The center of our fellowship as a church is found in our weekly gathering for worship each Sunday. There we sing praises to our King, hear the word of God preached, give offerings, and offer prayers. When we come together, we find ourselves encouraged and built up in the faith. Other gatherings like Sunday School and Bible studies are likewise a means of grace to sanctify us and equip us for service. But as important as corporate worship is, as Protestants and Baptists in particular, we cherish the reality that every believer has immediate access to God, and we rejoice that he welcomes us to commune with him individually.
As evangelicals, we often refer to private worship as “devotions” or “quite time,” both of which communicate at least part of the way that we can engage in private worship. Baptists, along with most evangelicals, have rightly encouraged that every Christian should have a regular rhythm for private worship. The foundational elements are well known—prayer and Bible reading. In prayer we call out to God in worship, we thank him for his blessings, and we bring to him the burdens of our heart. We intercede for fellow church members, for the salvation of the lost, and we ask for the Lord’s guidance for our lives. For some of us, we are better a prayer than we are with Bible intake. But as Christians, we must remember well our dependence upon God’s word. Many different Bible reading plans exist that can serve as helpful guides. But more importantly, a serious devotional life requires that we dedicate the time and energy that is necessary to hear from God’s word on a regular basis.
One spiritual discipline that has been widely neglected, but that has clear biblical warrant as well as the ability to revolutionize our devotional lives, is meditation. Sometimes when evangelicals hear “meditation” they envision New Age spirituality or medieval Roman Catholic mysticism. This is certainly not what I have in mind. Meditation is simply a quiet manner of reflection that can help us stir up our affections toward God. In New Age spirituality, meditation calls for emptying our minds. In biblical meditation, we fill our minds, particularly with God’s word. The Puritans used to say that meditation helps us to take God’s word from our head to our heart. If this is a new idea to you, let me challenge you to take a few minutes after reading the Bible and reflect upon what you’ve just read: thank God for the truths therein, ponder how the text reveals God’s goodness and grace, and aim to apply to your life the word that you’ve read. Let us learn from the example of the blessed man in the Psalms: “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2).
At the end of the day, private worship and corporate worship hang together. The more committed we are to a personal devotional life, the more fervent our corporate worship will be. When the church gathers together after days of prayer and Bible reading, it’s as if we’ve been stoking the fire of our hearts all week to then join together for a celebration of praise to the Lord. Life can be busy, lethargy can be a force to reckon with, but if we will dedicate ourselves to pursuing a deeper devotional life, we will find that the reward is greater than anything that this world can offer. The reward that awaits us is God himself.