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  • Writer's pictureJay Lowder

Rooted in Relationship!

Updated: May 2

Part One: Grounding Your Devotional Life in God

The means of grace, like Bible reading, meditation, and prayer, are inherently relational. You know that intuitively. But what if remembering that truth more often could fix many of the ailments that weaken our devotional life? A struggling presidential campaign in the 1990s revived and became successful using the motto, "It's the economy, stupid!" Likewise, you need to tell yourself, "It's the relationship, saint!"

Pray to your heavenly Father. Read his words for you! Then, meditate on those Scriptures, connecting what you read from God to yourself. Unless you have drifted into dry duty, you already practice the spiritual disciplines for the glory of God and your joy. In fact, many of the tips for practicing these means of grace are simply reminders of their relational nature. Do better what you are already doing, grounding your devotional life for God in God.

Let us examine four common problems that Christians encounter in prayer, Bible study, and meditation. The relational solutions will soon be apparent!

Problem: Dry, Repetitive Prayers

Diagnosis: The believer has forgotten the relational truth that mere repetition does not please the Father. If this is you, then realize that you do not need to babble repetitive heaped-up empty phrases "for your Father knows what you need before you ask him" (Matthew 6:7-8).  God wants you to speak to him from your heart what is on your heart right now, not the leftovers of yesterday’s words.

            As you read the Bible, you will discover that God gave you a diverse Bible full of words, phrases, stories, and promises to turn around and pray back to him. When you pray from this variety of phrases and images in the Bible you will come to a greater awareness of his care for you. Donald Whitney also observes, “Prayers without variety eventually become words without meaning...because we always say the same old things about the same old things, it can seem as though all we do in prayer is simply ‘heap up empty phrases.’”1

Problem: Frustration with Unanswered Prayers

Diagnosis 1: God wants you to commune with him intimately, but your sins have created a relational barrier. You are praying to God from a life of sinful attitudes and actions! You need to ask the Holy Spirit to help you approach God with as much practical holiness as possible. Instead of rushing into God's presence with unconfessed sins, you need to remember that Jesus intended "the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

Happiness and holiness (always inseparable) and success in prayer will be yours if you repent throughout your day as the Spirit convicts you. Then continue in that spirit of repentance as you read and pray allowing the Spirit to examine your life in the light of His Scriptures.2

Diagnosis 2: You have forgotten that the primary purposes of prayer are communion with God and your conformity to the image of the Son. Yes, God often chooses to answer prayers, and the result of those answered prayers may meet some of your needs. But what if God just dwelt with you and made you more like Him? Would those relational joys be enough for you? They should satisfy you completely, and if they do not, perhaps your disappointment means your relational zeal for God motivates you less than incessant doubtful grasping for personal help. Jon Bloom reminds us that "prayer is a relational interaction, not merely a service transaction. Faith is not divine currency that we pay God in order to receive whatever we ask in prayer."3

Problem: Causal, Chatty Prayers

Diagnosis: The believer has forgotten the wisdom of entering into Bible reading and prayer with remembered awe of God. It is no mere mortal whose presence you enter. Think of Esther’s fear of entering the presence of the king without being summoned and without the outstretched scepter (Esther 4:11, 5:1-2). In prayer, we encounter God’s presence, a far more awesome interaction with our sovereign Superior, worthy of reverent fear. We are coming to communicate with the All-consuming Fire (Deuteronomy 4:24). We can only be emboldened by the blood of Jesus shed for us (Hebrews 4:16).

            Yes, enjoy your time with the Father; as the old hymn says, "He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am his own."  But do not forget “with whom you have to do” (Hebrews 4:13)! He is the Almighty, who "dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see" (1 Timothy 6:16).  That remembrance will temper your words, keeping you back from "rash" and "hasty" words and preparing you to listen more than you speak (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2).

Here is a helpful, related article cited in the article. Read all of it!

        1Donald S. Whitney, Praying the Bible (Crossway, 2015) 17. 2Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 31, eds. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 83.

3Jon Bloom, "Unanswered Prayers Are Invitations from God," Desiring God, 6 Apr.  2018,

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