“I just don’t have time for Bible study and prayer.”
I’ve said these words before, and chances are you have, too. Even with the best of intentions, we have a hard time finding space in our schedules for any time with God. But if we are to maintain our relationship with Him, then we must make time for it. We manage to make time for the things that matter to us…heck, we manage to make time for things that really don’t matter all that much to us! Surely we can work together, and share some ideas here to make time for God.We’ll tackle the subject of prayer in a different post; let’s focus on Bible reading and study for now.
An Appointment with God
Jen Hatmaker tells us in 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess that her communion with God “suffers not for lack of desire but time.” But then she reflects that she did find time for Facebook and television and YouTube videos and radio. “So when I say I don’t have time,” she admits, “I’m a gigantic liar. I have time. I just spend it elsewhere.” Ouch. If we are honest, I think we are all convicted by these words.Imagine that God called you up on the phone and asked you to set aside some time for Him. He tells you that He wants to talk with you about your purpose in life, why you have been put here on earth, what He has created you to do, how you can handle those problems you are facing and deal with those people in your life. Is that an appointment that you are likely to miss?
That is exactly what you are signing on for when you make an appointment to spend time in God’s Word. It is in the Bible that you will find God’s purpose and will for you, as well as His direction and encouragement for handling the struggles you face due to circumstances and people in your life. Knowing that His promises lie between the pages of that single book, the Bible, doesn’t it make sense to allow time each day to access them?In Mindy Starns Clark’s book entitled The House That Cleans Itself, she dedicates an entire chapter to the topic of having a devotional area within your home. “Going to God on a daily basis and keeping Him at the center of your heart and home is the key to lasting change,” Clark tells us.
Practical ConsiderationsA good first step in incorporating Bible study into your schedule is to determine the best time to do it. In the Old Testament, God required the “first fruits” from His people; He wants the BEST, not the second-hand or leftovers. I think He probably feels the same way today. When could you spend time with God’s Word when you would be giving it your full energy and attention?
Many people like to begin their days with a time of prayer and Bible study to focus their attention on God for the day. I love the idea of a morning devotional time, but it would not make for an effective experience for me. I would be bleary-eyed and thinking about my first cup of coffee the whole time. Lots of times I find myself reading my bible at 10:30 pm, knowing that I ought to be getting into the shower so I can get to bed. For me, the best time for prayer and Bible study is around 8:30 pm. Dinner is cleaned up, the kids are in bed, chores and appointments are finished for the day, and my husband is settled in to the computer or TV. Nothing else is particularly pressing for me at this time of night, and I can focus on God’s Word. What time would work best for you to be able to bring the first fruits of your energy and attention to God?To make the most of your time, make sure to have all of your needed materials together in one place. At the very least, this would mean keeping your Bible in easy reach of your pre-determined location. Other possible additions include a notebook and pen for jotting down verses, ideas, and reflections; a reading schedule, if you are working your way through the Bible in one or two years; a devotional book, if you like reading daily selections with commentary; reference books, in case you are digging deep; highlighters, colored pencils, and colorful sticky notes if you are making notations in your Bible or notebook.
But remember, nothing more is necessary for spending time in God’s Word than God’s Word itself…don’t make things so complicated that you never get started. (Trust me, I am an EXPERT on making things complicated!)If you DO end up with a collection of materials and supplies, keep them all together in a basket or tote bag. That way, they don’t become a messy nuisance when you’re trying to keep the house neat, and you can easily move them from place to place if you have to change locations for Bible study one day. I like to keep my things next to “my spot on the sofa” in the corner of the living room, but if I want to read the Bible while the television is on, I often pack up and head upstairs to my bedroom to find a quiet place. I have to keep things portable so that I don’t throw my hands up and say, ”oh well” when my usual spot doesn’t encourage quiet time.
Clark encourages us to start small if we must, and God will bless our efforts. Do you feel that five minutes is all that you can manage right now? Well, that’s five more minutes in God’s Word than you managed yesterday, and over half an hour by the end of the week. With prayer and commitment, you will likely see that time expand as you grow hungrier for more scripture. In the classic book The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, Hannah Whitall Smith assures us, “Our part is the trusting; it is His to accomplish the results. And when we do our part, He never fails to do His, for no one ever trusted in the Lord and was confounded.” Show up, do your part, and God will bless your efforts.Consider following Clark’s advice to set a timer for your reading time. If you set the timer to “ding” after ten minutes, there is no reason to check the clock during your quiet, focused time with God. Nor do you have to worry that you will “run over” your allotted time, taking you away from your To Do list.
The Bottom LineMake an appointment with God, put it on the calendar if you must, get yourself prepared ahead of time so that you are not scurrying around looking for your Bible or a pen every day at the appointed time, commit yourself to a consistent practice of Bible reading, and reap the joyful benefits of spending time with your Creator. If you don’t schedule it, it isn’t likely to happen.
Don’t intend to do it.Make it happen.
My next post will share some specific ideas for incorporating
Bible reading and study into your days.