Monday, August 19, 2013

How I Spend Time With God

On occasion I am asked by others how I spend time with God. Usually the question is asked from someone looking to find ideas for their own walk with God. They are curious to know what works for me, perhaps finding something helpful for themselves. I do the exact thing around other leaders. It is good to learn from others.

Since I get asked about this regularly, I decided to write about it. I'm going to outline my approach for spending time with God, then I'm going to give a few additional ideas and resources that can also be helpful.

My Approach

I like having routines. I do not always follow them perfectly, but they serve as guardrails to keep my life on the road. The following is my typical pattern and routine for spending time with God. 

1. I wake up before my wife and kids.

If you want to spend quite, uninterrupted time, you should wake up and start your day before the hustle and bustle begins. I am not against spending time with God during the middle of the day or in the evening, but I found personally I am more alert, rested, at peace, and ready to spend time with God in the morning time. If I wait until later, I either never get to it or it is always rushed and/or interrupted. Phone calls, texts, emails, and other things will snuff out quite time with God if I do not schedule it first thing.

Some people do not feel like they can afford to miss 30 to 45 minutes of additional sleep. My philosophy: I can't afford not to miss that sleep. I need to start my day with God. My family needs me to start my day with God. Something that may help you is to approach your time with God as a standing appointment. You wouldn't skip an appointment with your boss because you were sleepy. So you shouldn't skip time with God either.

2. Coffee, prayer, & self-gospeling. 

Once I am awake, I get my coffee brewing and I collect my Bible, highlighter, and pen. Once I have everything in place, I begin with a time of prayer. This prayer time is usually quick. I thank God for the gift of a new day. I praise Him for His greatness and glory. I ask Him to give me grace to read the Word and hear from Him. I pray for God to incline my heart toward His Word, so that I do more than read words on a page. It is also during this time that I rehearse the gospel message to myself. I remind myself that approaching God is all of grace. I thank God for His holiness and might. I reflect on my sinfulness and need of a Savior. I exalt in Jesus, my Substitute and Redeemer. And I place my faith once again in the risen Christ for my right standing with God. 

3. Intentional Bible Reading.

After I finish praying, I open my Bible reading plan to where I left off previously, locate the passages I am scheduled to study, and begin reading. I read carefully and thoughtfully. I highlight passages that really resonate with me or leap out. I jot down notes with my pen in my Bible's margins. When I finish my scheduled reading, but desire to read more, I'll go to the psalms or a Gospel or a letter from Paul.

I love using a Bible reading plan. I have not always done it, but I find it gives me consistency. In the past, when not using a plan, I would jump around to random texts, with no real purpose or intentionality. Using a plan that goes through all the Bible in a year keeps me neglecting major portions of Scripture I may otherwise never read. But all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for our learning (2 Timothy 3:16).

4. Closing Prayer.

After spending time in the Word, I close with prayer. This time of prayer is longer than the first, focused on repenting of sin, praying for strength, interceding for my family, and pleading for the Holy Spirit to help me apply the truths from the morning's study. While this is my closing prayer of my study time, I seek to pray throughout the day.

Additional Ideas and Resources

There are other practices that I incorporate into my time with God that are not always daily, but are regular. One of those practices is journaling. I will journal several times a week. I recount the events and conversations of the past few days that were meaningful or significant. I have done this for years, and find it enjoyable. Occasionally I'll go back and read prior entries to see how life has progressed. 

Another practice I enjoy is reading/singing/praying hymns. I love hymns. I do not always like their musical arrangement, but I cherish their lyrics. These songs are saturated with the gospel and feed the soul. I keep a hymnal on my desk. Similar to this is a handbook called Valley of Vision. It is a collection of short prayers on numerous topics. I often read one to close my morning study. 

Lastly, I like to sing. I'm not a great singer, but I enjoy doing it. I play music in the background as I pray and read. I also will pick a song or two to sing or sit in silent reflection. Music and singing flow from the heart's affections. It is difficult to enjoy music or sing if your affections are cold. I know it has been a good time with God when I'm bursting with gratitude while I sing. 

Resources: There are two books, in my opinion, that go unrivaled on the subject of spiritual disciplines and drawing closer to God. My first recommendation is Donald Whitney's Spiritual Disciples for the Christian Life. This is a great book on all the different spiritual disciplines that can be incorporated into your walk with God. The second book is Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. Like the previous book, it outlines the different means of grace God has given to foster growth in our relationship with Him.

A Promise and a Challenge

James 4:8 promises that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. That is an incredible promise. If we will step toward God, make the time for Him, He will step toward and make time for us. How incredible! Take Him up on that. 

Remember Mary and Martha from Luke 10. Martha was busy, busy, busy. Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha wanted Jesus to make Mary get up. Jesus' response to her is that, "one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:42). Jesus said only one thing was necessary, and Mary was doing it. She was sitting at Jesus' feet. We should resolve to never begin a day without first sitting like Mary at the feet of Jesus. George Muller, the 19th century evangelist, believed it was man's first priority, each and every day, to get his soul happy in God. Let's heed that thought and spend time with God. 

Questions: what practices do you regularly incorporate into your walk with God? What new practices have you considered trying? Leave your thoughts and comments below.

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