We’ve all had those days. We grudgingly open our Bibles because we know we should, but we’d really rather finish that crafts project or read another chapter in that novel.
If I can publicly admit to having days that I simply don’t want to spend time with the Lord, the least you could do is privately confess it to Him. After all, He already knows your secret thoughts.
Of course we feel guilty about approaching our devotions as if they were a chore like cleaning the oven. And I have no intention of alleviating our guilt. We need to come to terms with the fact that we fail to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls and minds (Matthew 22:37). That guilt needn’t condemn us, mind you, but the Holy Spirit will use it to lovingly lead us to repentance.
Once we repent of regarding our time with the Lord as drudgery, we’re ready to adopt a right perspective on coming into the Lord’s presence. I usually begin with a sense of awe at His holiness. In the back of my mind, I remember Isaiah’s vision of the Lord.
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. ~~Isaiah 6:1-4 (ESV)
Don’t read those verses too swiftly, sisters. I know they’re familiar, but their very familiarity can often obscure their power. We must understand the impact of this scene in order to see how it applies to our attitude in prayer.
Notice the Lord’s position of exaltation and the humble postures of the holy angels. As the Lord sits in such majesty that only His train fills the temple, we get a sense that He is above His creation. The shamefaced way that the seraphim cover themselves in His presence accentuate the holiness that belongs to Him. Yet they emphasize His holiness by verbally declaring it so powerfully that the building shakes and fills with smoke.
As I come to prayer, I remember Christ’s instruction to address the Father with the acknowledgment that His name is holy.
Consider Isaiah’s reaction to his revelation of God’s holiness.
And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” ~~Isaiah 6:5 (ESV)
He automatically realizes his inherent unworthiness in contrast to God’s holiness. Now remember that Isaiah has already been a believer and a prophet of God. He has already been calling Israel to repent. Yet when he really encounters the holiness of the Lord, he can’t help but recognize his sinfulness.
There’s nothing wrong in coming before the Lord in an attitude of humility. For many years, I neglected to do so, overemphasizing the assurance that I can come before the throne of grace in confidence (Hebrews 4:16).
Indeed, God welcomes Isaiah into His holy presence by taking the initiative to cleanse his lips.
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” ~~Isaiah 6:6-7 (ESV)
By agency of the seraphim, God cleanses Isaiah. Interestingly, Isaiah doesn’t do anything to activate that cleansing — he doesn’t even ask for cleansing. The Lord shows mercy and grace that equips Isaiah to undertake his prophetic ministry.
It’s imperative that we come to prayer trusting that the Lord has declared us clean through the shed blood of Jesus. Knowing that God gives us His righteousness in exchange for our sinfulness causes us to treasure our time of prayer and Bible reading.
Isaiah 6:1-7 isn’t an allegory of how to approach our devotions. It’s an historical account written by a real man about an actual occurrence in his life. We are not to read ourselves into the narrative as if we share Isaiah’s experience exactly. We will not see anything like what Isaiah saw until the Lord brings us into His Kingdom.
Yet this passage helps me understand the amazing privilege of spending time with the Most High God each morning. As I contemplate His grace in making me able to come before Him in prayer and hear Him speak through His Word, my quiet time is transformed from drudgery to joy. Truly, it’s a privilege to spend time with Him.