I’ve heard it argued that daily devotions are a bondage, that daily Bible reading and prayer are legalistic impositions that restrict a Christian’s freedom. Though not a Christian book, James Clear’s Atomic Habits demonstrates why the opposite should be the case.
He turns to neuroscience to explain that as habits are created, the level of activity in the brain decreases. Habits reduce cognitive load and free up mental capacity, so we can allocate our attention to other tasks (46).
For example, how much brain activity is involved in turning the ignition key, putting the car into reverse, and easing out of the garage? Very little, if you’ve been doing that for many weeks, months, or years. But this frees the brain to concentrate entirely on looking for pedestrians and other cars.
“Habits do not restrict freedom. They create it. In fact, the people who don’t have their habits handled are often the ones with the least amount of freedom. Without good financial habits, you will always be struggling for the next dollar. Without good health habits, you will always seem to be short on energy. Without good learning habits, you will always feel like you’re behind the curve. If you’re always being forced to make decisions about simple tasks—when should I work out, where do I go to write, when do I pay the bills—then you have less time for freedom. It’s only by making the fundamentals of life easier that you can create the mental space needed for free thinking and creativity.” (46-7)
“Conversely, when you have your habits dialed in and the basics of life are handled and done, your mind is free to focus on new challenges and master the next set of problems. Building habits in the present allows you to do more of what you want in the future.” (46-7).
Now apply that to daily devotions. If we have a good regular routine in the morning, we are engaging in numerous habits without even thinking about it.
Alarm goes off > get up > brush teeth > shave > shower > dress > coffee > breakfast > devotions.
The same routine, the same habits, each and every day. There’s no internal debate over each step, there’s no cognitive fuel used up in the process. There’s no “should I/shouldn’t I” argument. This frees the mind to focus on listening to God in his Word and speaking to God in prayer. Far from a bondage, this is freedom. The bondage is the daily debate, the daily guilt-trip when devotions are forgotten because not scheduled, and the daily battle to find a few minutes wherever whenever.