When I was a teenager, my mentor, Barry, taught me to have a daily devotional time. This has become the single most important habit in my life, and I'm convinced no one can grow as a Christian without it.
I memorized Proverbs 8:34 when I was just 18: "Blessed is the man who hears me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors." I started getting up early and praying in my dorm room. I discovered that God promises a blessing to those who spend time with Him. More than 40 years later I'm still setting aside that special time with God.
But how do you structure a daily quiet time in today's overscheduled culture? Many Christians today say they are too busy to set aside time to pray and read the Bible. Instead, they multitask their devotional lives by listening to Christian podcasts while commuting to work or praying under their breath while showering or brushing their teeth.
If you never set aside time to focus wholeheartedly on prayer or the Bible, your relationship with God will feel cluttered and superficial. It's not too late to develop new habits. Here are a few ways you can make your time with God richer and more intimate.
Set a regular time for your "date" with God. There is no rule about when to pray. Some people prefer mornings; others find an evening hour easier. Devotional time works better for me early in the morning before life's pressures crowd my time. Once you develop your unique habit, and you realize how much you benefit from it, you'll find you simply can't live without time with God.
Choose a special place with privacy. Jesus said: "But you, when you pray, enter your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret" (Matt. 6:6a). This doesn't mean you can't pray while driving to work. But you need a quiet place in order to focus.
Turn off your phone. Would you talk to friends, reply to texts or answer emails during a date with your spouse? Not unless you trivialize that relationship. The same principle applies when you spend time with the Lord. We need to reclaim the art of undistracted devotion.
I've found it necessary to silence my phone during time with God. And if you use your phone to read the Bible, consider switching to an old-fashioned hard copy of the Scriptures. The temptation to check messages or post Instagram photos can ruin your devotional life.
Don't put yourself under pressure. You don't have to read 50 chapters of the Bible or pray three hours. Pace yourself. Be realistic and take small steps. If you have not been seeking the Lord regularly, start by reading a chapter a day in the Bible and praying for 15 minutes. Eventually you will want more. It is better to be a tortoise than a hare.
Learn to "chew" the Bible. One of the simplest ways to study the Bible is to read one book at a time and slowly digest each verse. The biblical word "meditate" means "to chew," as a cow chews its cud over and over. The more you read a passage, the more "juice" you squeeze out of it.
Listen for God's voice. Some people have complained to me, "I just never hear God speaking." Yet when I ask if they read the Bible regularly, they say they're too busy. God wants to speak directly to us through the pages of His Word. When you read Scripture with a prayerful heart, God can cause a verse to jump off the page as a direct personal message.
Use a prayer list. Years ago, I started the habit of praying for certain people God had put in my life. Pouring my heart out in prayer for them has become one of the most fulfilling spiritual disciplines I engage in.
The apostle Paul feared the Corinthians might be "led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:3b, NASB). Our media-saturated culture gives us a million ways to occupy our time, but simple devotion remains the antidote to all distraction. As you step into 2021, reset your priorities and make it your goal to spend consistent time with God.
J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years and now serves as contributing editor. He directs The Mordecai Project (themordecaiproject.org), an international ministry that protects women and girls from gender-based violence. His latest book is Set My Heart on Fire (Charisma House).
This article was excerpted from the January/February issue of Charisma magazine. If you don't subscribe to Charisma, click here to get every issue delivered to your mailbox. During this time of change, your subscription is a vote of confidence for the kind of Spirit-filled content we offer. In the same way you would support a ministry with a donation, subscribing is your way to support Charisma. Also, we encourage you to give gift subscriptions at shop.charismamag.com, and share our articles on social media.
J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years before he launched into full-time ministry in 2010. Today he directs The Mordecai Project, a Christian charitable organization that is taking the healing of Jesus to women and girls who suffer abuse and cultural oppression. Author of several books including 10 Lies the Church Tells Women, he has just released his newest book, Set My Heart on Fire, from Charisma House. You can follow him on Twitter at @LeeGrady or go to his website, themordecaiproject.org.
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