Recently married and fresh from seminary, Suzanne and I began our ministry with East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1979. It so happened that the Billy Graham Crusade came to Indianapolis in 1980, and Suzanne was tapped to work in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association office. One thing she learned from the crusade team was to pray over everything. So, she determined to bring this practice home.
The evening we decided to have devotions together, rather than at separate times, was a beginning for us. And a disaster. As we knelt beside the bed to pray, I was soon in pain. My knees are shaped a bit funny, and the kneeling position was very uncomfortable for me. Suzanne prayed and I fidgeted. So . . . she continued praying. I shifted my balance back and forth to try to lessen the pain. The more I moved, the more fervently she prayed.
Finally, and to me, mercifully, she finished. As we collapsed into bed, I asked, “Suzanne, why did you pray so long? Couldn’t you tell I was uncomfortable?”
“Of course,” she replied.
“Then why did you keep praying on and on?
“I thought you were under conviction!”
Fortunately, our devotional time has improved since then. And God’s Word has been a huge reason why. Before long our prayer time together in the evenings included Bible reading. Then we began reading through The One Year Bible before prayer time, a practice we have continued to this day.
Early in my ministry, I naïvely assumed that preparing lessons and sermons pretty much took care of my devotional needs. I reasoned I was like a chef who nibbles all day long at whatever is at hand, while carefully preparing balanced, nutritious meals for others. But while “grazing on the go” can have merit, it misses the point for Bible study.
Regular mealtimes, with attention to needed daily nutrients, are important. And we have found through three decades of ministry—and life together—that time in the Word together has yielded healthy fruit we did not foresee.
For example, studying together reinforces biblical values in our lives. Often we will stop and remark on how a passage strikes us or resonates with recent experiences. And, looking back, I can see how this exchange reinforces the good, scriptural values we both share. Does that cut off a multitude of possible bad stuff? YOU BET!
Also, partaking of the Word together helps us stay healthier. There is a warm feeling that comes with going to bed on a full spiritual stomach. A sense of finishing the day well and being ready for tomorrow. It’s our daily bread. The spiritual sustenance eaten together helps our stamina.
Additionally, being in the Word helps us grow in the same direction. Changes can wreak havoc on relationships, and much has changed in our lives and ministry in the past three decades. Yet God’s Word remains constant in its ability to minister to us and guide us through the changes. It is always interesting how a Scripture passage comes around the next year with meanings and guidance attached to it that we did not see before. It is often exactly what we needed at precisely the right time! The same verse is always currently relevant, able to continually speak new insight into changing circumstances.
We have found that God’s Word articulates life for us. Sometimes we allow the pace of life to keep us from reflecting properly on what is really happening around us and in us. What is urgent screams so loud we don’t hear the important whispering. It’s amazing how his Word can realign our perceptions in such a way that we come out of our tunnel and see his panorama. His living, breathing Word infuses deep, distilled meaning into the ordinary. His words invigorate and illuminate our daily walk.
Of course, there is much more. But here is one final thought.
I can’t escape the feeling that his Word, over time, continues to work deeply in me, with necessary deconstructions and multidimensional connections I don’t fully comprehend. It helps me, somehow, to repent my way forward on my knees.
Maybe Suzanne was more correct at the beginning than I thought. I just might be under conviction.
Tony Twist is chief executive officer and president of TCM International.