As managing editor of a national Christian magazine, I’m certain I am not supposed to say this out loud. But since it is Ash Wednesday—a day when millions of believers the world over will confess their sins—it is perhaps good and right that I confess mine here: For years I haven’t in any sustained way done daily devotions.

This neglect started in my mid-20s, around the time that said magazine began demanding more time and energy and mental space. Many days I would come home utterly spent from meetings and emails and editing, and a weariness seemed to drag me to the couch and to Netflix (or back to emails). The NIV Study Bible I have used since age 13 was displayed on my coffee table, a badge of good intentions, but mostly only that. Prayers of a weak mind planted on the pillow would go something like, “Lord, you know I really want to connect with you. I’m sorry. Please heal Lauren of her cold, and also bring me a husband. Night.”

There was a brief season in 2013 when, frustrated I could not attain what I wanted—to worship and listen to the Lord—I began a Bible-in-a-year reading plan. It was a “literary” plan, so each day comprised an Old Testament passage, a psalm, a Gospel reading, and a New Testament passage. Surely this plan would keep me from getting mired in Leviticus.

I never got past Day 43.

There’s a reason why spiritual exercises—personal practices meant to foster growth in Christ, including prayer, fasting, Bible study, confession, and meditation—are likened to physical exercises. So to speak, many of us are members at the Lord’s Gym, but we go twice a year. We have spent money on fancy equipment or workout clothing, ...

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