In the providence of God, in the very year I began pastoring The Donelson Fellowship, Dr. W. A. Criswell published a book called Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors. That red-jacketed book had a formative effect on me and my work. Chapter 3 was entitled “The Pastor in His Study.” Here’s the way it began:
There is a theme in my life that I refer to again and again. Like the motif in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony that is sounded over and over and heard in a dozen different parts and variations, so the basic, underlying persuasion of my own pastoral work is this: Keep your mornings for God….
I keep my mornings for God and I have my study at home. There is a telephone on my desk, but it does not ring. At night in the quietness of the shining stars and of the soft gloom of the evening, I can work and study and prepare. In my morning I can walk into my workshop and there slave at my desk to my heart’s content.
I can pray and I can prepare my sermons. I can write books. I can think through the problems that confront us. I can live the life of a king in a castle in my study with its thousands of theological books and with its afforded opportunity to escape from the pressure of the world. Nobody there but God, and He is waiting for my arrival whenever I come.
When I leave the study, I try to be the servant of the church and of the world. I visit. I answer letters. I go to meetings. I preach. I hold funerals and weddings. I administer the affairs of the congregation. I try to help with my denomination. I do a thousand other things. But the time I spend in my study is mine and God’s. That has extended my ministry and has blessed my life; it is the secret of the enormous amount of work I am able to do….
If I had one thing to tell a young preacher, it would be this: “Keep the mornings for God. Shut out the whole world and shut up yourself to the Lord with a Bible in your hand, with your knees bended in the presence of the holiness of the great Almighty.”
W. A. Criswell, Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1980), 59-60.