Making Time for Spiritual Discipline
We’ve all been there. Maybe even today is one of those days for you. The crazy day. At least spiritually speaking.
Hopefully you are developing your regular routine and go-to “habits of grace,” your own when and where and hows for seeking daily communion with God. Perhaps you’ve been at this long enough that when the alarm goes off on a normal day, you have your emerging patterns and rhythms for how getting up and getting breakfast and getting ready all come together in relation to some short but substantive season of “getting in the Word,” to reset your mind and refill your heart and recalibrate your perspective before diving into the day.
But then comes those crazy days. And they seem to pop up more frequently than we’re expecting. It may be the late-night conversation, important but tiring, that has you hitting the snooze over and over the next morning. Or maybe it’s staying over with relatives, or having them squatting at your place. Or for young parents, it’s the child (or the children) who was up during the night, or rolled out of bed way too early wanting breakfast and your attention. Or maybe it’s just this season of life, and honestly every morning seems to have its own craziness. The Enemy seems to have some new, creative scheme with each new day to keep you from finding any focused “time alone with God.”
Whatever the circumstances that throw a wrench into your routine, your crazy mornings raise the question, How should you think about, and engage in (if at all), the means of grace of Bible meditation and prayer when God’s good, but often inconvenient, sovereignty has you reeling without your routine?
1. Remember What Your “Habits of Grace” Are About
A good place to begin is with the big picture about your morning spiritual routines. Bible meditation is not about checking boxes, but communion with the risen Christ in and through his word. Walking in his grace today is not dependent on you going through your full devotional routine, or any routine for that matter. It is the regular pattern of communion with Christ that is vital, not extended time on one particular day.
You could read all the passages, give time to extensive journaling in meditation and prayer, work at length on memorizing Scripture, and easily move right into a day of walking in your own strength and not dying to selfish interests to anticipate and act to meet the needs of others. In fact, it is likely the days when you feel strongest personally, and most spiritually accomplished, that you’re most prone to walk in your own strength, rather than by the strength that God supplies (1 Pet. 4:11).
2. Consider the Path of Love
It is loving (to others) to regularly commune with God. There are good horizontal effects to having our souls established and flourishing vertically. You will be a better spouse and parent and friend and cousin and child and neighbor if your soul is being routinely shaped and sustained by a real relationship with God in his word and prayer.
Sometimes, the most loving thing we can do is get away from people for a few minutes, feed our souls on God and his goodness, and come back to our families and communities reenergized for anticipating and meeting others’ needs. But at other times, the path of love is dying to our desires for personal time alone—even in such good things as Bible meditation and prayer—to give attention to the toddler who is sick or woke up early, or to prepare and serve breakfast to family from out of town, or to assist a spouse or friend who is having his own crazy morning.
3. Develop a Morning Routine That Is Adaptable
Taking the crazy mornings into account, knowing that they will come and trying to be ready for them, may mean that you develop morning habits that are flexible. Try to create a routine that can expand into more than an hour if you have it, or collapse into just ten minutes, or even less, when love requires it.
For example, you might consider a simple pattern like this one: Begin with Bible reading, move into meditation, polish with prayer. On days when you have extended time, you can read and meditate longer, and include journaling, and take time to put some rich passage to memory, and linger in prayer, from adoration to confession to thanksgiving to supplication. But on a crazy morning, you can get through the reading-meditation-prayer sequence in just a few brief minutes if needed.
Instead of reading all the assigned passages in your Bible-reading plan, just take one short psalm or little Gospel account or small section of an epistle. Look for one manifestation of God’s goodness in the passage, and meditate on that goodness being for you in Jesus and try to press the truth into your heart. Then pray that truth in light of your day and the needs at hand, along with any other spontaneous requests on your mind that morning.
If time is really tight, at least pause briefly to pray, and seek to carry a spirit of prayer and dependence into the day. Christ can meet you on the move. Express to God that it seems circumstances and the call of love are leading you right into life today. Acknowledge that you can’t earn his help with a long season of meditation and prayer, and ask that he would show himself strong today by being your strength when you feel spiritually weak.
There are good horizontal effects to having our souls established and flourishing vertically.
Actually, it’s often the crazy days when we feel most dependent, and our sense of weakness is good for God showing us his strength. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
4. Look for God’s Provision through Others
The means of grace aren’t simply personal. They are profoundly corporate. Even our personal Bible meditation and prayer are deeply shaped by our lives in community, and by those who have taught us intentionally. Personal Bible intake and prayer can be powerful—and they are habits of grace worth pursuing daily—but so can a reminder of God’s grace from a spouse or friend or fellow believer. Don’t neglect the power of fellowship as a means of God’s grace.
If time alone with Jesus just isn’t happening on this crazy morning, be on special lookout for some morsel of gospel food from conversation with someone who loves Jesus. If it’s a crazy day for both of you, perhaps some quick conversation, pointing each other to Christ and his goodness toward us, would produce some food for you both that you otherwise wouldn’t have had.
5. Evaluate Later What You Might Learn for Next Time
When the crazy morning and day has passed, seek to learn how you can grow in anticipating and tackling these in the future. If you stayed up too late to watch some show or movie needlessly, the lesson may be, very simply, to plan ahead better next time. Though often there’s nothing to learn. This is just life in this age.
The crazy days will come. And there are seasons of life, like with a newborn at home, where all bets are off and it’s just a crazy season. But with a little intentionality, and with a modest plan in place, you can learn to navigate these days, and even walk with greater dependence on God, knowing full well that it’s not the ideal execution of our morning habits of grace that secures his favor and blessing.
You can commune with Christ in the crazy days.
This article is adapted from Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines by David Mathis.
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