A devotional on the word “devotional”

Many Christians today practice daily devotionals. Whether through prayer, scripture reading, silence, or a combination of them, the discipline of setting aside an amount of time daily for devotion is very common to Christians in any stage of life. What does the word devotion mean though, and have we distorted its scriptural use to accommodate our busy lives? Let’s examine the origin along with its use in scripture…

The word for devotion in the Greek is προσκαρτερω (prokartero) and derives from the words προς, meaning “to” or “towards” and καρτερος, meaning strength or stronghold. Depending on the grammar with its use, this can render different translations in the New Testament and Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament). To name a few:

  1. Acts 2:42- to persevere; to give constant attention to
  2. Romans 13:6- to give unremitting care to; to be steadfastly attentive to
  3. Numbers 13:21- to be in constant readiness for a person/thing 
  4. Colossians 4:12- to be devoted or constant to a person/thing

As you can see, there is a notion of relentlessness with a continuing drive for each definition. Yet for most of us, our daily devotion tends to be a 15 minute block of prayer/reading a day. Granted, I understand that it isn’t realistic for anyone to read and pray all day every day, nor am I suggesting our should quit your job or school so you can do so. I do, however, want to impose a few questions related to the info above, and hope it leads you to think about devotions in the future. Why is it that we have deviated from this initial meaning of devotion, and replaced it with just another conscience pleasing task to start our day with? Why do we settle for a 15 minute window? How is devotion both constant perserverance and only 15 minutes a day? 

I definitely believe that a daily time of prayer and bible reading is good, but why stop there? We live in a world full of beauty, love, grace, joy, and peace. All of which is gifted to us to enjoy and cultivate. Be attentive to the the Creator’s creation as you enjoy it. When you find yourself struggling with the day, think of the blessing it is to have life on this day. If you dislike your job, think of how fortunate you are to have one as well as the vocational opportunities for the future. Take a minute and pray for your family, friends, coworkers, enemies, and the like. Give thanks for the weather, your morning coffee, and your means of transportation. Find joy in your relationships, school work, career, and church, and give praise to Jesus for giving you those things freely. These are just a few suggestions that only scratch the surface of what devotion truly means, but all of which go beyond the “15 minutes a day” bible reading plans we incorporate in our daily rituals. 

I challenge you to Live your life in constant attentive devotion today, and enjoy every moment of it. 

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