This week it seemed like a good idea to spend some time thinking about something we may all want to grow in next year: our personal time alone with God. The next few posts on this subject may be things you already have down. But for anyone who feels like they want their 2012 private time with the Lord to be different from their 2011 time, maybe some of the following thoughts will help.
Today, let’s look at the idea of how to plan your time. People sometimes think it is unspiritual to actively plan out your methods for pursuing spiritual growth. But the truth is that without spending some time thinking about how you’ll meet with God (other than trying to think about it when the alarm’s going off and you’re warm in bed), you might never find yourself growing. So planning doesn’t have to quench spontaneous spirituality, it just needs to be submitted to the Lord, and He can use it to actually increase the depth of your time with him.
The three things you need to have for your devotional time are a time (“when am I going to do this?”), a place (“where will it happen?”) and a plan (“how should it go?”). Today we’ll think through planning your time.
Establishing Your Set Time
Quite simply, you need to decide when you are going to spend time privately with the Lord. Otherwise, isn’t your life so pressing and filled with things you have to (and want to) do that it can be crowded out? If we don’t make a decision about when we’ll carve out time to be with God, we might find that it will never happen.
Two factors to consider:
- When do you actually have time to do it? Or, when can you realistically make time?
- When are you best able to read and actually think?
#1 means that you have to decide either when you naturally have time (for instance, if you have an hour every day after class or work when it is easy for you to get alone where you live). Or, if you have no easy time already built in to your schedule (which is most likely the case), when can you realistically create time? When can you carve time out of your schedule, by cutting out other things? This may be the key to increasing your time with God. It might help to make a list of how you spend a typical weekday and weekend. Add up how much “expendable time” you have (time left over after you do things you can’t avoid like work or school). Then note how you usually use it. How much time goes to entertainment like TV, movies or the internet? How much time goes to social life? Other hobbies or interests? The point is to honestly make ourselves look at our days (i.e. Psalm 91:12) and how much time God’s given us to do whatever we want with. Then we’ll know what we’re actually responsible to be stewards over. If you actually write out list and add it all up, you’ll end up with a number, visible on the page: this is how many hours you have to work with for creating time to spend in personal devotions. If your schedule is full of mostly essential things, it may be that sleep is the best thing for you to cut time out of. I can testify that I grow with the Lord more by regularly being with him for an hour in the morning rather than regularly sleeping for one more hour.
#2 (“When are you best able to read and actually think?”) reminds us that we need to consider how we personally operate. The obvious choices here are: “morning person “ or “night person.” If you can’t help but fall asleep any time after 10 pm, don’t decide to make your time with the Lord start at 9:45 every night when you finish your day. If, however, you get charged up when it’s dark out, maybe you should plan your times before bed.
A word of caution here: One common mistake people fall into is to put themselves into a box when it comes to thinking about time. Just because you have trouble getting up in the morning doesn’t mean you were born “not a morning person” and therefore will never be able to read or pray in the morning. You will most likely surprise yourself with what you are able to do if you discipline yourself and establish different habits.
Lastly, realize that you may need to plan ahead to make sure that the time you pick actually happens. If you’re planning to sit with the Lord from 9 to 10 pm, it may mean that you move earlier things around to make sure the time stays open. If you want to get up and read from 6 to 7 in the morning, it will most likely mean that you can’t stay up as late as you did when you were just rolling out of bed to catch a bus. Sometimes we might find that it takes even more discipline to make ourselves go to bed early enough the night before, than it does to actually get out of bed.
Another thing to consider when thinking about the “time” part of all this is how long the time will be. If you have no habit established, a half hour is probably a good place to start, with almost equal parts given to prayer and reading. You should think about working up towards at least an hour, though, to give yourself plenty of time to both read and mull over God’s word, as well as talking to and listening to the Lord. You will probably find that you will grow to want even longer when it’s possible, to really let God’s word work on you, and to really have time to be with Him in prayer.
This post is long because lack of time is such a common enemy we face. But we should think like this: What does it mean for me to “redeem” the time God has given me to live (Eph 5:15-16)? Has God really left me with not enough time to know Him, or is He calling me to re-prioritize my life and make my time serve His purposes?
Tomorrow we’ll continue thinking about all this…