I don’t have a fancy plan that can be marketed. I can’t claim to really know the answers.
Frankly, I’m addicted to activity. You want me to speak for an event? Sure. You need a video for that service? Gotcha. Need a substitute Sunday school teacher? I can cover it. Seminary classes? Let me order the books. Crowder’s in concert anywhere within a two-hour radius? I’m already in the car.
The problem is that every addition to my calendar results in a reduction of time for me on myself, so to speak, whether that is riding a bike, reading a book for fun, watching a movie or whatever.
It also means a loss of time available for personal prayer and devotions.
Before going one word further, let’s be clear. We’re talking about personal prayer and devotions. Studying a text for the Sunday school class may qualify as your daily Bible reading if you consider your faith to be a putting a checkmark beside an item on a daily to-do list, but it will not sustain a faith based on a relationship that requires meaningful interaction to flourish.
Don’t get me wrong. I have learned a lot as a youth group volunteer and a Sunday school teacher, but there is a distinct difference between what I have learned (head knowledge) through studying for class and what I have learned (heart knowledge) from spending time reading over a passage not connected to a study guide or a curriculum I plan to use. In my case, I think my mind is operating on a level that is mapping out questions to ask, potential responses and other points of interaction more than it is absorbing the words and listening for God to speak through them.
Now, having said all that and continuing to operate in the vein of my own experience, my sole suggestion on how to make time for personal prayer and devotion is this (pardoning any copyright infringement): Just do it.
In addition to being an activity addict, I am also a bit of a night owl. If I have to do anything in the morning, it is best that it be done after a fairly extravagant intake of the strongest fair trade coffee I can find. Thinking that I wanted my time with God to happen when I was at my best, I always planned to have a quiet time before bed.
Planned is the operative word. More often than not, I overshot the fine line between being at my late-night best and total exhaustion. My so-called quiet time would be a quick reading of a few verses, a few sentences strung together to constitute a prayer and, if I was lucky, some scattered thoughts in a journal.
At the same time, I was getting up a little early to exercise because I knew full well that if I didn’t there would be a drastic increase in the likelihood that I would bag it altogether and have a bowl of ice cream instead.
Suddenly, an epiphany.
If that logic worked to exercise my body, why wasn’t that logic at work to exercise my soul?
It was right about then that I decided that making time for my own devotions wasn’t a matter of following a prescribed set of steps (although saying no once in a while would be a good idea), it was a matter of setting a priority.
Yes, I have obligations to family, work, seminary, youth group and the like, but they all can’t hold equal value. My time with God had to take priority and become the first thing I do in the morning (after making the coffee , of course). It’s required getting up a little earlier, but, strangely, the rest of the day seems to fall into place much better than usual. That’s not to say I don’t have bumps in the road or stresses that go with my responsibilities. It’s just that I started off the day by working on the most important relationship I have and its effects carry over into later activities.
So, there you have it. A non-marketable way of making time for personal prayer and devotion. Make it a priority and then do it.
(Another post in a series inspired by this post at Life in Student Ministry.)
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