Tales of Ãœber Devotions

In Christianity it is widely acknowledged that periods of quiet reading, prayer, and meditation are a good thing for a person’s spiritual state. Fundamentalist, of course, take it one step further and declare that if you fail to do devotional exercise every single day that your fate will be to  “shrink, shrink, shrink.”

Fundamentalists love the stories of the grooves worn in George Muller’s floor. Or was that Praying Hyde? Or perhaps John Knox? It’s anybody’s guess. But the real point is that a young man who sleeps in and disregarded his devotions just one time will be without the proper weapons to do battle with spiritual wickedness in high places — or a magazine cover at the grocery checkout line, whichever comes first. A little sleep, a little slumber and before you know it not reading the daily dose of Proverbs will allow an errant copy of Ladies Home Journal to bring him to the very brink of ruin.

Fundies reverence the tales of those who read the bible through multiple times a year. They praise the stories of missionaries and pastors who would rise at 4:00 a.m. (somehow what time they went to bed never gets mentioned) and pray for hours until callouses form on the supplicant’s knees. But strangely, none dare call it asceticism.

35 thoughts on “Tales of Ãœber Devotions”

  1. “and pray for hours until callouses form on the supplicant’s knees.”

    …while condemning old ladies who have calluses on their knees from praying on the Scala Sancta in Rome.

    I think it’s telling that so many will cite the rising time of 4:00 AM without saying why they were getting up so early. It was to do God’s work. John Wesley rose early every morning, not necessarily to have “devotions,” but to get busy. He read his Bible while riding from place to place–and rode a quarter of a million miles in his lifetime.

  2. @Sister Marie:

    That’s pretty much what my father in-law, who is an Assemblies of God pastor, does. He brags about how much time he spends in prayer, but the truth is that he’s 80, and he has nothing else better to do. Of course he can spend all day and/or night in prayer. Plus, for whatever reason, he just likes to pray, which is at least partly why he’s a pastor to begin with.

    Even during my most religious phases, I didn’t like praying all that much. Of course, pastors always tried to make me feel guilty about things like that, and a great number of other things.

    1. I love to pray, most of the time I do it as I go through my day as situations/people come to mind. What is annoying is when people bragg about getting up so early or how long they pray and want us to be impressed with the time/manner/length they pray. Because we all know there are rules!!!! Rules, I say about “biblical” ways to pray and things to pray about…. 🙄 🙄

  3. It’s funny how there’s an implicit assumption that God is a morning person… er, deity*. As in, he’s too busy keeping track of the prayers being made by fervent fundies at 4:00 AM in GMT-5, that he might just not be able to keep up with prayers made by less devout believers at 1:00 PM in GMT+4.

    * attribution: this was recently posted on Stuff Christians Like.

      1. I believe answered prayers are based more on those with “short accounts” than anything else.

        You have to check your Spiritual Credit Scores to see if you qualify to get your prayers answered today or if you have to build up some additional Spiritual Credit in order to have them answered. 😆

        (At least that’s the way it was always presented in the Fundie Bunker I was attached to.)

  4. Guilt and manipulation through word and song – the trademark of fundamentalism. Do this or else…. Forcing intimacy with our great Savior (Saviour for all the KJV-only folks) can never be manipulated, demanded, or preached (or sung about) to motivate someone. It has to come from the heart. What ever happened to the fundy theology that God doesn’t look on the outside but on the inside (the heart). I guess that only applies to Saturday morning “soul-winning”. Once you’re saved, it’s pretty much rules and regulations the rest of your life.

  5. Don’t forget the story of A.W. Tozer, who supposedly (I don’t know for sure) read the entire works of Shakespeare while on his knees as an act of reverence.

    This ties in with alter calls…. God will care more if you go up and get on your knees immediately than if you go home, chew over the sermon, THEN pray about whatever convictions you might have.

  6. Yeah, this post really resonates w/ me. I feel horribly guilty even to this day if I skip a day (or a week) of “devotions” or “quiet time” or whatever you want to call it.

  7. Does anyone remember a story that Hyles used to tell about how he stopped on a sidewalk and knelt and prayed. The way I remember it is that he said that he never knew how long he prayed (although he made it seem like he prayed for hours (or days?)). As I think back on it, I want to call “shenanigans” on the story, but I can’t remember the details.

    1. I think in one of his books he tells the story of how he was led to pull over and get out of the car and kneel and pray. The only reason I remember it is because he said it was in California (my state) and there were palm trees.

  8. Whenever any of the über devotionalists brags about the length of their prayer time, I have to wonder how much of it is actually spent “snoring in the spirit” that they aren’t aware of.

  9. “But strangely, none dare call it asceticism.”

    Nailed it.

    Of course, fundies would scoff at the notion. But to be fair, most people assume that asceticism is limited to beating and/or starving oneself. Asceticism, on the contrary, can include any act which involves sacrificing merely for the sake of sacrificing. No matter how hard people try, history shows time and again that human nature tends to drift into the belief that self-deprivation is intrinsically linked to piety.

