I don’t think these are uncommon questions. My last post, On Following Others and Leaning Into God and His Word Personally . . . Striking a Balance . . . , was all about the importance of seeking God for yourself. Not to discredit or marginalize the need for teachers, pastors, ministers, and so on, but to understand that there is a point where we need to open the bible and pray and study and read on our own.
The question so often heard is “How ? “How do I go about applying this practice in my own life?” Y’all, I’m far from an expert, and every time I think I’ve figured it out, I feel like I have to shift and pivot. Plus, every person is different. Every relationship with God is different, and even within my own personal life and relationship with Jesus, my how, varies and evolves with different phases of my life . . .because the reality is my how during the full blown quarantine of the pandemic looked very different than when my kids are both in school full time. Different seasons and circumstances bring different needs and purposes and stages of growth, and how everything looks right now, with one young-ish kiddo and one teenager at home, is going to look drastically different than a few years from now when one is out of the house and the youngest graduates to the role of teenager . . . Jesus take the wheel. Life changes and we adjust, but regardless, the most important how I have to figure out is how to keep God front and center.
So with that, I’m going to share a bit of what works for me. Just keep in mind, that these aren’t hard, fast rules, and I’m not an expert. Maybe some of this will work for you. Maybe none of it will, but I think it’s always good to get ideas from others when we’re trying to flesh out what works for us.
- First, I try to find a time where I can pray and read the bible in peace . . . and by peace I mean “silence” so for me it is literally “a quiet time”. Right now, while my kids are in school, that’s very early in the morning. For some people it doesn’t matter when they do this, but I really need to sit down and have this time before our day gets crazy because it sets the tone and keeps me from being a total grump throughout the day. Monday through Thursday I try to be up and ready to go before 6:00 (Fridays and weekends I’m a bit more flexible). Then it’s me, The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit, a large cup of coffee, and a prayer that my youngest doesn’t come busting out of her room the second I sit down. And y’all sometimes she completely crashes my party. It takes everything in me to not get irritated, sometimes I do, but again, different phases mean I learn to adjust and adjust again . . . going with the flow is not my thing. God’s working on me.
- I typically start with prayer. This is really where I need the silence so I can focus on communicating with God because quieting my mind (and my body) is not easy for me. It’s not that I never pray at any other time, but I feel like this is my uninterrupted quality time to focus and pray about all the things from my marriage, to my kids, to extended family, to needs of friends . . . the list is long and very comprehensive. This is the time to be thankful and ask the Holy Spirit to help and guide me. I keep a running prayer list in my journal where I can add to, mark things off, make notes, etc. And this prayer time is far more important than my cup of coffee. I’ll tell you that much.
- After I pray, I move on to studying the word. I intentionally do not use anything outside of my bible here unless I’m looking up a word meaning or comparing different bible translations. This is where I want God to reveal Himself, through His word, to me. So I save the sermons, teachings, podcasts, books, devos, etc. for later in the day. All of those things are good, but this is the time when I try to steer clear of any other influences no matter how good they are. That’s not to say that you have to or need to do it this way. For much of my life I used devotional books as a starting point before diving into the word (which is a great thing to do if you’re struggling to figure out where to start . . . and I highly recommend Priscilla Shirer’s devotional book Awaken if you’re looking for something that has a lot meat and substance). For the past year or two, I’ve been focusing on reading through one book of the bible beginning to end (not all in the same day). Somedays, I’m pressed for time and only read half a chapter while others I may read a few chapters, and while I love love love the bible app on my phone, I use my real deal bible during this time. I take notes both in my journal and in my bible. I write down questions that are going through my head. I ask the Holy Spirit to clarify things for me and speak to me during this time. There are days, I can fill pages and pages with notes. And other days, there isn’t a lot there, but even when the notes and answers to questions aren’t readily forthcoming . . . even when there don’t seem to be big, earth shattering, eye opening revelations . . . I know God is still at work. I know He’s doing a good thing.
So all of that to say this. These are the things that work for me. And if you find them useful, fantastic! If you don’t, then don’t try to force yourself to do what doesn’t work. Just find some time with alone with God. Find some time to read your bible and pray. Use a devotional book or a bible study or just dive right into the word. Whether it be morning, afternoon, or evening, just do it. I promise He’ll meet you wherever and whenever it happens. And the more time you spend with Him, the more time you’ll want to spend with Him.
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