biblical Knowledge. That meant, I spent at least one day each month at one store or another, looking for the latest videos from my favorite theologians, preachers, etc. That next Sunday, I announced to the class that I was doing a devotional. It was called, “Praying for My Wife”. I told them that I would keep them informed on how it was going. About 100 days later, I announced to the class that I had finished the devotional, and I had started over again. I had learned a lot about praying for my wife, but I had not learned why I should ever bother. The class was used to this type of humor, so they chuckled and we went on with our Bible Study.
A year later, the class asked me if I was still reading the devotional. I repeated the same joke. By this time, I had read the book over three times. I told them I still didn’t know why.
Actually about this time, I finished the book on a Saturday. Prior to this, I would read a devotion each morning, but if I missed a day, it was no big deal. The devotions were numbered. Since there were only 100, and not related to a specific date. When I started the book on a Sunday, each Saturday became a multiple of seven. Each Wednesday was a multiple of seven plus four. It was easy math to perform in my head. If I missed a day, I felt compelled to read two the next day to stay on track. When I reached the Saturday that corresponded to devotion 98, I felt strongly that I should read three devotions. This became what I called a super Saturday, every fourteen weeks. This routine of starting the book on a Sunday was developing a devotional discipline. I had a Bible reading discipline already. This addition felt good.
A year or two later, I was getting to the point that I almost had the book memorized. My problem was that I would want to quote from it, and I couldn’t find the right page. I felt that I needed more. I added a second devotional. This was still while I was working full time. I would read from two devotionals and read from the Bible every morning.
Since I was forced into retirement, I have added a third devotion (e-mailed each day) in the morning and two devotions at night. To be honest, the night devotions have been a great help. My life with Jesus during the day has its ups and downs as does the life of any Christian, but my nights, at bedtime, was my battlefield. Morning devotions are necessary for each of us, maybe especially for those that are not morning people. We need to start the day focused on what God wants of us that day. Borrowing the concept from Martin Luther regarding his prayer life, a busy day means getting up earlier to spend extra time in devotions, Bible reading, and prayer. That makes the busy day go smoother. God is with me. Even when the day’s frustrations hit hard, I know what God has in mind for me.
But the night devotions help to focus my prayers and my mind before the battle begins. I will always have trouble getting to sleep. That is one malady which God has not cured me. Even when I try to pray myself to sleep, the Devil gets me excited about what I am praying about, keeping me up until the early morning. I think I am praying and unburdening myself, but really my brain is spinning in circles. Due to the lack of sleep, my mind was running at full speed, just running in circles. After I started reading devotions at night, my prayers were focused. I tended to go to sleep quicker. I stayed asleep. It might not work the same way for other people, but it helps me.
After about five years of reading the book about praying for my wife, nearly twenty times of going from cover to cover, I made a final announcement regarding the book for the Sunday school class. I reminded them about the book, since I had not mentioned the book in a couple of years. I apologized for the joke regarding the fact that I had no idea why I should ever pray for my wife. I hoped they all knew that was a joke. We should all pray for each other, especially the family members close to us. But I had a special announcement regarding the book. “I read the book thinking that by some means, my wife would benefit in some cosmic way when I prayed for her. I thought God would bless her based on the words that I was praying. But, those words were never ‘give my wife strength. Give my wife courage. Heal my wife.’ The devotions were always about the Christian life in general. We should all smile more. We should all pray more. We should all praise God more. We should all treat each other with love. After reading this book twenty times and taking to heart what the devotions said, I have treated my wife with more understanding, more caring, more love. Instead of God giving her a blessing directly. My improved behavior has been the blessing. I have not prayed ‘for my wife’ at all. I have prayed for personal improvement. I HAVE BEEN HAD!”
Of course, that caused a roar of laughter from the class, but that is part of the gradual sanctification process that God puts us through. In some ways, I would like for God to point out my most serious faults quickly. Why am I still working on some of the basics 50 years after becoming a Christian? I am trying to learn to not ask why. God will reveal His character and what He wants me to change on His schedule. God did not trick me into being a better person. My wife would let you know that I still have a long way to go. But I have learned that a disciplined devotion program has benefited me greatly.