We are all called to a relationship with God. “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). The miracle is that the kind of fellowship He desires for us is to share our lives and be intimate friends. Achieving this kind of deep relationship comes from dedicating our hearts to and spending time with Him and knowing He wants to spend time with us. Our only response is to seek His presence every day.
Being in the presence of God is vital to our spiritual growth and well-being. King David understood that importance. “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand" (Psalm 16:11). During His ministry, Jesus also made it a priority to spend time in the presence of His Father. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed" (Luke 5:16).
As Christians, we also understand the importance of growing a spiritual practice of spending time in the presence of God. But what if your fellowship with God feels more like a chore, and less like spiritual growth? If your prayer and quiet time are starting to feel empty, and God seems farther away, there are a number of ways you may be sabotaging your own time with God.
Here are 8 ways you may be sabotaging your time with God:
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1. A Chaotic Environment
Clutter, chaos, and noise hinder our quiet time, inhibit knowing God’s presence, and obstruct God’s voice. When the area where we spend time with God is free of distracting noises and confusion, God can speak clearly in a voice we can hear.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
Try to create a dedicated place with a comfortable chair and warm lighting and minimize any extraneous noises. Surround yourself with your favorite colors and beautiful things and cherished worship music. Being still in a comfortable and inviting place opens us to hearing and knowing more about the One who calls us.
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2. Electronic Habits
The truth is our phones, tablets, and laptops have become an extension of our existence. Most people are never more than six feet from their phone, and our obsession interrupts our ability to be fully present with God. When you enter a quiet time with God, silence your electronics and turn off the notifications, giving Him your utmost attention. Greater understanding and intimacy with our Father will replace the silence of your electronics.
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
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3. Your Mental To-Do List
When we get still and quiet to hear God’s voice, our minds are seldom cooperative. Our brains keep spinning with thoughts about the things we need to do today, or about finishing the work we started yesterday, or keeping the appointments we have tomorrow. With all of these “to do’s” rolling over in our heads, we stay distracted. We fight to take our thoughts captive and focus on God.
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.” (Isaiah 26:3)
If you find it challenging to stay focused while you pray or read Scripture, try keeping a notepad nearby. When a random thought springs up that needs to be added to your “to-do” list, write it down. That removes that one distraction, and you open more space to God.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
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4. The Wrong Attitude
Spending intimate time with God is vital to growing in our relationship. But if we enter our time viewing the fellowship as a requirement and not as a blessing, our attitude may be sabotaging our time. Scripture promises, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
Approaching God with reluctance will reap a small reward. If we instead come before Him with all our heart, with anticipation and awe, we are rewarded with His presence and love.
“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (James 4:8)
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5. Being Stuck in a Hurry
Growing in your fellowship with God and engaging in genuine worship, prayer, and Scripture takes time. The time is undermined if you are trying to check off your “must do” list and move on to the next task. Surrendering your time to God means giving up the right to use your time for your gain and allowing God to use it for His will.
To avoid rushing through your time with God, choose an hour or half-hour each day and treat it as an important appointment or meeting you cannot miss, and devote it entirely to sitting with God.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
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6. Distractions from Worldly Pursuits
Nothing distracts us more quickly from time in God’s presence than the world. Worldly pursuits seem acceptable, and most are not wrong, but once they replace or become more important than pursuing a relationship with our Creator, they turn into idols. Successful careers, material possessions, and success comes from God, but they can come to obstruct our fellowship with the One who gives us gifts. Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love (Jonah 2:8).
If the world fights for your attention, take a moment to be thankful for the gifts from Our Father. Remember the gifts and the Giver.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
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7. Failure to Prepare
Benjamin Franklin quipped, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” In other words, by failing to prepare for your time with God, you might be sabotaging your time. To be prepared, gather the necessary materials like your favorite Bible translation, a journal, pens and highlighters, and Bible commentaries.
Have the tools ready, but also prepare your heart. First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The best way to prepare to hear from God is to have a heart that is ready to receive. By confessing sin, we equip our hearts to listen to His voice. “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18)
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8. Forgetting the 'Why'
Too often, we construct habits meant to improve our lives and relationships that unfortunately become routine and empty. We take the steps but go nowhere. Each time we enter into God’s presence, we sit before the Great I Am, our Creator and King of Kings. The reason that is possible is because He loves us so much. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) The time spent with God in worship, prayer, and Scripture allows us to know that truth more each day.
If your time in the presence of God feels like there must be more, there is. If you want more of His presence, He does too. “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek.” (Psalm 27:8)
Tamela Turbeville lives for every woman with a difficult past to know God loves them, they are worthy and wanted. She is wife to Richard, and mother to three grown sons and two beautiful daughters-in-law. When doing what she loves most-- studying God’s Word, reading and writing--she is surrounded by her six rescue dogs in her small office in south Arkansas. She began Living One Word to write and share how God redeems the unlovable and you can read more about Tamela, her journey, and her family at www.livingoneword.com, on Facebook, and Instagram.
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Originally published Thursday, 05 September 2019.