I remember my 2001 seminary graduation retreat. At least, I think that is what it was. I was an insecure seminarian about to graduate and go into full-time ministry and teach others how to be spiritual. The place was beautiful — out in the woods by a small quiet lake. My wife always looks forward to such events so she can sleep in (for some reason she loves to sleep in any bed as long as it is not ours).

It was around 6:30 in the morning. I woke up and decided to go for a walk before anyone else got up. I quietly got up and walked outside, shutting the door as silently as I could, so as to not wake Kristie up or anyone else who might have been in range to hear it (it was a very quiet morning outside). I tiptoed down the creaky wood stairs on the front porch, walked out into the grass, and began to make my way down the gravel path. Then, I noticed it. To my shock and horror, I was not the only one up. Not even close. In fact, I think I might have been an hour behind most of my fellow graduates. I was in a unique circumstance where I was able to observe their morning rituals. What were they all up doing? Devotionals! There were two on the dock. A handful of others were on their cabin’s front porch. Some were on the park bench. I think there was even one in a small boat! They all either had their Bibles open or were in some guilt-inducing prayer position. They were demonstrating to me how unspiritual I was. Panic set in. After all, I was just going on a walk. I was not even going to pray (or had no preconceived plans to do so).

I found myself with a few choices:

  1. Go back and get my Bible and begin to study
  2. Casually go ask to join one or more of them as if I had that planned all along
  3. Or just go on my walk like I had planned

I chose #3. I remember during breakfast people talking about what they had studied or how great their time with the Lord was that morning. I was tempted to feel guilty, but I didn’t.

Since then, I don’t know how many similar circumstances I have been in. Some people ask me how my morning devotional was or what I am studying in my devotional. Then there are those who advise me in them, as if they are the solution to all my spiritual problems. They tell me about how they could not function without them.

Let me let you in on a little secret: I don’t do morning devotionals — so quit asking!

You see, my spiritual life might surprise many of you. It is not as intentional as you might think. Oh, don’t quote to me “the unintentional spiritual life is not worth living.” I am sure that my spiritual life could get better. I am sure that your way of doing things works for you. I have nothing against morning devotionals. I just don’t do them.

You see, God and I have our relationship. It is our relationship. It is particular to me and Him. It has its own patterns, pitfalls, and peculiarities. It fits with the way He made me. It will probably always be this way, even in eternity. I may not talk to Him like you do, thank Him before meals, sing hymns in the car (or even listen to Christian music), read though the Bible in a year, every year, have a copy of Our Daily Bread in my back pocket, or have a verse of the day sent to my email. But don’t mistake this as a lack of relationship with the same Jesus you have devotions to every morning. God and I have our thing. But our thing is not your thing. And your thing is not my thing.

Can we learn from each other? Of course. Can we inspire each other to better habits? Most definitely. But I can’t judge your relationship with Him based upon my own patterns. The Bible gives us a lot of freedom to be ourselves. Sure, there are the principles of knowledge, fellowship, and obedience. But the expressions these, I find, are as numerous as there are people to express them. God loves variety.

As I look at my kids and think about this, the same holds true. Kylee is the devotion gal. She wants to talk about everything and has deep emotional investment in how I respond to her. Katelynn is a “just the facts” type person. Will just wants to hang out even if we never say a word. Zach is an activity type guy. He wants you to do things with him. I love them all. There are ways that they could do better with me (and I with them), but I don’t want them to change their personality to engage me in a more acceptable way — in the way others do it. I like them just the way they are and they will excel in their relationship with me and others accordingly.

God made us for a unique relationship with Him. Sometimes, that will take a form that is much different than yours, but it does not mean that the relationship is not there, nor healthy. So quit trying to make me like you. More importantly, quit judging others so quickly. You never really know how special the way they approach God is to God.

Wow, I just wrote a blog for the first time in forever. Glad I lost my knack for controversy!

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C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.

Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    22 replies to "No, I Don’t Do Morning Devotionals — So Quit Asking"

    • Dave Z

      A post by CMP! Awesome!

      This reminds me of a book by Larry Osborne – Spirituality for the Rest of Us – in which he addresses the common idea that spiritual growth is tied to specific practices, and if we don’t do those things, we cannot be growing. Of course, that can lead to people looking down on those who don’t fit the one-size-fits-all mold.

