I want to recount a lesson I learned from Joni Eareckson Tada on the power and purpose and provision that comes through the devotional life.
Some of you may recall that forty years ago Joni became a quadriplegic as the result of a diving accident. Stuck in the geriatric ward of the state institution in Maryland she'd listen for hours as her friends read stories from the Scriptures. One of her favorites was the story of a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. Jesus had encountered him lying by the Pool of Bethesda and healed him. As a result of this story Joni began picturing herself lying on a straw mat right beside the Pool of Bethesda and for hours on end she would plead with God for a miraculous healing.
It seemed at that time that God did not reward her prayer with a response. Thirty years later, however, she received a revelation of sorts during a trip to Jerusalem with her wonderful husband, Ken. He pushed her wheelchair down the steps of the Via Dolorosa, made a left turn at the Sheep's Gate, walked right next to Saint Anne's Church and then ran straight into the Pool of Bethesda. While Joni was resting her arms on the guardrail overlooking those now dry, dusty ruins, her mind flashed back to those thirty years earlier that she had pictured herself lying on a mat at this very spot. Suddenly, like a thunderbolt across a clear blue sky she was struck by the realization that God had not given her the response she was looking for - He had given her a far better one. Overwhelmed with emotion she began to thank Him for not healing her. God had miraculously turned her wheelchair into her secret place.
That day she might well have cried out "Oh wheelchair, I bless thee" because it was in the prison of that wheelchair that Joni learned the secret of the devotional life. Unable to run here and there with perfectly-formed limbs, she spent hours practicing the principles of prayer. As her life grew ever richer and deeper she was enabled to bless multitudes out of the overflow of a life spent in that secret place. It was in her secret place that she discovered that there were more important things than walking, and as she has grown in intimacy with her Creator she's learned to bless the cross that crafted her character.
In our fast-food culture we're always looking for instant gratification, a cacophony of voices promise us quick fixes and instant cures when, in reality, there are none. The secret to a successful marriage is found in time spent developing a relationship with your spouse. The secret to raising kids is a function of the quality and the quantity of time spent interacting with them. The secret to a successful portfolio is directly related to understanding the fundamentals of the companies in which you invest. The secret to prayer is secret prayer, and the secret to a great devotional life is disciplining ourselves to find a secret place, a place where we can drowned out the static of the world and hear the voice of our heavenly Father.