I recently had the opportunity to visit with a very wise and very experienced pastor who deals with people who come from the most difficult backgrounds. The ministry that this pastor operates helps point prostitutes, homeless men and women, drug addicts, and criminals toward the redemption that they can experience through a relationship with Jesus. I asked what the one tool was that this ministry has provided their people that made the most difference. Although the response I received surprised me, it shouldn’t have.
This pastor said that each person that was accepted into one of the programs of this ministry was required to participate in the daily habit of prayer and Bible reading. Getting God’s living, breathing, and life changing Word into these precious people each and every day is what has facilitated the most change. This daily quiet time becomes a habit. Because the Word of God is powerful, alive, and active and because it does not return void, this habit builds a hunger for more and is soon replaced by desire.
As these precious people encounter God in His word, their understanding for who He is and what He is grows. A relationship is established. The Spirit is stirred. They encounter Jesus and their lives are changed. This daily habit turns into a passion to know Him more.
I have definitely found that to be true in my own life. Daily scripture reading, sadly, had never been a part of my life. A few years ago I decided to change that. What began as an attempt to become more knowledgeable about the Word of God became a burning hunger to draw closer into relationship with Him and to experience Him fully. It has been the biggest catalyst for change in my heart and in my life.
As this New Year dawn, many of us are looking for resolutions that will truly change our lives. I encourage you to consider making a daily, meaningful quiet time spent in Bible reading and prayer one of your resolutions in 2017. God’s word will not return empty. It will accomplish what He desires and will achieve the purpose that He intends for it to achieve. Committing to time spent in God’s Word each and every day will not be wasted.
With that in mind, I’d like to give you a rather non-traditional list of my top ten tips to achieve a better quiet time in 2017. This isn’t your standard list, so don’t be intimidated by the challenge to tackle this goal. The last thing that most of us want to see is another burdensome list of things that we are required to do to meet some goal, especially one that relates to our faith. This isn’t a list of rules or standards or anything else that might add to your burdens. In fact, this list is the complete opposite of that. This list will free you, empower, you, and get you pointed in the right direction.
God works on an individual basis. We each have a unique relationship with Him. Don’t feel like your quiet time needs to look like anyone else’s. There is no right or wrong way. You do not have to read a chapter a day, finish the Bible in a year, read a Psalm and a Proverb each day, or meet any other of those well-meaning goals.
I have found that I like to read the Bible from front cover to back cover. I prefer to follow the order that the books are arranged in the Bible. I don’t have a set number of chapters or verses. Before I even open my Bible, I pray that God will open my heart, my mind, and my eyes to whatever He has for me that specific day. I start reading each day where I left off the day before. I read until the Holy Spirit has shown me something that I feel the need to stop and dwell on.
My quiet time with God looks different each day. Some days I read chapter upon chapter and some days my heart is convicted after a few verses. Be sensitive to the Spirit. There isn’t a box that you have to fit into.
If spending time reading your Bible is a new thing for you, it may not immediately be your favorite part of your day. Commit to the process. Daily Bible reading is a spiritual exercise. Just like physical exercise, people don’t always love it at first. Also, just like physical exercise, once you start to see results, you get a little more excited about the process. You will see results when you are engaged in spending time in your Bible each and every day. Give yourself some grace if it takes a little while to develop a real love for it.
I know I may lose some of you non morning people here, but at least give this a try. There is something immensely powerful about getting up a little earlier and starting your day in God’s Word. It has a way of changing your mindset and starting your day off with a more Christ-like focus. Not to mention, that if it is the first thing that you do each day, it won’t get forgotten or set aside for other tasks.
Set your alarm a little earlier and get your day started off on the right foot by carving out some time at the start of each new day to turn your heart to the things of God.
Throughout the Old Testament, people were continually building an alter to God. It was a place that they could return to worship, to praise, to remember, and to give thanks. It held special meaning and significance. It was a place where the people knew they were going to honor God.
Find a little space, like your desk, kitchen table, or prayer closet, which can be a place where you can return to each morning for your Bible reading.
