Last Thursday, some friends invited me to attend a Halaqua, essentially a Muslim small group. Watching the six eloquently clothed professionals begin our time with the call to prayer, the adhan, was profound. They stood, bowed at the waist, kneeled, and finally bowed prostrate. Throughout these various postures, they quietly prayed allah o -aqubar (God is the greatest) or reciting texts from the Qur’an, or silently added their own requests. Many Muslims, I’m told, pray in this fashion five times a day. As I watched, I thought, that’s devotion.
Listening to Dr. Hollinger’s sermon on Mary Magdalene’s act of devotion, one woman pouring out perfume on Jesus feet, made me think more on what devotion looks like. Sitting on one of Restoration luxurious pews -packed next to Reade Bush- I began to wonder how do can I tell what I’m devoted to? How do you get your hands around what my heart is poured out for, like the alabaster perfume? Devotion is more than a preference, more than choosing to order a half-caff coffee. If I’m devoted to you, I’m fully engaged, fully committed, I fully believe in you, and I’m willing to demonstrate that through words, actions, time, money – anything I possibly can to show you the extent of my emotion.
Who are you devoted to? As I listened to a podcast by Tim Keller on the Prodigal Sons, I realized I’m really devoted and focused mostly on, well, me. Oh I think I’m devoted to my parents. I’m not married, but I’m devoted to my friends, when it suits. But when I use the metric of this woman who breaks her treasure over Jesus feet, and wastes, wastes a year of her time, sweat, and money of a few minutes for Jesus, I wonder how devoted I am to God. I mean, a year?! That’s devotion.
If I could flip a switch and have my heart fully devoted to Jesus, I would. But that’s not how the heart works. There’s something the daily decisions to follow Jesus, to kneel sometimes, or choose to give up 30 minutes to walk alone, or writing a letter to Jesus that slowly puts my desire for devotion into physical reality. Martin Luther wrote about his difficulty in prayer, in practicing his devotions to God, which I found comforting. In a letter to his barber in 1581, Luther suggested a period of “warming up the heart” before reading scripture. Evidently bodily posture was helpful in achieving this end, “Kneel down or stand up with folded hands and eyes toward the sky…. A good prayer need not be long or drawn out, but rather it should be frequent and ardent.” Placing myself in the posture that I want my heart to feel, kneeling, or arms outstretch, slowly shifts my heart in that same direction too.
So what are you devoted to?
What does your devotion look like?