Question: "Is it important for a Christian to have daily devotions?"
Answer: “Daily devotions” is a phrase used to describe the discipline of Bible reading and prayer with which Christians start or end their day. Bible reading can take the form of a structured study using a devotional or simply reading through certain passages or perhaps reading through the Bible in a year. Prayer can include any or all of the different prayers—praise, confession, thanksgiving, petition, and/or intercession. Some people use prayer lists for their daily devotions. Others prefer to pray as they read the Word in an interactive manner, listening for God speaking to them through the Bible passages and responding in prayer. Whatever the format, the important thing is that our daily devotions, as the name implies, be truly devoted to God and occur daily.
Yes, it truly is important to spend time with God daily. Why? Paul explains it clearly: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). The experience of having His light shine in our hearts comes in our times spent in the presence of God. Of course, this light comes only from knowing God through Christ. This marvelous treasure of the Holy Spirit is given to each of us as Christians, and we need faith to believe it and act upon it. In all reality, if we truly yearn to experience the light of our Lord, we will need to be with God . . . every day.
Someone once said, “The gospel brings man to God; devotions keep him close to God.” It was James the half-brother of Jesus who wrote: “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8). In essence, James is telling us that the children of God will yearn to seek a closer relationship with God, to draw near to His heart, to understand more and more about Him, to obey His commands, and to hold onto His promises. The impure and double-minded will have no such yearning in their hearts. In fact, they will seek to separate themselves from God as much as possible.
The expression “draw near” was originally associated with the priesthood in Israel. Under the regulations of the Old Covenant, the priests represented the people before God. However, prior to coming near God’s presence, the priest had to be washed physically and be ceremonially clean. This meant he had to bathe, wear the proper garments, and offer sacrifices that made his own heart right with God. Then he could “draw near” to God on the people’s behalf. In time, the Hebrew word for “drawing near” meant anyone who approached the presence of God in worship and prayer. The term became synonymous even of those whose hearts were far from God when they “worshiped” Him. For example, Isaiah 29:13 says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”
But the sincere believer, the one who has truly humbled himself before God, knows that God wants His people to draw near with true and pure hearts: “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22). This applies the language of the Old Testament ceremonial system to us today. It tells us that, as those ancient priests prepared themselves to be near God, we also should prepare ourselves spiritually to worship Him, whether in formal worship or in our personal devotional times.
We know that the humble person comes to God for his salvation and submits his life to Him as Lord, but also the truly humble person will see that his relationship to God is inherently more than that. In claiming to be a true follower of Christ through our having a saving relationship with the Father through the Son, we can readily understand the psalmist who wrote, “But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds” (Psalm 73:28).