I’m not a morning person by nature, so it helps me to plan ahead. Before I go to bed each night, I do everything that I can to make the morning routine a little easier. I take a minute or two each night to get a pot of coffee ready and set the timer so that my coffee is ready when I wake up. My alter is at the end of my kitchen table, so I set out my favorite mug, my Bible, and the tools I like to use for my time in God’s word. This simple step takes the work out of my morning and ensures that all I need to do is stumble to the kitchen and open my Bible.
I’m going to get a little out there with this one, but stick with me, because this one works. My purpose of spending time in God’s Word is because I long for a deeper relationship with my Heavenly Father. When I am in a relationship with someone, I make a date to spend time with them. I know that intentional time together grows the relationship, so I do my very best to not break dates with those I love.
Look at your daily Bible reading time as a date that you have set to invest in your relationship with your Heavenly Father. Call me crazy, but when my alarm goes off I remind myself that I have a date that I need to get to. I imagine that my God is ready and waiting to meet with me. Looking at my quiet time as a date keeps me from hitting my snooze button and drifting back off to sleep.
I will be honest. The first thing I find myself reaching for in the morning isn’t my Bible. It is my cell phone. I want to know what was happening in the world while I was asleep. I have learned that if I want my priority to be a God focused life, then my choices need to reflect that. I have made it a habit to set my phone on the table face down until I am through with my morning quiet time. I don’t check it at all until I’ve spent some time in God’s word and in prayer. It’s ridiculous how challenging just this one little change of habit can be, but it has been worth it. It is amazing how easily I am able to give God those first minutes of my morning by putting a stop to the distractions of texts, social media, and email.
I’m a little all over the place. My mind tends to wander if I’m still and quiet for very long. Because of this, I struggled with reading my Bible and praying. I would sit down and open my Bible and start reading, but before long I would be mentally making a grocery list or scheduling my day. Prayer was even more difficult because my eyes were closed and I didn’t have anything visual to keep me on track.
I’ve learned that I have to physically engage with my Bible in order to make it a fruitful experience for me. I am a writer, so that is the optimal way for me to engage. I keep a pack of highlighters, pens, and a journal beside my Bible. I highlight verses that speak to my heart. I write notes in the margins of my Bible. I copy powerful passages of scripture into my journal. I jot down questions or ideas related to what I am reading.
When I finish my Bible reading and move into prayer, I open my journal to a fresh new page. I date the top and write my prayer in the form of a letter to my Heavenly Father. This is the only way that I have found to keep my mind from wandering and to express what is really on my heart instead on falling into a habit or rote prayer.
Different methods will work better for different types of people. Some people prefer to listen to an audio Bible. Some prefer to read aloud. Find a way to engage that makes your time meaningful.
Small groups are my thing. I adore the community, the friendship, and the accountability they provide. I love to facilitate them through a local ministry that I am involved in and I love to run ones through my social media accounts. Small group study should never replace your own private time in God’s word, but it always amazes me to see the power that can come from like-minded and like-purposed people getting together to study God’s word.
Look within your church and your community to see if there is a group that you can join to do a scripture study with. If that isn’t an option, find an online community that you trust. However you choose to do it, partnering up with others is a wonderful way to supplement your quiet time and make it richer.
I know that this is going to sound pretty simple, but if your goal is to spend more time in God’s word this year, then just do it. Commit to being in the word of God each and every day. Every time you open God’s word, He is at work in you. He will reward your efforts and you will be drawn in to a richer and deeper relationship with your Heavenly Father as you come to know Him better. None of that can happen if you don’t just do the work of following through and having a daily quiet time of Bible reading and prayer.
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Bobbie Schaeperkoetter is married to her high school sweet heart and is a homeschooling mama of a tween boy and a teen boy. She loves Jesus with her whole heart and is just doing her best to honor him in the craziness of life. She hopes that by sharing her efforts to do so, she can shake a little salt, shine a little light, and encourage you to do the same.
Bobbie is also a writer and blogger at www.bobbieschae.com.