But how? How do you actually do it? What do you read? What do you do?
Those are some of the questions that came about after last week’s series on how my life has shifted since I committed to getting into God’s Word every day. I really hope that you were encouraged to try sixty days with your Bible and see how it changes your life (and then don’t stop there, keep going!). I’m sharing what I’m using in my quiet time, how I’m using it, and where I think I’m going next with the hope that it’s a jumping off point for you. There isn’t a right or wrong way to do it and it’s taken me a while to figure out what works best for me. Maybe my way won’t fit your needs or style–that’s okay, just start somewhere and adjust. God will be patient. He’ll work with you and through you as long as you submit to him and get into his Word. After that, figuring out the rest is just fun.
Before I started my daily Jesus time, I made my way to the store for a new notebook and pens. I believe strongly in the power of a great notebook and some awesome pens in getting you started so don’t just use any raggedy pad of paper you have sitting around. Fancy it up a little bit, make it feel special. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being excited to be in the Word and looking forward to writing with your new pens. There is power in a new pen. Amen and hallelujah.
Once you have your snazzy paper and pens ready, you need an engaging devotion book. For me, I can’t just decide to spend time in the Bible and not have someone tell me what to read. I need a plan, so reading from the Bible from start to finish or just finding a book and studying it is not going to work for me in this season. There is nothing wrong with those things (obviously), but right now, I like the daily assigned reading I have because I’m learning how to be disciplined. Those other things will come later, I think.
I have tried lots of different devotion books to get me to spend time in the Bible and most of them have not worked. But fun fact: it was more me than the book. I wasn’t really invested in spending time, I felt it was a chore, and I didn’t see the joy in it. So those books didn’t last long and I placed the blame solely on the books, of course. So this time I worked on my heart and committed to seeing this devotion through to the end, all 365 days of it. Gulp.
I’m using The Message: Solo: An Uncommon Devotional put out by NavPress. It uses The Message translation for its scripture references; I really like The Message Bible, but I study with my NIV Bible open to the text also so I read both during my quiet time (I make notes and underline in my NIV version too, because it’s my main Bible). Each day of the study comes with four parts: a read, a think, a pray, and a live. As I work my way through all the sections, I respond by writing in my journal. When I started this book, I would just do all of it my head, sorta rushing through just to be done. When I started again in January, I knew I needed to slow down and be intentional. So I respond to each prompt or question in writing. I also summarize the text I’ve read so I can think through what I’m reading and not just skim over it (teacher trick!). I write out some of my prayers also–I find a lot of the time when I’m writing, I go back and forth between answering questions or making notes to myself and talking to God. It’s this great conversation between the two of us, sometimes I’m talking and sometimes he’s talking.
Things I’ve found that work for me:
-Not looking at my phone until after my devotional time is over. No peaking, no glancing, nothing. My phone doesn’t even come to my office with me. It is a distraction for me. I wake up, make a bathroom stop, and head to my office first thing in the morning.
-Before I start, I have to ask for God to prepare my heart and to take away all the distractions I have going on in life. Sometimes this works great. Sometimes it is a struggle.
-Doing it first thing in the morning. No exceptions. No matter how late I went to bed the night before. My whole devotion and prayer time routine takes between twenty and thirty minutes, I plan to start each day with that time blocked out.
Things I’ve found that do not work for me:
-Trying to do a devotional at work by arriving early or planning to do it on my break. Once I’m at work, there are just too many other things that seem “more important” and it gets lost in the mix.
-Doing a devotional with anything like “5 Minutes with God” or “Quick Devotional” in the title. For me, anything touted as quick becomes something to check off my list as opposed to something I look forward to. Plus, I need more time than that to get focused or learn anything of value.
-Not writing down my thoughts. I know this isn’t for everyone, but I have to or I don’t remember what I read five minutes later.
-Planning to do my quiet time in the evening, after work or after bedtime. It doesn’t work. I just don’t do it. Ever.
What I think is next:
-I’m going to start spending one day a week, probably Sunday because that is the least rushed day for me, and review my past week’s notes, questions, and prayers. I need to see where I’ve come from and where I still want to go and revisiting seems like the next logical step for me.
-I’ve started (just this week) writing down one truth, verse, or prayer to take with me through the day after my devotional. I want to keep this sacred time with me long after those thirty minutes are up; I want to continue to live in the stuff I’m learning, but some days I find that hard to do. I don’t want to just spend a little time in the morning then go about my day, forgetting what I’ve heard. So I bought some green note cards and those are helping me to stay focused on God’s Word as I leave the safety of my quiet office and meet the day head on.
What about you? What works? What doesn’t? How can you set yourself up to be successful? What do you want to read? What’s holding you back?