Quiet time. Devotional life. Morning solitude. The names vary, but the idea is the same. Believers who want more of God will often attempt some kind of morning or evening practice.
One of the pastors God has used mightily in my life called it his ‘post.’ We might believe we should give some time and energy to meditating on the Word of God (the Bible) and praying to God, but how do we enter into this practice? Christians of all generations have sought the Lord, and we believe there is a reward in so doing (Hebrews 11:6), so how do we enter into this practice?
All I will try to speak for today is my own experience. I do believe there is an error on either side of this subject. On one side, someone will say we all have different ways to interact with God, so we should simply find what works for us. But Scripture teaches us time and time again of the health that will come to God’s people when they are in the word and prayer, not prayerfully finger painting and worshipfully seashell collecting. Just because various activities refresh or restore you, or just because God created you to enjoy them, does not mean they can replace the word and prayer. On the other side, someone will say there is one exact ‘best practice’ for how to be in the word and prayer. This, also, is too strong of a statement for my taste. I believe every Christian should have the word and prayer in their lives, but I also believe that experience will vary from believer to believer and season to season. All I will try to speak for today is my own current and personal (not pastoral) experience in the word and prayer.
My main time of personal interaction with God in His word and prayer is first thing each morning. This means that from the moment my alarm clock sounds, a battle is on, for my flesh does not want to seek God. Because of this battle, various tools have helped pave the way for me to get into the time with Him. I use internet killers (Freedom and Offtime) for my devices to help me stay offline first thing in the morning. One little email could send me into a vortex that kills the time I would’ve spent in the word. I also have a routine of making french press coffee. It takes about ten minutes, and during that time I throw on my headphones and listen to worship music (that I’ve downloaded for offline use), set up my desk with my Bible and notepaper, and stretch a little bit.
At my desk, I have my Bible, a piece of cardstock paper folded into fourths, and my pen laid out. Sometimes I lay these out the night before, but I usually just set them out during my coffee prep time. The paper is where I will write different notations and thoughts and prayers that come to me as I read the Bible. It is also a place I will write down anything I need to remember later, because I know I’m bound to think of random little to-dos and projects while I’m trying to focus on the Bible. My style of journaling is not a long-form letter to God, but a bullet point notation system.
An entry could look something like this (taken from a recent journal):
- Jer 2:2 I long to have a youthful devotion to Christ all the days of my life. Help me, O God, to be passionate for you all my days.
- Would I follow into the wilderness, into obedience?
- Jer 2:8 God looks for those who handle the word to know Him. We must know Him personally.
- How can I know God more in 2018?
- Jeremiah 2:13 What broken cisterns have I turned to? Or do I tend to turn to?
So, upon sitting down, the first thing I do is open up to the Psalms, where I have a bookmark. Quickly, I read the next psalm, trying to allow the prayer of that particular psalm to be my heart for that morning. This usually takes five to ten minutes. I will usually jot down a couple of journal entries at this point. Often, since these are my first thoughts of the day, they might be about something I woke up burdened with, perhaps regarding the events of the previous day, and are not necessarily always directly related to the psalm.
Next, I go to my Old Testament bookmark. My style is to start in Genesis and Matthew at the same time and read, in general, about three Old Testament chapters and one New Testament chapter each day. This means that, roughly, I will end my reading of both Testaments are right about the same time. There are fabulous Bible reading plans out there, and I recommend them highly. Some of them are very basic (like the one I just suggested) and some of them are very intricate. As long as they get you into the Bible, I am all for them. But my style is usually the same each time I read the Bible. I start in Genesis and Matthew, keeping a bookmark in each, and move forward from there. For my first reading of the day, I keep a bookmark in the Psalms or Proverbs.
Here is what an average Bible reading day would look like for me:
- Psalm 40
- Jeremiah 9-12
- 2 Peter
After my allotted time for Bible reading is up, I move into a more concentrated time of prayer. I say “more concentrated” because I find many of my journal entries are actually in the form of a prayer, and we are to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). The idea is that we are in constant communion with God. But I want to get after it in prayer, so I like to budget some time for that each morning.
What works for me is to open the timer app on my phone and punch in the number of minutes I have left before I need to get my workday started, and I set the phone on my desk. Seek the Lord about how many minutes you want to allot to prayer each day, but be sure to give enough space for silence and reflection as you pray.
Then, I walk around the room or sit down on the floor as I pray to God. I try to pour out my heart before Him. I have prayer lists, but they are mostly in my heart by now, so I will just pray through my life and lists as I walk and talk with God. The responsibilities and people of my life are frequent subjects in prayer. My walk, my character, my marriage, my children, and my friendships are topics of conversation with my Father in heaven. Calvary Monterey and its leadership, direction, and fruitfulness are constantly on my mind in prayer. People God has placed in my life are also significant in my prayer life.
Throughout the entire morning, different thoughts are triggered in my mind. I write them all down in my journal to be processed later, usually weekly. These thoughts might be conversations I need to have, decisions I need to make, or even errands I need to run. The point is, I like to write each one of them down to get back to at a later date.
Finally, once I’ve spent time in the word and prayer, my morning devotional time is complete, and my workday is ready to begin.
I would encourage you to develop your own regular rhythm of seeking the Lord. Perhaps you can allocate time each morning. Perhaps you need to attach it to a lunch break or right when you get off work. But, whatever you do, “Keep your hearts with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life" (Proverbs 4:23).