Not long ago, I quoted a quip from The Valley of Vision, a book of prayers written by the Puritans. It goes like this:
Help me to always be devoted, confident, obedient, resigned, childlike in my trust of Thee, to love Thee with soul, body, mind strength, to love my fellow-man as I love myself, to be saved from unregenerate temper, hard thoughts, slanderous words, meanness, unkind manners, to master my tongue and keep the door of my lips.
Fill me with grace daily, that my life be a fountain of sweet water.
I’ve written this prayer down and posted it on my computer screen, because it’s easy for a writer (or anyone) to be and do the exact opposite of the temperaments and disciplines expressed in the prayer. When I sit down to form public thoughts, I haven’t always been devoted to the right things. The political environment irks me as much as anyone else. The way Christians treat their own often spark a desire to use my platform to give them a piece of my mind, because one more livid voice in cyberspace is just what is needed, right?!
Wrong. So with an inward resolve unseen to any eye, but genuine nonetheless, I’m asking God to help me be more of everything the Puritans talked about in their prayer. But today, let’s focus on devoted, since that’s the first character trait listed.
Some synonyms of devoted are: loyal, faithful, true, staunch, or steadfast.
I’m smiling as I write those synonyms, because devoted sounds infinitely more like Jesus than it does Brenda. But never mind. Change, though often slow, begins with just …. beginning. Taking baby steps is not to be frowned upon, and that’s a comfort to me. I mean, I’ve been married for thirty years, so I don’t think it’s fair to say I haven’t a clue what it is to be devoted. On the other hand, I am far from perfect, and there’s room for improvement in the area of devotion. Same for the reader.
Take a baby step …
I could be more devoted in my thought life. Those who know me best would probably say from all outward appearances, I am a devoted person. I’ve been faithful to my family. Also loyal and steadfast in several areas of service. But they don’t know what goes on in my heart and mind, and though I’ve been habitually devoted (with God’s help) in areas I’ve deemed important in life, I haven’t always done it with true devotion.
Did you know I often chew people out in my thoughts? I do it whilst serving them food, cleaning their mess up, or (my favorite) dealing with what seems to be a fast approaching completely inept medical system. Oh, I often do the right external thing, aka keep my mouth shut! But geeze, you guys. It’s enough to drive me to drinkin’ at times, and though I smile and say kind (enough) words, my heart’s a million miles away from being right or loyal, true or steadfast.
Keep your heart with all diligence, the Bible says in Proverbs 4:23. And for good reason: because our hearts are deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). It’s that wickedness and deceit that I need to be more devoted to getting rid of. My outward behavior is often acceptable, but my inner workings, rumblings, and thoughts can be and are indeed deceitful and desperately wicked.
Change your thought life, change your actions.
That’s what they say. But is that enough? I’m living proof that one can do a host of good deeds, while my thoughts are barely fit for a sewer. Is it always good to do a good work? Yes. But what’s better (best!) is to do a good work with a pure and holy heart that seamlessly accompanies holy thoughts.
Be ye holy, for I am holy, says the Lord. And He is not solely holy in His actions. He is wholly holy!
How’s that for a play on words!?
Practically speaking, an attempt to be more devoted in thought life requires being more devoted to the Word. It’s a matter of brainwashing, and brainwashing takes time and …. well, devotion. In a nutshell, His Word must get deeper, deeper, and deeper still. I don’t need it to merely float around in my subconscious. I need it deep in my heart, where it can do some serious damage to bad attitudes. Planting it deep in my heart is my job, the job I must be devoted to. But frankly, the deep heart change is beyond my ability. With that, Christ must help me.
I am to love Him with my soul, body, mind, and strength. Too often, I only love with my strength and body. Soul and mind are left dangling on their own.
It’s called hypocrisy. And as I read through my Puritan prayer once more today, I’m just struck by how much of it still lurks in my heart.
Help me, Lord, to always be devoted …..