      Loved the metaphor of how different your kids are and how that shapes your individual relationships.

    • Josh

      Michael,

      Thank you for your post. It reminds me of Dave Thomas’ book, Sacred Pathways. I agree with what you’re saying, but it does raise a few questions in my mind:

      1. Under this understanding, how do you recognize a problem with being intentional if you can always say “You see, God and I have our relationship. It is our relationship. It is particular to me and Him. It has its own patterns, pitfalls, and peculiarities. It fits with the way He made me.” ? It seems like this easily lends itself to justifying apathy or laziness under the guise of “God made me this way, not that way.” Am I missing something?

      2. Connected to 1, in your experience, how have you cultivated a personal love for the approaches to spiritual growth that don’t come natural to you?

    • Angie Farquhar

      This was refreshing and freeing. I often feel guilty by the appearance of others being “more spiritual” than I.

    • Joshua

      Yep

    • Sarah

      So, what is your thing? It’s just I’m left a little unsure if you think it’s ok to never read the bible or pray.

    • Emily F.

      I believe I can speak for mom’s of small children, as well as many others, and say “tell us your secrets!” Please share how you hide God’s Wors in your heart and meditate on it; how you center yourself in the Gospel without that early morning time. Tired Mamas want to know 🙂

    • Stuart

      Oh my. You’ve misunderstood. It’s not about people trying to change you, or even judging you. It’s about understanding you, so we can learn from you. If your way to seek God is different from popular culture, please share about it. There are many others like myself that can greatly benefit from knowing there are other options out there.

    • Tim

      I hear what you are saying, but I wonder what would happen if an athlete approached his “relationship” with his sport of choice the way you approach your “relationship” with Jesus. In other words, where is the discipline in your approach. The root of discipline is disciple and vice versa. Your approach to your walk with the Lord seems to be one that “fits” your personality style and make-up. What if an athlete took this approach and was never pushed to go beyond what came naturally and/or what “fit” their style of working out or running or calisthenics or weight lifting, etc. Few thoroughly enjoy getting up before the crack of dawn to exercise and or do hard things, but the payoff is tremendous. I believe it is why Paul compared physical exercise with spiritual exercise. He knew that growing in your relationship with the Lord would not always be easy and enjoyable. But that it would cost us dearly…some of that cost is putting in the hours getting to know the Lord through our disciplined time with him…sometimes early in the morning with a cracked open Bible. I see devotions and “intentional” time with the Lord as building my relationship with Him. As in any relationship, we could default to what we feel like doing and/or what fits our makeup and the way we were designed, but would that always lead to the best relationship? I’m pretty sure our wives are thankful that we don’t always default to what comes naturally to us in our relationships with them or else we might be always in front of the TV or always be in the office or always in the garage…doing whatever comes naturally to us…doing what our personality might enjoy doing. We all need to be stretched, we must make sacrifices, we must be disciplined…doing things that we do not enjoy doing in order to reap a reward that comes from the sacrifice. I think Jesus wants to walk with us in our daily lives, obviously, but I think He also definitely appreciates when we consciously set aside precious time to spend with Him alone, uninterrupted, focused time that we set aside for him. I think our wives appreciate that too…I think our kids appreciate that too…I think our friends would appreciate that too.

    • Reid

      Good to see you’ve written a blog post again, they are missed. Yours was one blog where I knew I wouldn’t be spoon-fed more Christian cliches.

    • Dave Martin

      You’ve articulated something that I share but haven’t expressed much to others. In nearly 50 years as a serious Jesus follower, I’ve rarely had sustained periods of morning devotions.There was a time when I felt vaguely guilty about that, because in evangelical circles there’s a vibe that your level of holiness is directly proportional to the duration, intensity, and regularity of your morning “quiet time.” For me, the morning devotional routine feels a bit too compartmentalized and forced; I think it can actually be detrimental to those who naturally tend to be driven by duty rather than desire. This is not to say I’m not pursuing God and holiness. Currently I’m memorizing the book of Ephesians and also praying through the book (writing out my prayers), reading through the Bible, preaching occasionally, teaching a discipleship class, and leading a multiethnic church network. I’m enjoying my relationship with God tremendously, but each of these disciplines I’ve undertaken is one that fits me in this season of life, and not something necessarily normative for other Jesus followers. Of course, prayer and Bible engagement and fellowship are essential, but they can happen in many different forms and settings.

