The Word and prayer are vital to the Christian life. But if these disciplines do not produce a transformed life, they are futile. You cannot listen to Jesus as Lord in the Word and come to Jesus as Lord in prayer without obeying Jesus as Lord in your life. Jesus rebuked his listeners who loved to hear him but did not obey him: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). Jesus puts it simply: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Devotion without obedience is no devotion at all.
The apostle James confirms that, as followers of Jesus, we must not only read his Word, we must also obey it. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). Followers of Jesus who read the Bible and pray to God without obeying God deceive themselves. They think that they are progressing in the Christian life, but they are failing to actually obey Jesus as Lord.
When we read the Word and pray to God with an aim to obey him, God works powerfully within us and makes us more like himself. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Obedience to God, from a heart transformed by the gospel, makes us more like Jesus, who obeyed God to the fullest. “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).