Location—Pick Your Place
The best location is anywhere you can find some space in your schedule and a place on the planet where you can concentrate. This space & place may look differently for each person. For some it will be in a corner of the family room or at the kitchen table or at a coffee shop or out on the deck or on a stump or rock in the woods. But you must find it. Find a place where you can maximize your attention and minimize your distractions. The time may vary as well, but it is recommended to start the day with some personal time with God. You’re less likely to ignore Him throughout the day and more likely to interact with Him throughout the day when you hit it early in the day with God.
Jesus would often get up early in the morning and go off by himself to pray. In this case, it was the day after a big day of ministry—healing people and what not. People wanted more of him but Jesus wanted more of His Father. It was right after this that Jesus decided to move on to another place of ministry. Do you think his God-time could have anything to do with that decision?
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Mark 1:35-37
Getting some “Father Time” will not happen automatically. You’ve got to decide to make it a priority. You’ve got to decide to make it habit. Since we’re talking about intimacy with God we’ve got to combat the tendency to make it a ritual—something we can check off our religious “to do” list to score points with God. The emphasis is on relationship with our Heavenly Father. And like any healthy relationship, regular two-way communication is required. So it needs to be regular, but not creating a rut. You’ll be developing a discipline but it should not be drudgery.
Accessorize—Bring what you Need
Bring your Bible, a pen, journal, notebook, or computer if you prefer. (Make sure that whatever you bring helps maximize your attention to God and does not serve as a source of temptation to distract you.) You may also want to bring your i-pod for some worship music or your memory verse cards. 2
The condition of your heart plays a huge part in your relationship with God. If you are solely driven by duty, then that will influence how much you give to God as well as receive from Him during your God-Time. But if you are driven by devotion, then your intimacy with Him will increase exponentially, because we will do things for love that we will not do for any other reason. How do you get your heart ready to connect with God? Here are a few suggestions:
In order to prepare you may need to repair your heart. When there is unconfessed sin in our hearts and we act as if “it’s all good” then we’re deceiving ourselves and insulting God. But if you confess your sins (calling it what it really is with no rationalization) then God will be quick to invoke His forgiveness and resume a reconciled relationship with you. But if you harbor sin in your heart, God will not hear your requests and you’ll not only be wasting your time, you’ll be adding insult to injury.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” I John 1:8-10
“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” Psalm 66:18-20
Approach your God-Time with an attitude of reverence and respect. While you indeed have the right and privilege to call God, “Daddy,” He is still the Creator of the universe, the Sovereign King of all Ages, the Eternal One, The Alpha & Omega—The Beginning & The End. Humility, submission, and worship should be combined with a heart of love, gratitude and expectation.
Invitation—If you make a move toward God, He will make a move toward you. Invite God into your personal space. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you, shine new light on the pages of your Bible to give you a divine download of understanding, and to speak to you personally.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:7-10
Cultivation—Once you extend the invitation, don’t hurry along, but rather pause, be 3 still, and listen. God speak in the silence if you wait and tune out the other noise in your life. Sometimes it’s helpful to play a song that will cultivate a condition of softening of the heart. Sometimes you should sing—this pleases God—to make a joyful noise to the Lord. Sometimes, it’s better to just spend some time in silence. Take your time on this—You can’t “speed date” God.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” Psalm 100:1-2
R.I.P. the Script—A God-Time would not be complete without listening to God. God speaks in a general way through His creation. And God speaks in a timeless way through His Word—The Bible. It was given to writers by the very breath of God. Sure, God also uses other people to speak to us in addition to your ability to hear the voice of God in your heart. But these other methods of speaking never contradict the written Word of God. In fact, they always affirm it. Knowing that you are to train yourself to be godly—Remembering that the word, train, which is the word from which we get the English word, gymnasium—you must not underestimate the concentration that is required. Here’s a suggestion to help you concentrate on the Word while you spend time with God.
• Read the passage: “What does it say?”
• Interpret the passage: “What does it mean?”
• Pick out the principles: “What should I do, think, or feel?” or “So what?”
Writing this stuff down in a journal helps you think it through at a whole other level then simply musing. It’s also an act of faith to put your pen to the paper because it creates a record of your questions, confessions and/or learnings. This will allow you to look back and revisit what God taught you. It will be a map of your spiritual journey and you will be able to see your progress.
“If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:6-8
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:22-25
——–MEDITATION & MEMORIZATION——–
Joshua as the leader of the Jewish nation that succeeded Moses, knew that in order to be successful he needed to bold & courageous. This boldness and courage would be bolstered by a knowledge and application of the Word of God. Jesus himself quoted from over 72 Old Testament chapters, even quoting Scripture in the face of temptation. That’s right, memorizing God’s Word installs it on the hard drive of your heart. Jesus said that the reason the religious leaders of his day were in error is because they did not know the Scripture.
“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:6-9
You may want to start memorizing the verses that are on this sheet. But as you dive into the Word, R.I.P. it apart, and meditate on it, you will soon see certain Scripture verses surface to the top of your spiritual eye chart. That’s probably the Holy Spirit RSVPing to your invitation to guide & teach you.
I suggest using some kind of memorization system. If you get some 3 x 5 cards and hole punch them and then put a ring through the holes, you can have a portable version of your favorite verses that you can keep adding to. A friend dubbed our memory verse cards “The Ring of Fire” because the Holy Spirit (often referred to as a fire, in Scripture) speaks to us when we meditate on and memorize the Word of God.
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:1-4
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11
“Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Matthew 22:29
“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” Psalm 119:97
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Prayer is simply talking and listening to God. You don’t need stained glass vocal chords and you sure don’t need to speak “Christianese”. You just need to open your heart to God and then open your mouth. God doesn’t want you to rattle off a list to Him, a meaningless memorized ritualistic mantra. He’s looking for heart-to-heart dialogue. That’s not to say that you can’t repeat prayers or use a prayer book if it resonates with your heart. In fact, that may help you stay focused when you pray. Here are a few other suggestions to go about developing your prayer life:
Silent Prayers—Talking to God in the privacy of your heart.
Spoken Prayers—Speaking your prayers out loud so you express your faith in God to yourself and to others who may be listening.
Written Prayers—Putting your pen to the paper or your fingers to the keys to cause you to think through what you are speaking to God and to create a record of your faith. Scripture Prayers—Opening your Bible and personalizing what you are learning in Scripture by praying it back to God.
Prayer Walks—Just like Adam walked with God in the Garden of Eden while they conversed, you can walk and talk to God. Paths are made by walking, both literally and spiritually.
Progressive Prayers—Engaging in a template for praying that helps you keep your focus and concentration. One such template is A.C.T.S. Spend time in Adoration of God (Praising God for who He is and why you love Him.) Take opportunity for Confession (Admitting your sin before God.) Thanksgiving (Telling God you are thankful for what He has done in your life.) Supplication (Asking God for things for yourself as well as for others.)
“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” John 16:24
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Be ready to share with someone else what God is teaching you. When you dare to share, your faith is strengthened and you begin to notice all the good things you have in Christ. When you put into practice what you’ve been discovering, it will often create a curiosity that will cause other people to ask you why you are different, or simply ask you how you get through life the way you do. It’s in that moment that God gets the spotlight when people see our good works and we speak into their lives. That’s just another way that everyone can see your progress.
“I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” Philemon 6
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15
“Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4:11-16
하나님이 세상을 이처럼 사랑하사 독생자를 주셨으니 이는 저를 믿는 자마다 멸망치 않고 영생을 얻게 하려 하심이니라 (요 3:16).
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)