Remember the Morning Watch: A Call for Early Morning Devotions
Over the summer I slacked off on my quiet times. I didn’t mean to, it just sort of happened. We didn’t need to rush out the door, so the mornings took on a more Saturday kind of feel. At first, it was wonderful. I enjoyed the break from the breakneck pace we had been going. The kids were sleeping in, the house was quieter for longer periods in the morning, and I took my time getting ready. I told myself that I’d get to my quiet time later, but more often than not, they got swept away with the cares of the day.
The breaking point
Have you ever experienced something like that? You’re longing for a break, so you take one, and then things in your life start to, well…break. You notice you’re more impatient with your kids and spouse, and more anxious throughout the day. Areas of temptation pop up more frequently and you’re more inclined to give in just this once.
It’s not that we look at our morning devotions as a good luck charm that wards off any bad voodoo that might come our way. Instead, it’s that we’ve come to experience that time in the Word does exactly what it says it will do, it guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:6-7).
This is not surprising, is it? God’s Word claims to be a living and active book, able to penetrate our hearts, dividing what is otherwise inseparable, like our hearts and minds, thoughts and attitudes (Heb 4:12). It reveals, reminds, comforts, convicts, encourages, soothes, redirects, empowers, enlightens, delights, satisfies, and fills. So why then, is it so hard for those who’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good, to open its pages and soak in its life-giving words?
The struggle is real
There’s a laundry list of excuses, ahem reasons, we’ve all experienced when it comes to our quiet times, including busyness, fatigue, laziness, life circumstances, and sin. But the number one reason we struggle is that the enemy wants to keep us from the Word.
In C.S. Lewis’s book The Screwtape Letters, the devil, Screwtape, writes letters to his nephew, Wormwood on how to best tempt man. Screwtape advises,
“Whatever their bodies do affects their souls. It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality, our best work is done by keeping things out.”
Being kept out of the Word of God, for whatever reason, affects every area of our lives both the seen and unseen. We know this experientially and we know it intellectually. In order to know God, we must spend time with him. So how can we overcome our own resistance to this necessary practice for Christian growth? The best way is to return to rhythms of grace that feed our souls, specifically, early morning quiet times and prayer. In a sense, it’s a “just do it” decision.
The struggle is old
Maybe it’s helpful to know this is not a new struggle, unique to our modern, easily distractable time. In fact, church history tells us of a group of university students, who decided to change the trajectory of their lives by recommitting themselves to early morning devotions.
In 1882, on the campus of Cambridge University, seven young men lamented that the rigors of student life were keeping them from their daily quiet time with the Lord. Knowing this time was critical to their spiritual nourishment and happiness, they recommitted themselves to waking early to meditate on Scripture and prayer.
They came up with a slogan that captured their resolve: Remember the morning watch! Like a watchman that stands guard at his post, the morning watch was a picture of Christians who were awake, on duty, and ready to respond to whatever the day might bring.Remember the morning watch! Click To Tweet
If Cambridge had a Twitter account in the 19th-century #rememberthemorningwatch would’ve been trending. What happened in the days that followed, shouldn’t surprise us, yet it’s so remarkable, that it does. Word began to spread, and others joined them in their pursuit of God first thing in the morning.
In the midst of their morning watches, the men all separately felt God was calling them to missions. The “Cambridge Seven,” as they would later be called, renounced their careers, considerable wealth, and privilege and left the United Kingdom to join Hudson Taylor in serving the unreached people in mainland China. They went on a farewell tour throughout the UK to share their enthusiasm for God’s Word and missions and a spiritual revival was sparked in their wake.
We need daily bread
There is a sense in which the time of day you meet with God is not as important as the fact that you do it at some point. But take it from John Piper who said, “I earnestly recommend that it [your quiet time] be in the early morning unless there are some extenuating circumstances. Entering the day without a serious meeting with God, over his Word and in prayer, is like entering the battle without tending to your weapons. It’s like taking a trip without filling the tires with air or the tank with gas.”
Yesterday’s gas will only take us so far. We need new fuel each day, even on the days when we can enjoy a slow roll. The enemy would love nothing more than if we neglect this spiritual fuel and coast on yesterday’s fumes. We need the daily bread to be our daily fuel.
So are you willing to stand at your post and watch, wait, and defend if necessary, the territory God’s entrusted to you? Let’s cast aside all the excuses that so easily encumber us, and meet with God first thing tomorrow. As we wait in hope we’ll be renewed and empowered for the day that’s ahead.
And as you do, a spiritual revival will spark in your heart, and can say with Psalmist, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and in his word I hope, my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning” (Psalm 130:5-6).
Let’s remember the morning watch.
P.S. Let’s remember the morning watch together! Tag me and use #rememberthemorningwatch and share a peek into your morning devotional time. Like the Cambridge Seven, you never know what God will do when we take him and his Word seriously and meet with him!
P.P.S. Check out the resource below for how to make your quiet time a time of holy leisure.