I’m a fan of systems and habits. Small actions that you can set in place that over a long time will create a massive impact. The most important habit I’ve developed in my life is spending time with God. This is something that Christians talk a lot about but sometimes can seem mysterious. Especially if you are new to Christianity, “time with God” can be a daunting idea. I mean, how are you supposed to spend “time” with God who lives outside of time? How do you talk with someone who is invisible and speaks to your heart? What if He doesn’t say anything?
I thought it would be helpful to lay out the practicals of what I do to connect with God in the mornings. Now, it’s important to emphasize that everyone’s time with God is different. Because you are an individual and God deals with you individually, your time should look like you…not like me. But whether you are just getting started or have been developing a relationship with God for years, reading what someone else does can be interesting, inspiring and could even help you try something new.
My time with God has changed a lot of the years as I’ve changed and figured out what works best. This is how it should be! My relationship with my wife Jamie is different now than when we first got married. And although God is unchanging…I’m always changing and so our relationship is ever evolving.
So here’s the practicals of I’m doing as of now (May 2016)
- I get up early. Currently, it’s between 4:30 and 5:00am. This has been a 2016 shift from my previous wake up time of 6:00am. I have found that if I wake up earlier and exercise before I approach my time with God, that my brain has time to get fully awake. I have shifted from giving him the “first time” to giving him my “best time” which for me starts about 90-120 minutes after I wake up.
- If I stayed up later the night before, I’ll make some tea with caffeine in it to drink. If I’m feeling well rested, I’ll go without it. I’m not a coffee guy.
- Using a basic set of Bluetooth speakers, I turn on a Spotify playlist I created called Instrumental Prayer. It’s a mix of worshipful music that doesn’t include words because I get distracted easily when I listen to music I’m familiar with. Feel free to follow this list and let me know if you have other recommendations for it.
- I spend time with God in a room in our house we call the Reading Room. It’s a secondary living room with a couch, a comfortable chair, and tall glass table. I work hard to keep everything out of this space that wouldn’t inspire me to spend time with God. No kids toys, no clutter, no TVs, etc. It’s got some inspirational decor, books and a piano (which makes me think of worship).
- I start my time with a mental sweep through the previous 24 hours in search of 3 things to offer thanks for. I capture these 3 thoughts in my journal. I’m working on training my brain to see the good things in my life. I was really influenced by a couple books this year that led to this practice – Good Things by Pastor Kevin Gerald and The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. If I start out my time with God by cultivating a thankful heart, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 let’s me know that I’m in the will of God. That’s always a good way to kick things off. Plus, Psalm 100:4 teaches that it’s how we should begin our approach to God.
- Next, I journal out any thoughts that are swirling around in my brain. By this time because my brain is fully awake and it’s often filled with thoughts from the podcasts I listen to, the book I was reading while working out, or things that I’m looking forward to in my day. I want to clear out all these thoughts and because they are important to me, I capture them in my journal so I can get at them later. But I want to approach my time reading the Bible with a mind that is clean and clear.
- Next up is Bible reading. I read the Bible on my iPad using Olive Tree Bible Software. I used YouVersion for a long time but my friend Kyle (who works for Olive Tree) talked me into giving them a shot. The big reason I switched was because I love how their reading plans function. If I miss a day of Bible reading (yes, pastors miss days just like you!) it just directs me to pick up where I left off. So I don’t feel like I’m going to miss those passages until next year. The layout seems to focus on the progress I’ve made instead of reminding me where I’ve missed. And I like feeling like I’m winning in the Bible…instead of feeling guilty for missing.
- I’m currently using the M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan which happens to be the first Bible reading plan I discovered while in High School. I love it because it takes me through 4 different sections of scripture each day. That’s nice because when you are plowing through genealogies or the judgment foretold in Ezekiel, you also get to read from the Psalms and the New Testament. Using this plan, I read through the Old Testament once a year and the New Testament and Psalms twice a year (assuming I read every day which again, I don’t bat 1.000% on). I switch Bible reading plans just about every year to keep things fresh. There are a ton to choose from both in YouVersion and Olive Tree.
- While reading the passages, I highlight verses that seem to stand out to me. They can either be favorites, ones I have questions about or verses that I sense God might be emphasizing to me.
- Then after I finish reading the passages and highlighting, I read back through the verses I’ve highlighted and quickly pray through each of them. I’m thinking about the themes, how they connect to each other and other scriptures. I’m looking for ways God might be speaking to me. I’m asking God to cause 1 verse or shorter passage to really stand out as a theme for my day.
- Once I’ve narrowed the highlighted verses down to 1 main verse or passage, I journal on what I feel God showing me through it. I rewrite the verse in my journal along with the reference, write about what the verse is teaching in context and then focus on its application for my life. This only takes a few minutes but it really helps God’s word come alive in my life.
- After bible reading, I’ll move to prayer and use my “verse of the day” as a launch pad for my prayer time. I’ll pray through the big ideas of that verse and ask God to shape and mold me into what I’m learning from that verse. After this, I’ll flow into my habit of praying through the Lord’s prayer. I taught on this prayer model and you can listen to the message here if you’d like.
- After spending time in prayer, I take time to jot down my top 3 priorities for the day. I started doing this because I want to make sure I’m connecting my time with God with what I do with my time for the rest of the day. I’ve now focused on getting on the same page with Him and I want that to translate into how I spend my time once I get to the office. Plus the clarity helps me really hit the ground running once I arrive.
That’s it! At least for now. Like I said, this is something that changes and morphs over time as my relationship with God changes. I’ve gone through seasons where I would sing and play piano, go for long prayer walks, where I read other devotional books, or used paper bibles with complicated multi-color highlighting systems. I might go back or try something new. The core ingredients are always bible reading and prayer.
I’d love to hear about what you do to connect with God. Leave a comment and let others be inspired by your life!