Excerpted from Essentials of Prayer, E.M. Bounds, 1925.
Religion has to do with everything but our hearts. It engages our hands and feet, it takes hold of our voices, it lays hands on our money, it affects even the postures of our bodies, but it does not take hold of our affections, our desires, our zeal, and make us serious, desperately in earnest, and cause us to be quiet and worshipful in the presence of God. Social affinities attract us to the house of God, not the spirit of the occasion. Church membership keeps us after a fashion decent in outward conduct and with some shadow of loyalty to our baptismal vows, but the heart is not the thing.
It remains cold, formal, and unimpressed amid all this outward performance, while we give ourselves over to self-congratulation that we are doing wonderfully well religiously…The great lack of modern religion is the spirit of devotion. We hear sermons in the same spirit with which we listen to a lecture or hear a speech…We need the spirit of devotion, not only to salt our secularities, but to make praying real prayers… We need to put the spirit of devotion into Monday’s business as well as Sunday’s worship…The spirit of devotion puts God in all things…
The spirit of devotion removes religion from being a thin veneer, and puts it into the very life and being of our souls… With it religion ceases to be doing a mere work, and becomes a heart, sending its rich blood through every artery and beating with pulsations of vigorous and radiant life…The spirit of devotion is not merely the aroma of religion, but the stalk and stem on which religion grows. It is the salt which penetrates and makes savory all religious acts. It is the sugar which sweetens duty, self-denial and sacrifice. It is the bright coloring which relieves the dullness of religious performances.
Words of Grace for Strength
“I am a religious person.”
“I thought you were a religious person.”
“That’s not very religious of you.”
We may have heard or spoken those very words about ourselves or about others. Religiosity without a devotion to God is a mere shell, an outer covering. Our faith walk needs a spirit of devotion to infuse us with the depth of service to the Lord, as to make being religious a godly way of a Christ-centered life, not lip service to a social convention. True discipleship to Jesus requires more than words or facile actions; it requires a depth of devotion to Him that makes Him our central focus.
A devoted life to Christ is fearless before the world, and heedless to all but His will and the seeking of His face. It weighs all as nothing if not designed to show the mind and love of Christ to others in our thoughts, words and deeds. And to do it for no other reason than to heed His command, obey His will, and seek to glorify His Name and see the growth of His kingdom.
At this point various Bible quotes could be inserted to bolster the points being made, but that is not what is going to happen. Instead, hear this plea to pick up your Bible and read it with devotion. Read it for quality, not for quantity. Read it, meditate and prayer over what you have read, even if just a single verse of Scripture.
You will get more out of that single verse in the spirit of devotion than reading all of Scripture religiously following some Bible reading checklist as if it were a flight plan to God.
Be in the Word daily, but be in the world daily as well (in it, not of it), living out a life of Christ in devotion to Him, showing His love to the world both to believers and non-believers alike. We have trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior, our only way to salvation, our eternal destiny with Him now assured by His shed blood on the Cross. All we have to do to show our obedience to and love of Him—is to show Him to the world, inviting them to know Him as we do
We need not be religious; we need to be devoted to God: body, soul and spirit.