Mark Dever: “I Pray and Read Scripture”

Some experiences endure through the years. When I was a student at Beeson Divinity School (2000-2001), Pastor Mark Dever visited our campus for a conference. At a time of Q and A, I publicly asked him something like this:

“What does an average day look like for you as a pastor?”

He asked me, “Which day?” So I said, “You know, like a Tuesday.”

His answer was so simple it couldn’t be considered profound. He said, “I pray and read Scripture. Then in the afternoon, I return phone calls and email.”

He said a few other things about his average day, but this was the essence of his answer. He also said on the average Wednesday he prays and reads Scripture. Thursday, too, he prays and reads Scripture.

For years now this simple answer has echoed through my mind. Pray and read Scripture.

I am the pastor of a small church. I confess that my sinful tendency is to attempt to cause this church to grow both spiritually and in number by doing things designed to obtain the wanted growth. I try to preach in captivating ways, I plan events and carry them out, I try to be good friends with as many people connected to our congregation as possible, I visit folks in the hospital, I write letters and email, I keep our church website updated, I try to administrate things like Sunday School and committees, I plan mission trips, and a host of other things.

But I find myself frustrated regularly. Though we have seen some spiritual growth, and we have seen some growth in number, it seems our congregation has a tendency to loose momentum. Its like we move a bit, but then the steam quickly runs out.

In times like these, Mark Dever’s words continue to echo through my mind. “I read Scripture and pray.” Dever pastors a church much larger than mine. There are more activities to administrate, more people to counsel, more folks to visit, more issues to deal with. But his main purpose on an average day is to read Scripture and pray.

I worry that if I spend several hours each morning reading Scripture and praying that my congregation will think of me as lazy, or worse, that I will think of myself as lazy.  I worry that if my focus is personal spiritual discipline then I will neglect the 1,001 obligations I have placed on myself as a shepherd over the flock.

But the older I get and the longer I serve, the more I realize the wisdom and value of Dever’s simple statement. If these two critical spiritual disciples are not in place, both pastor and flock will suffer for it.

Nothing is more important than “looking unto Jesus” (Heb 12:1-2).