Picture this: A young mom, we’ll call her Susan (apologies to all the Susans out there!), has managed to get the baby and the toddler both down for a nap at the same time. She decides the dishes can wait and heads for her favorite chair to meet with the Lord. But first she must find her Bible.
“Let’s see. Yesterday was Sunday, so I took it to church. It isn’t with my purse, on my nightstand, or on the bookshelf – I checked all those places already. Maybe it’s in the diaper bag.” Bingo! Bible found.
Sitting down again, Susan wonders what she’ll read today. Maybe a Psalm, or a chapter in John. Or maybe she should do her Bible study lesson? No, that takes too long, and she really needs the quiet of bedtime for that. Unsure what to read, Susan wastes several minutes leafing through her Bible, looking for something that strikes her fancy. In frustration, she finally reads the first chapter in 1 John. Nothing seems to stick with her, but she is keenly aware of the clock ticking away the precious free minutes.
Turning to pray, Susan flips through her Bible looking for her prayer list. Not finding it, she rummages in the diaper bag and her purse then gives up. Afraid of losing more time, she just starts praying: “Lord, bless our pastor and his family. Bless the Millers in Zimbabwe and the Johnstons in Taiwan. Help me to make it through this day without losing my temper with the children. Help me to control my tongue when I get frustrated.”
Then the baby cries. Her precious time with the Lord is over, and she doesn’t feel the refreshment she so desperately needed. There was no time for worship, or confession, or simply listening to the voice of the Spirit and feeling the love of Jesus.
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Intentions Versus Preparation
Susan had the best of intentions but from the beginning, when she couldn’t find her Bible, her time with Jesus seemed destined to be a washout.
Now consider this: A week later, Susan again has the children both down for a nap at the same time. She again heads for her favorite chair. But this time, she reaches down and pulls a small tote onto her lap. Extracting her Bible, her devotional, her Faith Journal, and her pencil, she begins her time with the Lord. When the baby cries 20 minutes later, she is refreshed and ready for the rest of the day.
What made the difference? Preparation. In the first case, Susan was not prepared; in the second she was. We – I – often speak of being prepared to meet with the Lord in spiritual and heart terms. And those must not be neglected. But physical preparation is important also. Let’s look at the details that made the difference.
When and Where
First, Susan knew where she wanted to meet the Lord. She had a spot picked out: her favorite chair. What is your spot? Where do you regularly meet the Lord? The kitchen table? A favorite chair? In your bed first thing in the morning? Or perhaps in a sunroom, surrounded by the beauty of your yard? Wherever you meet with the Lord, try to make it the same place every day.
Second, Susan knew when she would meet with Jesus: during naptime. When do you meet with the Lord? First thing in the morning, right after brushing your teeth? Still in your jammies, and comfy in your bed? Or after a walk, a shower, and coffee, but still early? Perhaps it’s after the kids are all in bed? Or after dinner, when the whole family has family devotions, and then personal quiet time (yes, even the little ones). Perhaps your children are all teens, you work outside the home, and you manage to squeeze the precious time out while they’re engaged in homework. Whenever you choose, try to make it consistent – meeting with God at the same time every day.
Susan did well, knowing those two things. But her first day fell apart because she hadn’t thought any farther than that. Today, we’re going to think farther and plan ahead, so that your devotional time does not resemble the first episode, but the second.
What You Need
What will you need? First, you’ll need a Bible. Your devotional Bible should be easy to read and one you are comfortable marking in. My Bible – I use the same one for church and home, but some people don’t – has dates and notes and underlining and circles all over it. It is a history of my spiritual life and growth. Yours will become the same to you as you mark it up.
Next, you will need those marking tools. My favorite tools are pencils: regular for writing notes, and different colors for highlighting, circling, underlining, and so forth. Of course, you’ll want a pencil sharpener as well, to keep all those pencils working!
Then, you definitely need a reading guide of some sort. I periodically use a devotional – I’m currently going through Awaken: 90 Days with the God Who Speaks, by Priscilla Shirer. But I also read in my Bible every day as well. I have a chart that I cross off every time I read a chapter. By the end of the year, I’ll have a record of what I read. But more importantly, throughout the year I’ll be able to choose wisely about where to read next. In previous years I’ve used a read-through-the-Bible plan, but this year, I’m using my guide (snag it here!) and prayerfully considering what to read every time I finish a book. But the important thing is, I have a plan. I don’t have to think about what to read every morning, because I know I’ll turn to my bookmark in Awaken, and then check my chart to see what chapters I’m to read in my Bible. You may also use a Bible study for your devotional time – but still spend time in the Word directly, not just answering questions in a book.
Also, you’ll want a journal. A journal serves many purposes: You can record your thoughts and insights while reading. You can keep a running list of prayer requests. You can have intentional prayer lists, such as we covered in the 20 Ways to Pray series. You can record your application steps when the Spirit prompts you to be more loving, more gracious, more Christlike. You can write out your memory verses – over and over and over again (I have a separate journal for this, as it gets monotonous!). I have already written about my Faith Journal, how I put it together and how I use it – so you might want to review that post.
Finally, you may want to include a Christian living book, a book on prayer (I heartily recommend The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson), or a book on whatever area the Lord is dealing with you currently (forgiveness, marriage, parenting, love, spiritual disciplines, fasting, dreams, Jesus, and so on). I purposely put this last because I do not want reading good Christian books to take the place of Bible and prayer time.
Those are the basic tools of your quiet time: put them all in a bag, a tote, a box, a basket, or any other thing you can easily grab and take with you to your spot. Something special, something yours alone. Teach the kids to leave it alone, and you may even be able to leave it right by your spot.
The difference between Susan #1 and Susan #2 – organization and preparation. And now you’ll be organized and prepared too! You wouldn’t meet the queen of England without some preparation – don’t meet the King of the Universe without some either.