    • Ursula Stouffer

      I love this article! It is refreshing to find somebody who doesn’t think that everybody NEEDS to approach and worship God in the same way to be acceptable to Him. We’re all individuals, and God knows that – after all, He is the one who made us.
      I don’t do morning devotionals, either – I usually do one in the evening, though. Because I am at my best in the evening, not in the morning.

    • C.Brian Ross

      Thank you for that, Michael. Although I prefer to try to have my personal devotions “in the morning” that, for me, means before lunch! I’m just not an early morning person. I can work until 1.30 a.m., 2.00 a.m., or even 3.00 a.m. – but only rise early if I have a specific engagement. I often say that I hate my bed at night but, in the morning, I have a passionate love affair with my pillow! However, Father God speaks to me even at 11.00 a.m.

      For many years, I carried a burden of guilt as I listened to my “more spiritual” brothers and sisters – but eventually understood that “There is, NOW, NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Hallelujah!

      Blessings, and shalom.

    • TOM DOOLEY

      Thanks, I feel a little less eccentric now.

    • Sue

      I agree with you.
      Sue

    • Rob

      Good post Michael. I am the same as you. I’m also a scientist, and often worship God in my own way while studying nature under the microscope. In some company however, I feel the guilts or judgement of them, as if devotions are a work that I need to do in order to be good enough and to be truly saved. All that said, I wish I could do devotionals each day. I wish my family would do them. I wish I could gain a lot from doing them. I wish I knew my bible better. But life is busy, and this is where God has put me, and I think about God and apologetics during much of the day. Podcasts like Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable are my devotional. My very secular country is my mission field. My podcasts are my devotional. My prayers are for myself, my family, my workmates. But what I really miss is the family culture in which Christ is spoken. Perhaps the others are like me and have their own devotionals during living out their lives. The Old Testament way was not like this, but rather was very ritual based. Blessings.

    • Calvin

      Thanks for sharing this. I’m one who doesnt have that in me. I’ve always felt a little out of place when I come together with brothers and sisters, and they bring on the consistant conversation of what they are studying, and what they read *this morning*. I have always viewed Gods relationship with me as an active, non-stop, life together. Like a covanant communion with my wife. The only difference is that my wife is not with me in every moment whereas, God is.
      As I drive and someone gets mad, and my conversational response is with God. When I work with co-workers and customers, my mindset is with God in mind. Scriptures pop into mind at many turns of daily grinding. While I admit that my mind isnt always sanctified in this way at every moment, it is the way I feel our relationship is the strongest, and most natural.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have been feeling the pressure of not being in the norm about this. And it gave me a great sigh of relief that I’m not the only one. Failing at this practice every time I re-try felt like a dog lapping up old failures. So to speak.

      -Cal

    • Maninthegap

      Ever notice that publications did not exist in biblical times when people think the Bible encourages people to “be in the Word”? God actually expected believers to be spiritual for most of human history when people had no access to Bibles or biblical materials in print. Devotions are a modern, western luxury.

      • Adam

        Oh the blood that was spilled for that “luxury”

    • Terry Douglas

      Thanks for your frank honesty. And thanks for reminding us that we are all “wired” differently. And that the Biblical admonitions for prayer meditating upon the Word do not necessitate any particular formula for doing so.

    • Solomon Rwangmei

      Thank you for this post! I can identify myself with your experience with a relief. I do not have the habit of waking up early, and morning “quiet-time” is not what I am used too. Whenever preacher asks to raise up hands those who have their quiet time, it tempts me to feel guilty. Indeed, morning devotional/quiet-time is not the barometer for spiritual growth check-up!

    • Rodney C Harvill

      Thanks for the post. I have to wonder just how much human conflict, both inside and outside the church, results from people’s attempts to conform to themselves and the resultant response by others who just want to be left alone to be themselves.

    • Kim

      Christians (I am one) have a way of scrutinizing,squeezing fruit until it’s bruised. There were so many personalities in the bible, some fought more so(David) some prayed more so (Daniel) but what we all have in common is we believe God. My father got up at 4 am most mornings because he had six kids and 3 plus sermons a week to prepare. It was the only time to get quiet time. I remember an aquaintence responding to my father’s almost brag of being up since 4 am saying “the only good reason to be up at 4 am is a night of drinking” non Christians have early morning rituals too.

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