Flashback to junior high. I wake up in the middle of the night. I have fallen asleep on top of my Bible (once again) and that prayer? I’m not sure what or if I said anything after “God, thank you for..…zzzzzzzzzzzzz.”
The guilt would overwhelm me. How could I fall asleep over and over if this was really supposed to be a transformative journey with Jesus?
Until one day, I heard someone say, “I pray myself to sleep.” Whew!! That’s exactly what I was doing!! Guilt-free and falling asleep to Jesus!! I was going to sleep GOOD again! I’ve got this God thing figured out.
Fast forward a few years later and I had mostly abandoned all my attempts because after all, I was only just “checking a list.” And if I am going to be legalistic about it, it may as well be an X altogether.
It is amazing to look back and take an honest heart check at our feeble efforts. Satan will use it all- fear, fatigue, apathy, legalism, busyness, the list gets out of hand- to separate us from the Author of these words of Truth.
I have a million miles to go in the arena of spiritual disciplines. I will not claim for a single second to have anything figured out. But I am grateful that the Lord has brought some of the lies I have believed over the years to light and I know the process is continual.
One thing that I hear time and time again when talking with women is their struggle with time in the Word, praying and listening to the Lord. Because I have shared the same struggle, I know how overwhelming it can be to implement these disciplines.
I am a Type A, solutions-oriented, Enneagram 1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE me some practical advice. Ready to skip the chatter about the problem and brainstorm a solution? I am ALL.IN. LET’S.GO. The problem with that? There is no RIGHT way to dig in the Word or spend time chatting with the Lord. And what is right for me during this season may not be right for me in 5 years.
Unfortunately, because we do not even know where to start, we often never do.
I have enlisted the help of a few other women to share what their time in the Word and prayer looks like. And no- I am not including their names because the goal of this is NOT to play the comparison game. These women are of all different ages, races, socioeconomic classes and geographic locations. I chose them because I wanted to learn as well. We have a lot to learn from each other. A lot of times we get intimidated when someone else does something different than us. Let’s learn from each other.
Maybe you can implement some of these ideas in our own time with the Lord. Or maybe this will encourage you to just find your Bible or download a Bible app. Or maybe this will prompt you to find your own ways to seek the God that offers not just LIFE, but ABUNDANT LIFE!!!
Wherever you are, I hope that the wisdom from these women will inspire you to see what the Lord has in store for you through prayer and study! Here are some practical examples of ways these women spend time with the Lord:
Practical Example 1: Time in the Word is an area I fight for. Having young children, if I want that time with the Lord, I have to find it. It does not find me. I wake up every morning at 5. Would I love that extra hour of sleep? Yes. For longer than I would like to confess, I avoided studying the Word because I always looked at it as a “checklist” item. What I have come to realize is that even when I am just checking my list in my own heart, God is at work. When that first kid wakes up and tries to push me over my limits before I even have time to say “Good morning!”, I am reminded of that truth that the Lord was imprinting on my heart that morning. When someone says something hurtful, I am reminded of that confession time I had this morning. It felt “checklist-ish” at the time, but the Lord was really preparing my heart to use it as a reminder of how broken I am and to extend that same grace to others. To answer what my time looks like practically: I open my old school Bible AND the app on my phone. I have discovered that I get distracted just reading, and I get distracted just listening. So I do both. (I do nothing the easy way.) I turn on the Audio on my Bible app (not loud enough to wake my kids, but loud enough for me to hear), sit my phone out of reach and follow along in my Bible. In the past, I have just gone through a book at my own pace. My goal this year is to get a full picture of the heart of God, so I am reading through the Bible chronologically. Once I finish my daily reading/listening, I am listening to a podcast by Tara-Leigh Cobble called the BIBLE RECAP. I am LOVING it!! It has me EXCITED and digging as I have never dug in the Word before. She gives a short recap and some background each day that follows along with the chronological reading plan I am studying. I am not sure if I will agree with everything she says over the course of this year, but that is ok! It is fulfilling its purpose of helping me get excited about the power of the Word and reminding me that HE really is where the JOY is! I take notes during the podcast and jot down anything that I want to go back and check or study deeper! Once I have finished reading, I write a letter to the Lord. It gives me a basis of things I want to pray for throughout the day and also serves as a reminder when I flip back through and see the ways the Lord responds.