    Thankfully, Paul blew this one out of the water in Colossians 2 and, in so doing, profoundly set Christianity apart from other world religions. Christ’s death was the sacrifice that set us right with God. We come to the throne on Christ’s merit. And our expression of love is a natural response. If our show of love earns us favor with God (either directly or indirectly), then Paul says Christ died for no purpose (Gal. 2:21).

  10. On the serious side, I think there’s some value in walks on the beach or in the woods where we are exposing ourselves to God’s wondrous creation. During those intervals, there is what I’d like to call “two-way communication” without any words necessarily being spoken.

    I’ve observed that there are two extremes to prayer. One is the “vain babbling” in which we keep repeating ourselves, thinking that perhaps God didn’t hear us the first time. The second extreme are those “professional prayers” who compose the most literate compositions to be heard of men. There’s been a lot of comments about the two prayers at President Obama’s inauguration. Perhaps instead of inviting famous men to pray we should have ordinary people to do it.

  11. @JimE
    A church history expert I am most assuredly not, but might it be possible to take Acts 17:11 in a way that agrees with the “read your Bible every day” concept?

  12. @Josh,
    Possible, but I view the emphasis of that passage to being that they were verifying the integrity of Paul’s teaching. I suspect but am not certain that Paul was teaching everyday. If Paul wasn’t teaching everyday, would they be in the text everyday? If one wished to be compliant with Acts 17:11 in a literal way, I would think that the required activity would be to verify the teachings of the Bible teacher against the text specified by the teacher. I have heard that the Jewish culture of the day was centered on the synagogue. The Jews would meet there daily. I’m not sure, just something I heard.

  13. @JimE
    I would agree with that understanding, if only so that I don’t have to feel the guilt of legalism when I miss my “daily” reading. But oh, that people would even search their Bibles on Sundays and Wednesdays to verify the opinions ranted about, er, I mean, the things said by their pastors and teachers. One can dream, right?

  14. The Bereans were most certainly searching their leatherbound, red-letter, KJV, Schofield study Bibles. (Since Bibles have always been inexpensive, available to everybody, and everybody was literate, and there was a complete canon, and everybody agreed on the canon, and this was all complete by 33A.D.) They were probably high-lighting passages that spoke to them, too. They might have taken notes of St. Pau…er “brother Paul”‘s sermons on a legal pad, so they could compare it to their Bibles.

  15. Yeah, not gonna lie, this is one of the few posts that I disagree with on this website. I’m not saying fundamentalists don’t make too big a deal about devotions. I am saying that the entire point of the Christian life is a relationship with God, which manifests itself in what fundies call “devos.”

    Devotions are awesome. And yes, it is wrong to brag about them, but they are vital to a good relationship with God.

  16. @Andrew: I was waiting for someone to say this which is why I purposely started out by saying “In Christianity it is widely acknowledged that periods of quiet reading, prayer, and meditation are a good thing for a person’s spiritual state.”

    It’s not “devotions” that are the issue. It’s the glorification of the UberDevotion as the unattainable standard by which we are made to feel that we are lacking because we do not rise at a certain time and spend certain hours in a specific type of devotional exercise.

    By viewing devotions that way, a blessed thing turns into a weapon against those who are struggling.

  17. Oh, and don’t forget, that we have to be clean before God so that we can pray at a moments notice. If we don’t keep short accounts with God we will find ourselves unable to pray and be heard by God should a crisis come along and we need to pray right away. yep, preached from an IFB pulpit….

  18. At my Christian school we were required to do devotions and turn them in for a grade in Bible class, not for quality of course but as per usual with fundies they were concerned with the quantity.

  19. @alm517, that is too funny. We had to pass out a tract a week to get a passing grade for bible class at my school. Needless to say, I refused on principle. My parents got a letter stating why I wasn’t getting passing grades. Also, we were made to listen to Jack Hyles preaching on cassette tape and write a report on the sermon. I was hard pressed to write anything substantial, and still got an A on the report. That was the easiest A I ever got. I am someone who has to work for an A and I felt that those A’s that I earned in that class was an insult to my education and intelligence. Maybe that should be the next post added to this site.

  20. @alm517 and charlene I too was required to do daily devotions and turn in a personal journal for a Bible class at my christian high school. I told the teacher who was also the principal that I would not be handing in a journal to be graded. When he asked why not, I told him that I wasn’t having daily devotions and to turn in a journal that stated otherwise would be lying. He said that if I didn’t turn in a journal I would get a maximum of a C in the class. I took the C. Interestingly enough, now years later that class has come back up in conversations with classmates of mine. Those who got an A and were clearly the favored fundies in the class have now admitted that they often made up the entries in their journal to get the A and to not be on the bad side of the principal. I love the C I got in that class.

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