A few weeks ago, I shared 8 signs that your devotional life—your quality time spent with God in prayer and Bible study—may be caught in a performance trap.

These signs included: being stuck in a rut in your devotional life (or ceasing altogether), not finding it life-giving, having a nagging sense of condemnation about the quality or quantity, not hearing personally from God, and so on. [1]

Having a deep-rooted belief that we have to work to please our Father—instead of realising the truth that we are already pleasing to Him—can affect our ability to connect with God and His Word.

Jesus’ Remedy for the Performance Trap

“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance…You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Rev 2:1-5

The Ephesian Church fell into a lifestyle of performance.

At the start, they were on fire and in love with God.

But gradually, their faith degenerated. Eventually, the church was focussed on doing a bunch of good works. They were busy doing the work of the Lord, but neglecting the Lord of the work.

Jesus gives them a remedy for their position. He tells them to remember, to repent, and to do the things that they did at first.

A key to recognising whether or not we have been caught in a performance trap is to simply ask the question,

‘How does the expression of my love for God compare now to when I first became a Christian?’

Once we recognise that we have fallen into a lifestyle of performance—working to please God without enjoying a love relationship with Him—we can then repent and receive Jesus’ forgiveness.

How wonderful is God’s grace—that through Jesus’ death on the cross we are forgiven. Our slate is wiped clean, and we can begin again. And this is true, not only of our devotional life, but every other area of our life too.

The First Step To Repositioning Our Devotional Lives

One practical way that we can disarm and escape the performance trap is to move from an activity-based devotional life to an outcome-focused devotional life. Let me explain:

Our devotional life is activity-based when its goal is to complete an activity such as:

  • Read a passage of Scripture
  • Complete our devotional exercise, or
  • Spend a certain amount of time in prayer.

These activities are beneficial and bring us closer to God. However, when they become an end in themselves, we have moved into performance.

This can easily be overcome by redefining our goals—our desired outcome for our devotional life.

God Himself initiates true devotional outcomes.

  • He wants to have an intimate relationship with you.
  • He wants to involve you in His plans and purposes for your life and those around you, through prayer.
  • He wants to you to grow and interact with Him through His Word, the Bible.

Devotional activities, tools and methods serve these outcomes, not the other way around.

Let’s take a look at some examples of meaningful goals for your devotional life.

I recommend that you consider choosing at least one outcome related to prayer, and one related to Bible study:

Prayer Goals

**I have an intimate relationship with God

**I regularly have close and meaningful conversation with God

**I am involved in fulfilling God’s plan for my life and those around me through prayer

**I am participating with God to bring ‘breakthrough,’ whether it be in my circumstances, or in the lives of others

Bible Study Goals

**I am interacting with God through reading the Bible and recording what He is saying to me

**I am growing in my spiritual life through practical Bible study

**I am learning more about God and His ways through studying the Bible in-depth.

Choosing A Goal That Fits Your Current Position

The outcome that you choose needs to be relevant to where you are. If you have realised that your devotional life needs resuscitation, for example, then you may start with a very simple and achievable goal, such as meaningful conversation with God. [2]

Author and speaker Keri Wyatt Kent tells of her struggles with devotional time becoming another item to be ticked off on the daily ‘to-do list.’ A simple question a spiritual mentor once gave her that she found helpful was, ‘Where did I create some space for God in my day?’ [3]

I love it!

A basic outcome you could pursue, is simply,

“I am creating some space for God and His Word every day”

However, if you already have an effective devotional life, and are looking for a ‘turbo boost’, you may go for more challenging goals such as learning more about God and his ways through in-depth Bible study.

If you choose simple goals for the stage where you are at currently, you can review and upgrade your outcomes when you are stronger.


Think about one or more outcomes you would like from your devotional life, taking into account where you are currently positioned.

Choose at least one goal related to prayer, and at least one related to Bible study.

You do not have to choose an outcome from the ones listed above. You can make up your own. It may help to write it out and keep it in front of you.

Take care not to choose activity-based goals. If you are unsure, read the above distinctions again.


[1] For more about this read the following post:

8 Signs Your Devotional Life May Be Caught In A Performance Trap

[2] I share about this in the following post:

Does Your Devotional Life Need Resuscitating?

[1] For further information about Keri, see http://www.keriwyattkent.com/

© Helen Calder 2011   Enliven Blog – Prophetic Teaching

On team with David McCracken Ministries: Prophetic Ministry That Empowers The Church

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