I am probably the last person who should be commenting or writing on this subject, but I am doing so because it is an area where a lot of people struggle to maintain some degree of consistency.
I did not grow up in a Christian home and was saved two months before my eighteen birthday back in February of 1987. I heard a lot about “getting alone with God”, “having a quiet time with God”, “meeting God daily in the Word”. But what I did not hear a lot of was exactly how to do it and maintain some form of consistency.
I am not ashamed to admit that this has been a big struggle for me since I became a Christian over 20 years ago. What I will share with you are some of the things that I have read and heard from others that have made a lasting impact in my life to allow me to enjoy a rich devotional life and time with God. Some will say, “You are a Bible college and seminary graduate, you should have it all together.” Big assumption there because 1) People are afraid to talk about their struggles because they are fearful that it will make them look weak instead of strong. 2) Not everyone is at the same level spiritually.
I have always had a reverence and appreciation for the Word of God. I enjoy reading it, teaching it and preaching it. The biggest problem that I had was thinking that I could get by with minimal time in the Word and prayer and I allowed other things to crowd it out of my life. I am thankful that God has not given up on me and has been patient with me through this growth process that we commonly term “progressive sanctification”.
Last year, I was privledged to visit the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. The purpose for my visit was two-fold: 1) To attend a Personal Spiritual Disciplines Conference that was being conducted by Dr Donald S. Whitney 2) To look at the campus of Southern Seminary and see what the possibilities were for future studies (PhD or DMin) once I finished my MDiv work. While at the conference, I learned about praying through Scripture (you can read about my observations on this here) This literally changed the way that I prayed! Instead of wasting time listening to unedifying talk-radio in the mornings on the way to work (I have a15 min drive each way to and from work) I have decided to spend that time praying. It has turned out to be some of the best time that I spend each day. There are those who may question the practice of praying while driving, but I have 15 mins to commune with God in the morning and in the evening. In the morning, I use this time for praise and important requests in our family life. I also have two 15 mins breaks during the day – one right before lunch and one mid-afternoon. I walk around the block at work (the long way – which is about a mile) and I use that time to re-read the passage of Scripture that I read earlier in the morning and then I use the remainder of the time to reflect on the reading and to pray for the needs of others. On the afternoon walk, I use that to pray and reflect whatever comes to mind or pray through the Psalms of the day.
I struggled for many years with consistent daily Bible study for two reasons: 1) I thought that if I could not give at least 30 mins or more to Bible study each day, then why bother. 2) I did not want to start something and then not be able to finish it because of my time constraints for work. I cannot say exactly when things changed for me, but they have within the last month or so. I lived with a lot of guilt because I missed or was woefully inconsistent in Bible reading. I have found that right now with the circumstances that I am in (finishing seminary and working 40-50 hrs a week at a secular job) that breaking my morning up into 15 minute segments works best for me. I would like to do more but rather than get upset at my limitations, I figured it would be best for me to do the best that I can for now until God changes my circumstances. I know of one pastor who starts his day at 3:00 am and spends several hours in study and prayer. There is nothing wrong with this, but it would not work for me, maybe when I am pastoring I could do this, but as long as I have to “punch the clock”, it would not work. This may seem overly simple, but it is working for me and I share it here so that it might help you. I awake at 6:00 am and make my way to our living room and sit in my chair and read a chapter of the Bible from 6:00 until 6:15. If I finish earlier than 6:15, I will read a portion of what I just read in a commentary for the passage or re-read the passage to have one thought to meditate on or think about for the day. Right now, I am reading the Book of Acts and I have sitting to my right two commentaries: Expositor’s Bible Commentary on Acts by Longencker and the NICNT volume on Acts by F.F. Bruce. Once 6:15 hits, then I move to my exercise time until 6:30 and then finish getting ready for work.
I am being intentionally transparent because I feel that accountability and real fellowship is missing in a lot of our ministries these days. I struggled for many years and beat myself up with guilt but finally realized that the solution to my problem was to make adjustments that would give me some time rather than no time at all. We are all busy and seem to be in a great big hurry to go nowhere.
What are my observations from these adjustments in my schedule. I have noticed if I miss a day either reading the Word or exercising, that I feel like something is really missing from my day. Both components make up an important part of starting my day off right. If you have any questions that you would like to ask, please do so. I know what it feels like to struggle and not really have someone to talk to you without feeling like you are being judged. You want to talk with someone, but you are fearful what they might think or say. Honestly, I have thought about writing this for a couple of weeks, but had to overcome my own fears of being judged. Now I look at it as an opportunity to be transparent and possibly help others who may go through the same struggle very silently.
I highly recommend any of Dr. Whitney’s books on the Spiritual Disciplines. You can find them here
God used those books along with the conference last April to change my life. For that I am grateful to the Lord and to the ministry of Dr. Whitney.