Yancey points out that he likes to run. But he will run even IF he doesn't feel like it. Why? Because there are accompanying benefits in other areas of life, like strengthened heart and lungs, it facilitates skiing and mountain climbing, and he can eat what he will without worrying about weight gain!
"Benefits accrue as well for those who practice regular prayer (whether or not they feel like praying)." He cites writer Nancy Mairs, who attends church in the same spirit that a "writer goes to her desk every morning, SO THAT IF AN IDEA COMES ALONG SHE'LL BE THERE TO RECEIVE IT." [Emphasis mine] Yancey approaches prayer the same way. Many days he may not get anything perceivable out of it, no appreciable profit. But, he says, "I show up in hopes of getting to know God better, and perhaps hearing from God in ways accessible only through quiet and solitude."
I resonate with Yancey's attitude. It has been my habit for years to arrive early in my office for Scripture and prayer. It's as much a part of me as any bodily routine to begin or end the day. You just do it. But I look forward to it; the day could not be the same without it. Still, not every day does truth flash like lightening upon me. But it may! It HAS. But routine has a 100% better chance of doing so than if I never began such a regimen. I remember in the early 60's hearing Pastor Seume (Richmond, Va.) say from time to time, "Even if you do not get anything out of your Bible reading, God will still bless your pursuit anyway." And this is much the same. To quote Nike (but with a much greater goal in view) "Just Do It!" Swoosh! That's right, "JUST DO IT!!" Listen to Yancey again,
For years I resisted a regular routine of prayer, believing that communication with God should be spontaneous and free. As a result I prayed infrequently and with little satisfaction. Eventually I learned that spontaneity often flows from discipline. Leonardo da Vinci spent ten years drawing ears, elbows, hands, and other parts of the body in many different aspects. Then one day he set aside the exercises and painted what he saw. . . . I found that I needed the discipline of regularity to make possible those exceptional times of free communication with God.Spontaneous Routine?!
I too, have often found a true "word from the Lord" in my regularly scheduled devotional times. It has been my added privilege to be able to carry those thoughts into the classroom on the same day as I received them. The class has been very receptive and open to such a "word," which has given an originality to such times as opposed to being a "canned" talk.
Such preparation has not been the consequence of a singular isolated "Word" from above, but the result of years of participation in the glorious routine of pursuing God in Scripture and prayer. So, how shall I conclude this post? . . . JUST DO IT!