Practical Example 2: My time with the Lord has taken lots of different forms over the years, and it has changed with the seasons and rhythms of my life. I used to write in my prayer journal for as long as I needed to every single day, and I cherish reading back over those prayers (and the way God answered them). In college I spent more dedicated time in Bible study, uncovering new discoveries in the Word and fresh perspectives from my professors, peers, and various authors almost daily. Since having children, I’ve realized that I need more flex in my time with God, because a traditional “quiet time” just doesn’t always happen. I look up Bible reading plans on my YouVersion and She Reads Truth apps and read them when I get a few minutes – over breakfast, in the school pick-up line, while my son watches Daniel Tiger. I have several Pandora stations that are different types of worship music, and it helps my heart to look to the Lord when I have that playing on Alexa or in the car. I’ve also come to realize that I tend to get stuck inside my head a lot and that I often struggle to put my Bible study and prayers into actual practice. I’m learning how to be better at this, though – the other day, I was reading in John when Jesus calls Himself the Bread of Life. I prayed on that and meditated, but then also decided to actually make a loaf of homemade bread. I wanted to feel it with my hands, breath in the smell filling my house, taste it on my tongue as I thought of my Savior. Other times, I’ve gotten up from my Bible study to send a card to a friend to whom the Spirit brought my attention, or I’ve opened my eyes from prayer so that I could make a donation to an organization that’s working to bring God’s kingdom to earth. Yoga helps immensely to still my mind and open my heart to God. I often pray for my family as I’m washing their dirty dishes or folding their laundry. I’m learning that all of this “counts” as communion with the Lord. It’s a living, breathing relationship, a give-and-take of initiation and response – not at all restricted to an idealized standard of 30 minutes of Bible reading in the early morning.
Practical Example 3: I’ve kept a Prayer Journal for years…just books filled with blank pages that I list prayer requests on. I don’t write out my prayer, just maybe a description of what I need to pray about/for. This could be anything…other people, myself, family, jobs, health, finances, etc. and a sentence or two highlighting what the request is for. I like having a written down record to look at to remind me what to pray for. If I find myself with some extra time in a day, this is what I pull out to talk to God about. It’s also a great source of encouragement to see Prayers that were answered! Another thing I do is put sticky notes around my bathroom mirror. On these sticky notes are the prayers that are more along the “urgent” lines…names or situations I want to bring up often in a day. Whenever I am in the bathroom I see those little sticky notes and I can pray right then for that person or situation. I pass that mirror several times a day so I can bring these things up to God quickly and keeps these things foremost in my head. As these more “urgent” requests get answered I take the sticky note off my mirror and put them in a box. I look through that box when I’m feeling particularly down or discouraged as a wonderful reminder of what specific things God has done in my life and in other’s lives. Such examples of God’s power is so faith-building…seeing His faithfulness and His love for us. When it comes to reading God’s Word, I usually study a book of the Bible more often than a “topic” kind of study. I pick a book and just start devouring it. No schedule, no daily goal, just read and meditate and go as slowly as I need. I always have a notebook with me when I read to jot down thoughts, applications of the verses, other verses to reference that come to mind, anything that I think about as I read. Some days I only read through a couple of verses…other days I have time to really delve longer. But I had to make a deal with myself that if there were days I just didn’t read anything that day, I would not feel guilty. I’ve had to remind myself of that deal from time to time…especially when I was raising my kids and life was absolutely hectic at times! But I would take a big breath, and sometimes say out loud “it’s ok that I didn’t read today. God still loves me and He understands!” Sometimes I will study a good book that somebody has recommended to me. Even though it’s not “The Bible”, God has used these types of books in powerful ways in my life to teach me amazing things. God can use so many things to teach us!
Practical Example 4: Often, I miss the mark, but I press on with the Word in my heart and a petition for His guidance and forgiveness. When I wake up, I subconsciously thank Him for another gift of life. I then try to map out what I want to accomplish for the day. I have oodles of crises that come up. When that happens I am thrown off schedule, my mark and the beat gets eradicated. I then have to stop and focus inside of me to re-center. It is like my GPS. When I turn wrong, it recalculates. That is one thing that I am learning to practice. I also try to pen daily so that I can see where I am on this journey. It looks similar to this each day:
Practical Example 5: Disciplining myself to read the Bible and make time for prayer has been a challenge. I leave my Bible and my church notes binder on my nightstand so that at the end of each day I can pick it up, read some scripture, meditate on His word, and pray before I go to sleep. I’ve also started listening to messages on my phone as I drive to work. They give me sort of a pick me up before I arrive at work. I have a Bible in my car as well so on the mornings I listen to messages as I drive to work, when I arrive I briefly review a scripture that was covered in the message and pray, and that always sets my day off on a good start. Some of my nightly readings are reviewing scripture from church messages on Sunday. We have paper handouts that I get at church, but our pastor encourages us to read and interpret on our own terms. So I use church notes as an outline. Keeping notes in a binder also serves as a quick reference for me to look back on messages that coincide with what I’m feeling that day or what I’m struggling with.
Practical Example 6: Sometimes, you do not have an hour. Sometimes you do not have 5 minutes. But everyone has a moment. Maybe that moment is doing laundry, unloading the dishwasher or that 5 minutes in the car on the way to pick up from the next practice. In that moment, you can pray. And prayer is a direct attack across enemy lines. In a moment with Jesus, you can do more than you could have on your own in a lifetime. We are quick to be hard on ourselves over our failures (as we see them). Instead, we need to focus on our small victories and celebrate them.
Now may the God of peace—who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21