In this episode of a Real Life Moment, Clint Rhoney and Wendy McSwain talk through one practice that could be most important in the life of a believer. Listen or read ahead to find out what this is and how to practice it.
Have you ever played the game “If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one item what would it be?” or “if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?” Games like that make us pause and think about what’s really important to us or what are those few things that we truly need to live and enjoy life?
I’ve been a Christian for over 30 years now and I’ve taught and talked to a bunch of Christians over the years about how to live this thing called the Christian life. While there’s a lot of good advice out there and helpful strategies, I always find myself coming back to what I think is the most important habit a person should develop in order to become the person God created them to be and that habit is to spend a daily time alone with God. Of all the things you could do this is the foundational practice which will drive all the others. It will provide a foundation for the building blocks of prayer, service, sharing your faith, worship, discovering who God really is and what He is like. All of that will come if you develop this one daily habit. People call this habit different names, such as a “Quiet Time” or “Devotion time”, I simply put it on my calendar as T.A.G. or “Time Alone with God”.
This key habit is not just a fad or something your preacher came up with for you to do. God Himself tells us we should develop the habit of meditating on His Word. Biblical meditation is not like Eastern meditation where you try and “empty your mind” instead when we meditate or practice focused thinking on Scripture we’re trying to fill our mind with the truth of God’s Word, not empty it.
Joshua 1:8 – This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it
Psalm 119:15 – I will meditate on Your precepts and think about Your ways.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
So if this habit is so important and foundational to the Christian life then how do you do it? Where do you start? I’m glad you asked!
Your daily time alone with God should be the top priority in your schedule for 3 reasons:
1. Personal time alone with God was Jesus’ priority.
“So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.”
Luke 5:16 NKJV (Also Luke 22:39 and Mark 1:35)
If the very Son of God thought it was necessary and important to get alone and spend time with the Father, then how much more necessary would it be for me? If it was His priority then as His follower shouldn’t it be my priority as well?
2. Every person who has been effective in service for God developed this habit. Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, Paul, and Peter are just a few of the persons in the Bible who spent time getting away from everything else and spending time alone with God meditating on His Word and talking/listening to God through prayer. If those giants of the faith made it a priority and habit then I probably should as well.
3. You cannot be an obedient Christian without it.
“Man cannot live on bread alone but on every Word that God speaks.” Matthew 4:4 (GN)
For a follower of Jesus, taking in God’s Word on a regular basis is like food/nutrition needed for growth. Just as physical nutrients from food are needed for the body to grow and stay healthy so are spiritual nutrients from Scripture needed to grow our spirit into Christ’s likeness. We can’t become like him unless we know a lot about Him. We spend time alone with God so we can better know God. We get to know people better by having conversations with them. It’s the same with God.
So now that we know why it’s an important habit for every follower of Jesus to develop, how do you actually begin to have a daily time alone with God? While this is not the only way to have a daily time with God, this method is simple and a great place to start.
1. Select a specific time
- Give God the best part of your day. Whatever time you are at your best that’s the time you need to have your time alone with God. While there are a lot of advantages for having your daily time with God the first thing in the morning, it’s more important to give God the best part of your day. There’s nothing more spiritual about 5 am than there is about 10 pm or Noon.
- Schedule it on your calendar. The truth is if you don’t schedule it then it won’t get done. Make it a part of your daily routine, just like brushing your teeth. I write in T.A.G. on may calendar at the same time each day. That’s how you develop a habit. Whatever time you set, be consistent. Your consistency in meeting with God at a set time is more important than the time of day you do it.
How long should my time alone with God be?
-Start with 15-20 minutes and let it grow
-Don’t watch the clock
-Emphasize quality, not quantity
2. Choose a special place
“Jesus left the city and went, as he usually did, to the Mount of Olives…to pray.” Luke 22:39 GN (See also Mark 1:35)
Anytime Jesus was near Jerusalem he went to the Mount of Olives to spend time alone with His Father. He went there three times the last week of His life (Matthew 24:1-26:56). It was his special place to get away for all the demands on Him to be alone with the Father and get refocused and re-energized for the life His Father had Him lead.
Your special place may be the kitchen table, a favorite chair, the back deck, your car before/after work, or your desk during lunch. The only requirements for a special place is that it be a place that is free from distractions, relaxing, and allows you to focus.
3. A Plan to get you started – S.O.A.P.
Before you start
- Be still and quiet! Slow down! Prepare your heart.
- Turn off and put away anything distracting like cell phones, TV’s, tablets
- Take a deep breath and say a short prayer asking God to speak to you through one particular verse that day.
- Use a Bible (online or hard copy) that is easy for you to understand
- Get a simple notebook or journal to jot down a few notes/thoughts.
- Let’s get started!
S = Scripture
- Use a reading plan of some type, just Google Bible reading plan and hundreds will come up and pick one.
- To start just read one chapter a day. Write the chapter you’re reading at top of page.
- Read slowly through the chapter and mark the verses that stand out to you or catch your attention- that’s the Holy Spirit
- You will notice more if you will read it more than one time
- Pick one verse out of the chapter that got your attention and write out the verse in your journal
- Best way to observe what’s there is to ask questions
- Do we know who is writing this passage and who it is being written to? ( a study Bible may be helpful here)
- Why was it written? What does it seem to be talking about?
- Is there a Sin to confess? Promise to claim? Attitude to change? Command to obey? Example to follow? Prayer to pray? Error to avoid? Truth to believe? Something to thank God for?
- Think about what the verse was saying then and what it is saying to you now?
- Write out your observations in your journal about the verse. It may be a paragraph or only a few sentences.
Now comes the most important part figuring out how you will be different today as a result of what you just read? We don’t read the Bible to be informed but so God can transform us into the image of His Son.
- Ask yourself, “How does this verse or thought apply to me?”
- How does this apply to what am I dealing with or going through?
- In light of this verse what does God want me to do? Make it personal and specific. The more specific you make it, the better.
- Write down in your journal how this verse applies to your life
- Application is the difference between simply hearing God’s word and doing what it says. Simply knowing what it says is not enough.
- Finish your time alone with God by writing out a short thoughtful prayer to God.
- Ask Him to help you apply what you’ve just learned from Him.
- It could be a few simple sentences or a paragraph or more.
After you finish go to the top of the page and if possible give it some sort of descriptive title. The shorter the better. This helps you remember and apply what you read.
That’s it! A simple but crucial habit (like breathing!) in becoming the person God created you to be. You can be a Christian and not develop this habit but you will find yourself dealing with and never overcoming all the same struggles you had before you came to know Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t just want to save you from your sins but to transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. And you can’t change the way you think unless you’re putting new thoughts into your mind, heart and soul.
So if living the Christian Life seems a bit overwhelming to you, be encouraged do this one thing and everything else will fall into place! Enjoy the journey!