This is part 2 of a series on personal devotional time. Yesterday we looked at planning your time. Today we’ll think about the next two crucial elements of planning: place and plan.
Finding Your Place
This part can be shorter than the others, because there are just a couple important elements in finding the right place for your personal time with the Lord, which you probably already have a good grasp on. First, if at all possible, it is ideal to have a place where you can be alone. I’m sure there are some people who think no place is more sacred than the local Starbucks or Barnes & Noble, but, let’s be honest, we think better when we’re alone, for several reasons. First, we need to be able to control our environment so we aren’t at the mercy of other people when we’re trying to be with God. Second, as I read one time in a book on prayer, it is not that God is different when we’re alone, it’s that we are. Nothing helps you focus on God like not having to focus on what other people might be thinking about you. This is especially true because our times with the Lord do need to included prayer. And what if you just need to get out of your chair and get on your knees to work something out with your Lord? Suffice it to say that your neighborhood barista might be weirded out.
It is also essential to be able to ensure quiet. Our lives are so noisy. It takes discipline to create space for us to be able to listen to the Lord as we read and pray. Along that line, the place you choose should offer freedom from distraction. This too requires discipline, because nothing will ruin things like itchy fingers who have easy access to cell-phone facebook apps, etc. We simply must learn to disconnect…so that we can connect.
What about spending time with the Lord while you’re driving? Of course, we should pray always, and there’s certainly no better way to use the time in the car, but should it be your only time? No guilt here…but would you date someone or cultivate a marriage by only talking to them on the way to work? The road just doesn’t seem to lend itself to the kind of focus, freedom, and heart-searching that being with the Lord usually requires.
Of course, the truth may be that at times you might find it literally impossible to find a place alone or quiet. The Lord will give you grace to know Him in whatever circumstances He places you in. But if we can be alone in quiet place, we’ll typically find the most fruitful times there. And sometimes we just need to get creative. You may have heard the story of Susanna Wesley, who with more than a dozen children, used to sit in her chair and pull her apron up over her head to be alone to pray in the middle of a room crowded with kids. I have a friend who had her father clear a space in the basement and created a little haven in a house similarly crowded. Early in the morning, lounges are often empty on college campuses.
Having A Plan
It’s a common issue: You’ve got your place, your coffee, your bible, you got up on time–you did it…Now what? Good plans for both bible reading and prayer can help you avoid wasting time figuring out what to read or pray. They can keep your times from becoming repetitive. And they can help you keep moving when any number of factors make it hard to continue.
As far as bible reading goes, you need a plan that helps you daily:
- Receive strength for your faith
- Know God better
- Enjoy your relationship with Him more
- Grow in understanding all of His word
- Hear His voice, obey Him, and Trust Him throughout the day
There are several printable plans on our resources page that you can easily put in your bible and start using. Most of them will get you through the whole bible in a year. You can choose a plan that takes you through in regular order, or others that take you on different paths through the word. This way you’ll digest God’s word in it’s totality, over the course of the whole plan. (If you’ve never read the whole bible, this would be a great way to start.)
Don’t worry about finishing in a year or get pressured about “keeping” up with any plan. Personally, I have never completed a trip through the scriptures in under two years. Better to read and get it, then to hurry from chapter to chapter. Better to stop and pray over a verse when the Holy Spirit starts working in you than to move on just to keep up with the plan. (The plan is not God.)
And, while you’re in the middle of it all, if you find that a plan isn’t working, throw it out and find a new one! Better to be honest and seek God about how He wants to be sought than to soldier on with something that isn’helping you and bearing fruit.
Whatever bible reading plan you use, when you sit down to read, and open your bible, a good habit to develop is to stop and pray before you start reading. I love to take a breath and say something to the Lord like, “I’m here Father. Speak to me. Help me understand what I’m about to read. Help me to hear what I need to today.” I once read about someone who likes to pray these four verses before he begins to read: Psalm 119:36, Psalm 119:18, Psalm 86:11b, and Psalm 90:14.
Praying before we read God’s word reminds us that we can’t do any of this without the Spirit’s help. So we should be praying: that we’ll be able to understand it; that we’ll be able to concentrate; that God will speak to our hearts while we read; that we’ll see what He’s saying, not just what we’re looking for; that we’ll love it and get excited about it.
Tomorrow we’ll look at some practical strategies for helping with your bible reading.