How do Christian leaders avoid giving less time to private devotions because praise and prayer are part of our job? It can be really tempting when time is short and pressures mount. Finding a balance between private prayer and public responsibility isn't always an easy distinction to make.
One of the reasons it is hard is that leaders can find there are so many competing demands on their time that the prayer that is part of their work is regularly the first thing that gets squeezed out. Many churches have in the contract with their leaders “we employ you for the ministry of the word and prayer”. But if you actually explore how much they expect you to pray on work time – an hour a day? A day a week? A week a year? - it starts to become clear that the ideal often doesn’t have any practical hard and fast outworking.
Demarcation and expectations are really helpful. Clear time set aside when I know, and everyone in the congregation knows, that it is set aside for work-related prayer, and that it is work. So I can easily separate it in my mind from my private time.
Helpful as clear demarcation is, the more helpful thing is expectation about what the personal devotion or quiet time is for. Its purpose is to make our souls happy in God. When we turn first thing in the morning to God’s word and to worship, we are seeking to saturate our hearts with the things of the Lord so that we delight in him. That’s the aim – that we get taken up with God as abandoned and heartfelt worshippers. And who wouldn’t want to dedicate time to that?
The great killer of private devotion is when our aim stops being worship and gets replaced by education. I open the word just to get to know things. Or always having an eye on how to teach it to others and never just stopping and gazing. And then my time with the Lord quickly degenerates into merely preparing the next message or Bible class I have to deliver. It stops being about me and God and ends up being about my flock and God.