Make a Habit of Spending Time with God

What's the trick to consistently spending time with God? Keeping our intentional efforts from becoming empty rituals that contain our spiritual efforts rather than enliven them.

This article is courtesy of HomeLife magazine.

Do you ever feel weary of spending time with God? Oh, you might not say it that way — and you might not say it out loud — but if we're honest, we'd all admit to experiencing seasons when time spent in prayer or Scripture reading feels more like a boring chore than an intimate connection with the living God.

Maybe we still have our "quiet time" or devotional time or whatever we call it — perhaps out of guilt or because we're afraid not to. Or maybe we don't because it feels like wasted time.

Still, deep down we desperately desire to connect with our Creator. And He wants to connect with us. Figuring out how to do that seems difficult, though. After all, God is God. He's huge and mysterious and greater than us. He's everywhere, yet He's invisible. So we don't connect with God in quite the same way we would with a friend at a coffee shop. Yet He asks us to come and spend time with Him.

So how do we, in the words of Philip Yancey, "reach for the invisible God?" The answer is simple enough: We make it a habit. The trick seems to be keeping our intentional efforts from becoming empty rituals that contain our spiritual efforts rather than enliven them.

Finding a rhythm

John Ortberg, author of The Life You've Always Wanted, says consistent spiritual discipline becomes, "a rhythm for living in which we can grow more intimately connected to God."

Through it, we're actually tapping into our source of strength, faith, and joy. It's how we see our lives changed in ways that can seem hard to believe. We become more like God's children as we spend time with Him (see Romans 8:29).

Spending time in God's Word isn't about gaining more knowledge. One thing we understand in this information age is how to absorb a set of facts, but our faith is more than a set of beliefs. It's about getting to know Someone as real as the person next to us, yet as mysterious as the universe (see Psalm 25:4).

Practicing the presence of God

Practicing. That means it's ongoing and we'll never get it "perfect." But we acknowledge the God we don't see — and sometimes don't feel — is with us. The question becomes, then, how do we practice?

We schedule time. It takes effort to find the time and energy to connect with God on a regular basis - just as it does with any relationship that matters. The truth is we can find a few minutes to be alone with God, but we have to be intentional. Think of it as though you're scheduling an appointment on your calendar to meet a friend.

We strive to be consistent. Commitment to faith is not reflected in the number of days we can check time with God off on our calendars; nevertheless, it does matter that we consistently set aside time to sit with Him.

Consistency doesn't mean a boring routine either. Don't be afraid to change your habits. What time of day offers you the best chance to have a clear mind and the ability to focus? Are you still using the same devotional guide even though its message doesn't meet you where you are? Have you been doing the same thing for years because someone said it was the best way? Decide what works (or doesn't) for you. Explore a new strategy, and don't give up if it seems hard at first.

We get quiet. Christ often went to solitary places to pray (see Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12). Maybe leaving the house to find solitude isn't realistic, but we can all find ways to shut out the noise and put ourselves in a position to hear God. In fact, it's essential.

Developing fresh habits

There are many ways to focus your mind on "what is above" (see Colossians 3:1-2). If you're feeling a bit stuck, try developing fresh habits. Whether you're getting back to spiritual disciplines, just starting out, or in the middle of a long run, here are some ideas you may want to try:

  • Write a prayer that expresses your heartfelt desire to follow God in this season of your life. If you keep it somewhere close, then you have a starting point for your daily time with God.
  • Read one Psalm each day.
  • Use a journal. You can write your prayers to God. You can list concerns or what you're grateful for. You can write the first thing that comes to mind when you consider what God is doing in your life.
  • Stop and listen. Too often we feel we aren't doing anything if we aren't doing anything. That's not true. Sit before God in silence, inviting Him to recalibrate your soul (see Psalm 46:10).
  • Practice posturing. Allow your body to reflect your heart. Bow low in humility before God, get on your knees in prayer, or hold your hands out in acknowledgement that anything you receive comes from God.
  • Get a Bible dictionary and read some background information about the Bible passage you're reading. Understand more about the ears those words first fell on. You might read something in a whole new light (see Psalm 119:33-35).
  • Think more deeply about small bits. Let that one verse roll around in your mind for a few minutes instead of reading five more verses. Give God room to surprise you with insight. If you read only three verses in that sitting, that's OK (see Psalm 119:47-48).
  • Pray Scripture back to God. Pick a passage and pray the same one for a week at a time, allowing it to fully sink in.
  • Get really honest with God. Let go of old ideas about how you "should" approach God. Pour out your heart to Him (see Psalm 62:8). Trust Him to be big enough to handle whatever you're dealing with.

Each moment is another opportunity to reconnect with God, step away from the same old routine, and invite Him to do a new thing in our lives.

Carol Smith is a writer living in Nashville, Tenn.